The Crow (1994)

An old review of mine – hence the old style- just in time for Devil’s Night.  I don’t love it as much as I used to, but I still think it’s good.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a big fan of revenge movies. Served as a hot or cold dish, it doesn’t really matter, revenge is something that everyone can identify with. We’ve all been wronged in one way or another, some minor little quibbles, others traumatic life-altering events. Or life-ending events. Based on the cult comic book, The Crow is about the strength of love, a love so powerful that one will come back from the grave to avenge the tragic loss of someone so precious.

A question that I’ve often wondered about, is whether or not this movie would’ve reached the levels of cult popularity that it has so far, if the star of The Crow, Brandon Lee, didn’t die during the filming of a scene in the movie. Well, that’s not really a question, just pondering on my part I suppose. It does make for a great Hollywood legend though, especially when you consider all the other accidents that happened to crew members during the filming of this supposed “cursed” movie.

Director Alex Proyas took James O’Barr’s independent comic book to the silver screen in a way that displayed the passion O’Barr put into his creation and showed that Proyas respected his work very much. Proyas also directed the fantastic sci-fi film noir Dark City later on in his career, and you can see where many of the seeds for that movie came from while watching The Crow.

As the ensuing Crow movies have proven, if your lead actor isn’t charismatic or able to grab people and bring them emotionally into the movie, well, he’s not much of a lead actor. Brandon Lee had that charisma, and he had the acting chops to back it up with as well. He could have had a long, successful film career after this movie, but instead suffered a similar fate as befell his father, Bruce. Lee’s acting is truly the reason to see this movie, though it also contains some fun performances from Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Jon Polito & good ol’ squirrelly David Patrick Kelly.

At some points the movie feels like it’s a borderline B+ movie, that if Brandon Lee hadn’t died on the set of the movie, it would’ve gone straight to video and never been mentioned again. Which would’ve been a shame, because The Crow character – while potentially very two-dimensional – has the ability to transcend genre-lizations. It’s not your typical comic book / action / romance movie, but it mixes these elements and more in a way that people (sadly, mostly goth kids) identify with.

3.5 / 5

Batman: Year One (2011)

Here is another in the DC Comics Animation Universe, which has contributed some great and some not-so-great straight-to-DVD animated features based on their comics.  I think the last Batman animated movie was the very uneven Batman: Gotham Knights, which had numerous characters telling their own tales of interactions with The Dark Knight.  It featured differing animation styles for each story and the effect was unique, but also jarring.  Thankfully, Batman: Year One goes with telling one tale, and it’s an almost perfect adaptation of the Frank Miller storyline depicting Batman’s first year on the job.

The animation style is just straight up gorgeous, dark, full of deep shadows and it is on a level higher than most of these animated movies that get shuttled out into movieplexes each week.  This is one movie that I will eventually purchase because I could see myself enjoying it over and over again.  It’s not just a Batman tale though, as even though it tells the origin of how Bruce Wayne / Batman (Ben McKenzie) came to be, it’s also the first year that Jim Gordon (Bryan Cranston) is in Gotham.  Also, Selina Kyle (Eliza Dushku) ditches prostitution and becomes Catwoman.  There’s a lot going on in this movie, and it is nearly seamless storytelling.  Joel Schmuacher could learn something from this movie.

It took me awhile to realise that yes, it was Walter White, Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad” as Jim Gordon and that is as perfect casting of Gordon as Gary Oldman is in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies.  Dushku is also perfect as Catwoman, and there are almost uniformly excellent vocal casting decisions throughout the movie.  My only quibble is that Ben McKenzie – Ryan from “The O.C.” – is Bruce Wayne / Batman.  I understand that yes, it is Batman’s first year on the job, etc. but McKenzie just doesn’t embody the menace of The Bat.

Other than that little detail, it’s flawless and if you’re a Batman fan, check it out.

4.5 / 5