If Brandon Lee Had His Way, The Crow Would Look Very Different

Over the years, "The Crow" has become an undisputed classic. The 1994 film was directed by Alex Proyas ("Dark City") and starred Brandon Lee, who tragically lost his life in an on-set accident while filming. This senseless and horrific event will always cast a long shadow over "The Crow," but the movie also stands as a testament to Lee's tremendous talent, an eternal reminder of a performer we lost far too soon.

"The Crow" is based on the comic series of the same name, written and drawn by the amazing James O'Barr. Though the character debuted in 1989, he was created years earlier as O'Barr's attempt to deal with the loss of his fiancé, who had been killed by a drunk driver. Grief was always intrinsic to this story.

Lee starred as Eric Draven, a musician who is resurrected to exact bloody vengeance on those responsible for the deaths of him and his fiancé. However, "The Crow" is far more than a simple revenge flick. It's a powerful meditation on loss, not only in how that pain shapes us, but also how we mange to survive it. At its core, the film is about a love that transcends death. Not to mention the movie has one of the best soundtracks ever, featuring Nine Inch Nails (covering Joy Division!), The Cure, Violent Femmes, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and many more. Plus, it boasts an incredible score from Graeme Revell.

"The Crow" was an early example of what comic book movies were capable of. It was a highly stylized vision that was also full of heart, keeping the essence of the source material intact, while also tailoring it for another medium. Proyas gave the film a truly unique feel, but he initially had another idea on how it should look, an idea that star Brandon Lee wholeheartedly agreed with. How could "The Crow" have looked different if the studio had listed to Lee and Proyas?

It can't rain all the time

Although O'Barr's "The Crow" comic was in black and white, he did differentiate between Eric's past and present. Most of the panels featuring Eric and his fiancé Shelly were painted and had a softness which gave them an almost dreamlike quality, as opposed to the inked panels representing the harsh realities of an Eric who had returned from the grave.

Proyas hoped to mirror the images from the comic, and shoot the entire film in black and white, but flashing back to Eric and Shelly's life in color. Lee had a similar passion for the idea, explaining in "The Crow" DVD behind-the-scenes featurette:

"I would've deeply loved to shoot the whole film in black and white, personally I love black and white, I think it's wonderful. It would've been great to do that and show, perhaps, just the flashbacks — which are a part of Eric's real life, his life when he was alive — show those in color, as contrast. But, unfortunately, due to the realities — the very sh***y realities — of the film world, we weren't given the opportunity to do that."

The studio did outright reject the idea, but that didn't stop Proyas from making the movie he wanted to make. Production designer Alex McDowell said:

"Right from the first meeting I had with Alex we discussed removing the greens and blues and really controlling the palette completely. So, the rain and the steam help out a lot because they just bleach out whatever color's there, but that's definitely been a very important part. We've censored across the board, any cold colors, any blues, greens, or anything like that. We really tried to create a monochromatic palette with red, and so in terms of color, the red is kind of the revenge color.

As for O'Barr, he seemed very happy with Proyas' attempt to translate his work. He revealed:

"When I drew the book I drew it in storyboards and I always intended it to be in black and white with the flashback sequences in technicolor and Alex is pretty much doing exactly that. He's using filters and special optical effects to pretty much wash out all the color to keep this, keep it a really bleak film and then the flashbacks are gonna be in this bright technicolor, vibrant reds and yellows."

"The Crow" does maintain a bleakness throughout thanks to its color palette, and the flashbacks are noticeably different than the rest of the movie, with reds and yellows that are particularly bright. Still, the colors are somewhat muted, which makes it feel more like we're seeing these memories through Eric's grief-stricken eyes.

Will The Crow reboot happen?

Lee, who undoubtedly would've become a huge star after "The Crow," was only 28 when a prop gun misfired on set, leading to his death. There was understandably doubt as to whether the film would ever see the light of day. However, after taking some time, Proyas couldn't ignore the thought that Lee would've wanted "The Crow," which was almost completed already, to be released. At the urging of Lee's friends and family, the film was finished thanks to some impressive movie magic, though certain aspects needed to be altered.

The movie's popularity spawned three sequels, as well as a television show. The last film released in 2005, and while I've always heard and assumed the worst of these projects, I've never watched any of them, so I can't say with any authority that they're as awful as I think they are.

In the years since, there have been countless attempts to remake/reboot the franchise. One by one, they have all failed, though a new version of "The Crow" does appear to be in the works once again. So much of the success of the film comes down to Lee's fantastic performance and for most fans, it's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. As much as I love both O'Barr's comic and the 1994 film, I'm hoping they just leave "The Crow" alone.