Why I Write Fantasy: The Three Fours #3: The Crow

More spoilers for a film that this time is a mere 24 years old.

The last film that has, so far, made me run back to the cinema three more times after the first viewing was this one. A modern gothic fairytale with yet another fantastic soundtrack, an alternate contemporary world that was close enough to ours to imagine real, but with its own mythology and magical elements blended seamlessly in, a dark hero, and a range of charismatic side characters (Jon Polito, among many others, is awesome in this film) and villains who all richly deserve their fate, with of course a love story beyond death, and you have an intoxicating mix for my early 20’s self.

There’s no getting around Brandon Lee’s death, and the effect it had on viewing the movie at the time. I don’t think I viewed it as death porn, more it heightened the sense of loss already present in the film, of lost possibilities present in the dead lovers echoed poignantly in the loss of the film’s talented and charismatic star. And at the time we knew he was killed by an accident on set with a gun, and his character gets shot a LOT in the film, so even though we knew the actual shot which killed him was not shown, there was still a sense that any of those scenes could have been the one in which the fatal accident occurred. It made for mixed viewing, to be honest. (I learned which scene in filming he died in years later, and it does make it harder for me to watch that sequence now.) The movie’s story of the Crow having to go away at the end was also Brandon’s farewell to his audience, and that added layers of emotion to an already excellent film.

Like the other two films in this little series of mine, this movie had a definite visual style, and an aural soundscape that marked it apart, that merged with and mirrored the storyline so well. It was capital R romantic, capital T tragic. Plus another capital R for revenge. The grungy city was a modern otherwhere, a model imagining of Detroit in flames, filled with settings and scenes you could almost smell. Because onions make you fart, big time. In such a dark landscape the arrival of the Crow does not seem a surprise. The film is eminently quotable, but what drew me back again and again was the opening, and the cathartic moments of love and loss throughout the film. The scene with the rings gets me every time. Especially after the comedy of “Mr Gideon? You’re not paying attention.” Well it was always comedy to me, what can I say? Plus the badass action sequences, the visuals, the seamless escalation of conflict, the superb cast and characters, the relationships between both villains and heroes: this film took the time to set up relationships on both sides, which made the conflicts between those sides far more involving.

This was a film about the bad guys, what they did, who they were, and why they had to die. It did all those things brilliantly, and with great economy while also building the relationship between the Crow and Ernie Hudson’s fantastic cop Albrecht, between Sara and Darla, between Top Dollar, his sister and their minions. All while letting the love story between Eric and Shelly shine through the gaps. I view it as a great example of defining multiple characters well at speed in a film, giving you enough to know who they are, what motivates them, their strengths and weaknesses, their reasons for living and dying. In that respect it is an absolute triumph of storytelling, in my humble opinion. Plus it quotes Milton, in a way that perfectly illustrates and reinforces the core theme of the movie. And you know, I’m a sucker for themes.

This film had everything, and the soundtrack, for a goth metal boy like myself who had ventured into industrial music when not checking out dance clubs, well it was perfect. The funny thing is, though I knew of many of the bands, I wasn’t a particular fan of any of them, and for me some of the songs on the soundtrack turned out to be my favourite track from that band when I later investigated their music.

Like Highlander, this movie is constantly under threat of being remade. Like Highlander I went to the cinema to see the sequel, saw it once, and didn’t bother again, such a pale echo it was of the original. If a reboot is made I’ll check it out, but not with high expectations – the original set a very high and emotional bar that I would not want to have matched, so sadly entwined as it is with the tragic loss of a great talent far too young.

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2 thoughts on “Why I Write Fantasy: The Three Fours #3: The Crow

  1. Pingback: The Writing Life: Choices in Art – Roderick T. Macdonald

  2. Pingback: Why I Write Fantasy: The Three Fours #4: Clearly I Have a Type – Roderick T. Macdonald

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