In 1994, the comic book adaptation of The Crow was released to modest critical acclaim and very solid box office numbers. It tells the story of Eric Draven, musician, who magically comes back to life after he and his fiancé are killed by gangsters. Back from the dead and seeking vengeance on those who wronged him, Draven embodies the vigilante figure of the Crow, a black-clad, immortal, and extremely violent antihero. Though received positively at the time of release, The Crow‘s reputation would grow over time as, slowly but surely, it achieved cult status. This status comes in part because the star of the film, Brandon Lee, is the son of legendary actor and martial artist Bruce Lee. Brandon was tragically killed in an on-set accident while shooting The Crow, which has added to its almost mythic reputation. Some even believe that the movie is cursed, as there were a number of freak incidents reported during production, per Film Daily.
Now, almost 30 years and two failed sequels later, The Crow looks to make a resurgence with an upcoming remake/reboot, helmed by director Rupert Sanders and led by Bill Skarsgård (of It fame) in the starring role. There has been much discussion about whether this new spin on the franchise will capture the magic of the original. Though we haven’t seen footage yet, it is worth speculating about what a Crow remake needs to do in order to succeed. So let’s do just that.
Maintaining the Goth Aesthetic
If you couldn’t tell from the costumes, The Crow is an incredibly goth movie, both aesthetically and thematically. The original comic book that the film is based on was printed in black and white, with darkly shaded art and shadowy, brooding characters who seemed right at home in the 1990s media landscape. As Independent discusses, the film adaptation did an excellent job bringing comic artist James O’Barr’s vision to the screen. Thanks to its rain-soaked sets, high-contrast lighting, and phenomenal costume design, the movie does the goth visuals right. Everything about The Crow oozes dark, angsty energy: from Brandon Lee’s makeup, to his black leather trench coat, to the animal the film is named after. It’s a major reason why the movie achieved cult status — it seemed to tap into the goth subculture at a time when it was becoming increasingly popular.
In order for The Crow remake to be successful, it needs to remember its roots as a fiercely goth, deeply macabre tale of supernatural revenge. We can expect the iconic makeup to reappear, as well as Draven’s pitch black getup; but the lighting, production design, and tone will be harder to replicate or improve upon. Diehard fans of the franchise will likely cry foul if the remake leaves its goth heritage behind, so let’s hope Sanders and co. do it justice.
Getting the Soundtrack Right
One of the primary reasons for The Crow‘s cult-film status is its original soundtrack, which was a chart-topping album upon release. Featuring tracks by Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pantera, it brought together some of the biggest musical acts of the 1990s in one gloriously edgy package. In some ways, The Crow is known as much for its music as its story or visuals, thanks to its careful selection of artists that fit the film’s dark aesthetic. We would not expect to hear jangly pop tunes or crooner ballads in a movie this dark.
Today, The Crow‘s soundtrack is a cult-classic in its own right, and it received a new deluxe pressing just this last year, as uDiscoverMusic reports. Expectations are high for the upcoming remake, and if it wants to meet them it will need a killer soundtrack of its own. Just as the original drew from the biggest goth, metal, and alternative bands of the ’90s, this new film should include songs from today’s best (and darkest) musical acts. Think Xiu Xiu, The Garden, and Unwound. It could also include throwback tracks that call to mind the first The Crow movie, as fans would likely appreciate the reappearance of Nine Inch Nails or The Cure on the reboot’s soundtrack.
Learning From Today’s Comic Book Movies
If the last two decades have shown us anything, it’s that dark and grim comic book movies can be massively successful. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy brought realistic villains and brutal violence to DC’s comic-book universe, while Matt Reeves’s The Batman from earlier this year pushed things even further. In some ways, The Crow actually prefigured these later films by proving that comic book adaptations need not be colorful or morally black and white. Nevertheless, the remake can distinguish itself from the massively popular comic book movies of today by leaning into its brutality. The original Crow film is already darker than any Batman movie — the resurrected Eric Draven goes much further than any superhero in his shocking displays of violence. The remake, then, may benefit from dialing the bloodshed up to 11.
At the very least, The Crow remake will need to distance itself from films like Matt Reeves’s The Batman if it wants to avoid being seen as unoriginal or derivative. Thankfully, the supernatural nightmare world of The Crow provides ample opportunities to do something different from what audiences expect. It takes place in a less grounded and less self-serious universe than many of today’s vigilante justice movies. The remake’s cast and crew have a lot of freedom to experiment with the rules set up by the original, and to make something that will disrupt the crowded landscape of comic book cinema.