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C'mon Hollywood: How to reboot The Crow (if you must)

04.23.2013

THE CROW is one of the most significant influences on me, both as a comic reader and artist. It is the first book to challenge me outside of your average superhero books by diving deep into the uglier side of humanity with a lean on our dark, vengeful nature as well as the horrific deeds of those that would push us into that frame of mind. Writer/artist James O’Barr created THE CROW out of his own pain from the death of his girlfriend, making a brutal, heartfelt work of intended catharsis, while drawing on musical influences from Joy Division and The Cure, as well as the physical characteristics of Iggy Pop and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus.

Director Alex Proyas, a music video director, took on the gig of bringing O’Barr’s graphic novel to life in 1993, casting martial arts rising star Brandon Lee in the lead role. Lee was untested in such a role at the time, but had sought to rise above the pigeonhole of the martial arts genre, even turning down a role in A FEW GOOD MEN to take on the mantle of Eric Draven in THE CROW, a role he fully embraced down to its very roots. Tragically, Lee was killed on set towards the end of production, making the film not just an amazing adaptation of the character, but the last of Lee’s legacy on film.

After that, a series of awful sequels and an uninspired TV show followed, none of them ever coming close to Proyas and Lee’s film. The gothic tone and style were empty in every follow up, try as they did to capture it, leaving 1994’s THE CROW as the adaptation to beat to this day. Since the last entry in the series, producer Ed Pressman has been attempting to revitalize the franchise with a reboot with the likes of directors Stephen Norrington (BLADE), Nick Cave, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and stars Mark Wahlberg, Bradley Cooper, and James McAvoy toying with the role of Draven. Each of these creative teams has fallen apart, leaving the reboot in limbo, while fans of the original cry foul on the seemingly “untouchable” property.

However, producer Ed Pressman recently hired F. Javier Gutierrez (BEFORE THE FALL) to direct from a script by Cliff Dorfman (WARRIOR) with the most recent rumor of Tom Hiddleston (THE AVENGERS) in contention for the role of Eric Draven. As someone who holds the original THE CROW as the quintessential version and a fitting, if not ironically dark, tribute to Lee, this news made me actually feel that there was room for a reboot, but under certain conditions:

1) Hiddleston must be cast – After a star-making turn as Loki in both THOR and THE AVENGERS, Hiddleston has shown that he has the skill to pull off a creepy, dark character that is riddled with charisma, depth, and fury, making for a hell of a menacing incarnation. Hiddleston also possesses the lithe, athletic physicality that embodies the character of Eric Draven. With his classically trained background and penchant for owning the roles he takes on, I have no doubt that Hiddleston would simply own as Eric Draven. In fact, I would venture to say that no other actor should even be considered at this point. It's the most inspired decision so far and producers should be doing everything they can to lock him down.

2) Adapt the graphic novel with integrity – Obviously, we know that things will invariably change or be amended for the big screen, but anyone that’s read the graphic novel knows that there is a wonderful plethora of material that never saw the light of day in any of the films thus far. Proyas shot sequences of the Skull Cowboy character, but they never made it into the film and a number of alterations were made in the origin of Draven’s journey to becoming The Crow. O’Barr has a number of gorgeous, dark, and painfully beautiful pieces of art that are begging to see life on the big screen and it would be awesome to see them finally grace the screen. In short, if you’re doing a reboot, it simply won’t do to adapt anything other than the source material.

3) Focus on the inspiration that created the character – Loss, pain, revenge, love, and tragedy grace every page of the graphic novel. Turning this reboot into some kind of comic book action film is going the absolute wrong direction. There’s plenty of violence to be had, but to home in on that and make it the main factor in selling the film is a mistake. THE CROW is a gothic revenge tale born of tragedy and it should be adapted as such. This isn’t THE AVENGERS or even THE DARK KNIGHT. This is much darker material and should be handled as such. If a PG-13 is even considered for THE CROW, the producers have lost all understanding of what the character is.

Like many of you, I am leery of a reboot. Mostly, I’m against it, but if they follow the suggestions above and make something born of integrity and style, paying careful attention to bringing the graphic novel to life, rather than make something that’s “kinda” like it, then it’s doomed to fail. We don’t have much to lose, really, as the original has lost none of its luster throughout the years, but it would be nice to see a reboot that was worth the trip back to the drawing board.

Extra Tidbit: James O'Barr recently returned the The Crow character in IDW comic's The Crow: Skinning The Wolves, a WWII death camp tale. I highly recommend checking it out. It's full of the same type of dark, violent, tragic, and horrifying themes that made the original graphic novel so great.
Source: JoBlo.com

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