The Films of Alex Proyas #2 – The Crow (1994)

flamesAside from Dark City (1998) and two or three scenes from Knowing (2009), the films of director Alex Proyas have somehow managed to elude me. Having recently been inspired by fellow staff writer Sean Lynch’s Nine Nights of Argento feature, I felt it was long overdue to finally fill that hole in my film watching and see what all the hype surrounding this director is all about.

Is he to sci-fi what my favorite horror director John Carpenter is to horror, as I have heard on more than one occasion from several different sci-fi junkies, whose opinions I all strongly respect? There’s only one way to find out; by watching all of Proyas’ films in chronological order. My take on his second feature, The Crow, after the jump.

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I have little wonder as to why Hollywood would come knocking on Mr. Proyas’ door with this  graphic novel that they wanted to make into a film. After just one viewing of his near-perfect debut feature, in where goth esthetics saturate and meld upon a fantastical post apocalyptic wasteland it’s obvious that he’s more than qualified to bring the equally dark and dismal city setting of The Crow to the big screen.

Know this, The Crow is in no way a challenging film, far from it, yet that doesn’t mean there weren’t personal challenges I had to overcome in order to watch this with a clean palette and an unbiased view. Fair or unfair, in my eyes this film carries a hefty amount of stigmatized baggage. Up until this point I have always thought of The Crow less as an actual movie to be enjoyed by anyone and more of a rite of passage required viewing for angsty adolescents, comic book geeks, and devotees to the musical ethos found in the goth, industrial, and emo scene. The question I had going into this film was, Is this a movie tailored made for the demographic responsible for its elevation to cult status, or can any fan of cartoonish violent cinema enjoy this?

Essentially, this is a straight forward revenge film in where the protagonist Eric Draven (played by Brandon Lee) hunts down those who have wronged both him and his fiancée. In this case wronged meaning raped and murdered. That’s right, a year after his death a crow comes along, starts pecking at Draven’s grave, and bada-bing bada-boom, up comes our hero, fully non-decomposed skin and all. And so begins the film’s single-minded trajectory of vigilante face-painted justice via throwing knives, syringe needles, explosives, multiple gun shots, and for good measure, a statue impaling. I love me a good clichéd statue impaling.

Obviously, suspension of disbelief is a must here, as it is with any super hero fantasy film, and I had no trouble fastening into Proyas’ somewhat clanky roller coaster ride. The problem’s I did have, or rather I should say distractions, came in the form of how certain esthetics (music and action) were being presented.

The Crow - Soundtrack - Back

The music, a whose who of early to mid-90s alt rock (which, I am a fan of, mind you), has its own way of undercutting and – let’s be honest – ruining every scene that it appears in. Rather than add to the story, one can’t help but feel they are watching a compilation of singular themed music video snippets. The decision to bombard a potential summer blockbuster with popular rock music of the moment can only be seen as a form of stunt casting, and will inevitably wind up making the film feel awfully dated, which, as I can attest to, is a surefire way of taking the viewer out of the film.

Along with the music, the action, or rather lack there of, is somewhat disappointing as well. Sure, there were enough onscreen killings and bloodshed to warrant its R-rating, but this is a movie starring someone who as soon as he could walk began training in martial arts under the tutelage of his father, Bruce Lee (ever heard of him?). Rather than showcase Brandon’s skills with longer takes during fight scenes, which can be seen in earlier B-movie roles, Proyas instead opts to create the action in post through editing that can best be described as uninspired. It’s a shame then that Brandon’s first and last foray into the world of A-list hollywood is in a role that fails to highlight him as a martial artist.

All in all, Proyas’ sense of brooding, costume designs, and glimmer of hope thematics all come through, alas, in the end, the paint-by-numbers Hollywood influence projected onto the final product for the sake of appeasing to the MTV demographics at the time (which it did) seemed to have overshadowed anything that would have been uniquely Proyas’.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to walk away from The Crow having had the fewer finer aspects of the film leave a prominent lasting impression.  There are far too many other distractions that, in the end, I was unable to ignore, turning the promising work of an emerging talented director into a heaping mound of sub-par cookie-cutter Hollywood rubble.

Up next: Dark City

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Categories: Director Spotlight, Reviews

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