HEAT VISION

Why 'The Crow' Should Not Fly Again

A new adaptation seems to go against the very themes inherent to the story, and Jason Momoa's departure should be the final nail in the coffin.
Brandon Lee in 'The Crow' (1994)   |   Photofest
A new adaptation seems to go against the very themes inherent to the story, and Jason Momoa's departure should be the final nail in the coffin.

Sony’s planned reboot of The Crow has once again gotten its wings clipped.

Star Jason Momoa on Thursday morning confirmed he and director Corin Hardy were leaving the project. Financial issues are said to be the reason behind the film’s failure to launch, but the inability to get this project on the right track has now been a decade-long saga.

The Crow, following the plot of the original comic series by James O’Barr, and the 1994 film of the same name, would tell the story of Eric Draven, a man who is killed alongside his fiancee by a vicious gang led by the sociopathic Top Dollar. Eric is resurrected by a supernatural crow who gives him abilities to stalk down the killers and claim vengeance. While there’s a beauty in the simplicity of its narrative, contrasted by the complexity of grief through which O’Barr was inspired — a result of his own personal tragedy — The Crow has been one of the most challenging films for Hollywood to remake. From script issues, budgetary concerns, the inability to find a director or star who stays on long enough for production to start, the project has encountered a development hell unlike any other comic book film based on a single narrative. It seems The Crow is cursed to remain dormant. Perhaps these latest exits are further signs that the notion of remaking the film should finally be given up.

Plans to remake Alex Proyas’ 1994 film were first announced in 2008 with Stephen Norrington (Blade) ready to sit in the director’s chair. Norrington ultimately left the project and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) joined as helmer in 2011, with Bradley Cooper set in the lead. Cooper eventually left, and Mark Wahlberg was said to be his replacement until Fresnadillo dropped out as well. In 2012, Francisco Javier Gutierrez (Rings) signed on to direct, with Tom Hiddleston and Alexander Skarsgard rumored to be circling the project. Luke Evans was officially cast in 2013 and James O’Barr was hired on as creative consultant. This time, it seemed, The Crow would finally fly. Yet, before anyone could get the fog machines set, Gutierrez left the project. Corin Hardy was hired in 2014 and Jack Huston was cast in the lead, but Relativity Media’s bankruptcy stalled the film. In 2016, Jason Momoa replaced Huston and the film was retitled The Crow Reborn. But that rebirth was not to be.

In an Instagram post, Momoa lamented the fact that he wouldn’t be able to take on his dream role eight years in the making. While he made it clear that he had no ill feelings towards his experience working with Hardy and Sony Pictures, he did apologize to creator O’Barr for letting him down. Momoa suggested it may take another eight years for the project to come to fruition.

It’s easy to sympathize with the creatives involved, given the time and effort they spent in trying to get this project off the ground. But The Crow shouldn’t fly again, regardless of the best of intentions from everyone involved. Sure, films are rebooted and remade all the time, but The Crow feels different — sacred in its perfect alignment of all the right elements, and the one thing that went very wrong.

The 1994 film, directed by Proyas, holds up incredibly well as both an adaptation and a film that created its own visual language. There’s a legacy that the movie has, which has earned it a special place among fans. Its cult reputation not only stems from the way in which the pic deals with grief, but also as a result of the tragic death of star Brandon Lee. Lee, who was accidently shot and killed on the set of the film in 1993, played the central role of Draven with a melancholic vigor that hit home with audiences. As the actor’s final role, many have seen the tragic parallels between the film and Lee’s short life. Lee, who was set to be married a week after The Crow finished filming, has become a figure of gothic romance within the narrative of Hollywood tragedy. But looking beyond the sensationalizing of his death and the comparisons drawn between Lee and the additionally short life of his father, Bruce Lee, there remains the simple fact that he is absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of Draven. It’s a performance that is entirely captivating in a way that sticks with viewers. There’s a physicality and vocal aura that Lee imbued the character with that seems to transcend film and take on an almost supernatural quality. Accentuated by the pic’s moody goth-rock soundtrack and Proyas’ darkly dripping aesthetics, Lee delivered a performance that surely would have made him one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Death, of course, rarely halts the Hollywood machine, and film roles are often like Shakespeare characters, meant to be brought to life by different people through time. This is especially true when it comes to comic book characters. The roles of Superman and The Joker, brought to their most iconic heights by Christopher Reeve and Heath Ledger, respectively, weren’t shelved and made uninhabitable as a result of tragedy. But the Crow seems different. This may be because Lee died on set during filming, or it may be because the movie deals so heavily with death and the inability and unwillingness to let go of people. Whichever the case, it feels like Eric Draven’s story has been told for good, and Hollywood studios have the opportunity to be curators of a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

The franchise notably didn’t end with Proyas’ film. The Crow spawned three sequels: The Crow: City of Angels (1996), The Crow Salvation (2000) and The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005), which saw a steady decline in interest and quality. What these films did have working for them was that they continued the story of the Crow through characters other than Draven who were looking for vengeance. Thus, the Crow franchise became an anthology, an angle which comic book miniseries subsequently took as well. Draven was only portrayed again in the short-lived Canadian TV series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998). In terms of film, Eric Draven has only ever been Brandon Lee.

Proyas has been publicly outspoken about his feelings toward the Crow remake. In December, the filmmaker wrote in a Facebook post that he opposed the idea of a remake, calling it wrong. “Hollywood should just let it remain a testament to [Brandon’s] immense talent and ultimate sacrifice," he wrote. Proyas ended his statement with a plea to “please let this remain Brandon’s film.” While the graphic novel’s creator O’Barr has seemingly been on board with his work being re-adapted, it’s clear from Proyas’ statement and the fans of the film that The Crow has grown beyond the work it originally was intended to be, to the point where a new adaptation seems to go against the very themes inherent to the story. There are other versions of The Crow, centered around different characters and set in different time periods, that could be told if Sony remains insistent on trying to make the movie happen, but the departure of Hardy and Momoa might be the final nail in a coffin that should remain closed. Lee gave everything he had to the role of Eric Draven and the dream of Hollywood stardom. It seems only right that Hollywood celebrate and mourn that dedication by letting the remake idea finally rest so that the actor’s legacy lives on through the recognition that what he did cannot be re-created.

  • Richard Newby
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