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The Crow

Heated reactions to the controversial “The Crow” remake/reboot starring Bill Skarsgård remind us that Brandon Lee’s legacy is alive and well.

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It’s hard to believe it’s been thirty years since The Crow was released. For those of us who grew up with the film, it feels like just yesterday that Eric Draven crawled from the grave and into our living rooms, taking us along as he stormed the dark and twisted road to avenging the woman he loved.

His arrival also coincided with the second wave of goth subculture in the mid-90s, which made him not just a vigilante worth rooting for but an icon for two generations of outcasts. Eric was the superhero we’d always wanted.

Now, after more than a decade of production hell, the film has been rebooted by Lionsgate, and the outrage from fans and former cast and crew is deafening.

There are a lot of reasons to oppose a reboot of The Crow. For starters, it hardly seems necessary, as the original film is still celebrated as a masterpiece. From Dariusz Wolski’s incredible cinematography to the spectacular performances of the cast (including screen legends like Michael Wincott, Tony Todd, and David Patrick Kelly), it simply doesn’t feel like we need a fresh take.

Alex Proyas, who directed The Crow in 1994, has long opposed a new version, saying, “It would be nice if Hollywood left it alone.”

Most recently, stills from the reboot are stirring waves of criticism across the internet for the overall look and feel of the new Eric, apparently modeled after famous rappers Post Malone and Lil Peep to make him more appealing and relatable for young viewers.

The most powerful force behind all the anger and disappointment, however, transcends shallow jabs at a Joker-esque design and perceived gatekeeping.

“Brandon Lee” by lizma_2106 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It comes from the love and memory of the man who first brought Eric Draven to life.

Brandon Lee was fatally wounded on the set of The Crow in 1993 when a stunt firearm malfunctioned, rupturing one of his blood vessels. He died in surgery twelve hours later at the age of 28. Devastated, his family, friends, and fellow cast and crew – even the studio – were beside themselves, and the film’s production was, naturally, stalled.

The Crow was put in limbo.

Lee’s scenes were almost finished, so the question wasn’t whether they could finish the film but whether they should. Ultimately, it was Brandon’s fiancé, Eliza Hutton, whose approval allowed the film to move forward when she cited his love of the role as reason enough to ensure the world saw it.

Through Eric, Lee found an opportunity to finally take the lead and set himself apart from his father, actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, who died when Brandon was just eight years old.

In his last on-screen interview, he told Miramax, “I don’t know if I was destined to play this role, but I feel very fortunate to be doing so.”

His passion is evident in his portrayal of Eric, and it resonates deeply with fans even before they understand the full scope of his sacrifice. Scores of moviegoers fell in love with Eric Draven and Brandon Lee simultaneously and felt the loss of both in equal measure.

And that’s just it; we’re still mourning him.  

In a recent Facebook post, Alex Proyas went after the new movie for its redesign of Eric, sparking controversy from some who saw the remarks as unprovoked bitterness. In truth, Proyas divulged much greater details about his feelings about this reboot long before it even got off the ground, and it all goes back to Brandon Lee. 

“I completed the original movie to honor Brandon, and that’s the sole reason I did it. I’m happy I did it for that reason. (…) It’s his legacy, and I personally don’t have a lot of time for people trying to reignite that movie in other ways.” (Alex Proyas, Collider, 2016) 

Today, that sentiment is revealing itself at every turn as the premiere of the new film draws close.

Both professional and armchair critics have chided Lionsgate and director Rupert Sanders for taking on the project, citing it as a blatant insult to Lee’s memory. Social media is lit up with memes and reaction videos, all united by a near-universal sense of disbelief that anyone thought rebooting The Crow was a good idea.

The film has also drawn the attention of The Brandon Lee Movement, a group of dedicated fans who formally petitioned to stop it from happening. They urged the studio not to “cheapen the memory” of Eric Draven and to “show some respect and empathy towards Lee’s legacy.”

While the petition was unsuccessful, it got thousands of signatures, which speaks volumes about the fans’ devotion to the original movie and Lee’s involvement.

We can’t stop The Crow reboot, but there’s good to be gleaned here. Firstly, the reactions to the film suggest it will come and go with little fanfare. Secondly, and most importantly, it reminds us that Brandon Lee didn’t die for nothing.

Thirty years later, The Crow remains one of the most beloved films of the 1990s – possibly even of all time for certain generations – and much of that is owed to Lee.

No matter how much time passes, we won’t let the world forget how important Brandon Lee is to us.

Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.
Written by Molly O’Blivion. Molly is a writer, voice actor, and horror fanatic from Omaha, Nebraska. She’s the producer and host of the Final Girl Friday podcast and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in film and media studies.”   

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