Director – Tim Pope, Screenplay – David S. Goyer, Producers – Jeff Most & Edward R. Pressman, Photography – Jean-Yves Escoffier, Music – Graeme Revell, Visual Effects – Digiscope (Supervisor – Roger Dorney), Special Effects Supervisor – Bruno Van Zeebroeck, Production Design – Alex McDowell. Production Company – Dimension Films/Jeff Most Productions/Miramax Films/Bad Bird Productions.
Vincent Perez (Ashe Corven), Mia Kirshner (Sarah), Richard Brooks (Judah), Iggy Pop (Curve), Tracey Ellis (Sybil), Thuy Trang (Kali), Ian Dury (Noah), Thomas Jane (Nemo), Vincent Castellanos (Spider Monkey)
After being killed by hoods for having witnessed a murder, Ashe Corven returns from the dead on All Saints Day. Invulnerable to damage, he seeks vengeance against the gang members who killed him.
The Crow (1994) was a dark breath of originality when it appeared, fusing nihilistic comic-book vigilantism with a glisteningly dark Goth sheen to emerge as one of the most striking genre films of its year. One supposes that a Crow II was inevitable. It emerges here with The Crow: City of Angels. Sadly, The Crow: City of Angels is a sequel that betrays little understanding of the original – the original was a closed story and its success had much to do with the ghoulish fascination that surrounded its star Brandon Lee’s death than anything else.
Even allowing for commercial exploitation, did The Crow: City of Angels have to copy The Crow in such unimaginative ways? The plot sometimes rewrites the original scene for scene – we have another person killed by a group of hoods and returning to avenge their own death, slaughtering their way through a group of street scumbags and up the chain of command to the charismatic gang leader who is again aided by a psychic seer. In both films, the events are witnessed by the same girl (here grown up) and in both films the climax hinges around the capture of the crow. And outside of the repetition of this basic formula of the first film, there is precious little to The Crow: City of Angels – it copies the first film but adds nothing to it. Its greatest departure is the climax where gangleader Richard Brooks captures and drinks the crow’s blood to absorb its power – but the playing out of the idea is banal.
On the plus side, the dark, glistening look of the original has been expanded to create what seems like some future world where the remnants of organised society eke out a barren existence in some eternally night-lit wreckage of the present-day. It is the ultimate Goth designer world – streets and apartments are littered in fascinatingly textural ways with artfully strewn decay, all lit in a sickly green backlight and glowing ever-present mist, while the costume designer seems to be an S&M fetishist – people in black leather masks and fetish gear even appear to be part of the decor in Richard Brooks’ rooms.
Unfortunately, after setting up such an incredibly atmospheric look, former music video director Tim Pope (known in particular for directing most of the music clips for The Cure) does absolutely nothing with it – The Crow: City of Angels is all striking poses and Goth ambience.
However, when it comes to the action, the film is utterly flat. The set-pieces around the killing of the hoods lack any of the fired-up, glistening urgency that the first film had. There are even moments – the flashbacks with Vincent Perez and son – where, for a film that supposedly hangs on a driving mood of dark nihilism, it unforgivably descends to the banally sentimental. The only point where the film does momentarily rise above the banal is the death of Iggy Pop where Vincent Perez places a coin in his mouth to pay the Boatman and pushes him gently into the river as people on the banks throw flowers that fall surrounding him in the shape of a crow.
The Crow: City of Angels was followed by two further sequels:- The Crow: Salvation (2000) and The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005) and a tv series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998). A remake of the original has been announced for the 2010s.
Tim Pope has yet to make another film. He was involved with The Last King of Scotland (2006) but ended up quitting over creative differences. Screenwriter David S. Goyer went onto make a name as both screenwriter and occasional director with a number of other high-profile works. Goyer’s other screenplays include the Jean-Claude Van Damme action film Death Warrant (1990), Full Moon’s Demonic Toys (1992) and Arcade (1994), the alien body snatchers film The Puppet Masters (1994), Blade (1998), Dark City (1998), Nick Fury, Agent of Shield (tv pilot, 1998), Blade II (2002), Batman Begins (2005), Batman: Gotham Knight (2008), The Dark Knight (2008), Jumper (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012), Man of Steel (2013), Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Terminator: Dark Fate (2019). Goyer has also directed the excellent non-genre film ZigZag (2002) about an autistic boy, Blade Trinity (2004), The Invisible (2007) about a disembodied teenager and the possession film The Unborn (2009). Goyer has also produced the genre tv series’ Sleepwalkers (1997) about dream researchers; FreakyLinks (2000) about paranormal investigators; Threshold (2005) about the investigation of a UFO; the cinematic adaptation of the Marvel Comic Ghost Rider (2007); the tv series Flash Forward (2009-10) about a mysterious worldwide premonition; the tv series DaVinci’s Demons (2013-5) about a fantastical secret history of Leonardo Da Vinci; the tv version of Constantine (2014-5), the ghost story The Forest (2016), the robot dog film A-X-L (2018), the animated web series Constantine: City of Demons (2018), the Superman prequel tv series Krypton (2018-9) and the A.I. film Tau (2018).
(Nominee for Best Cinematography at this site’s Best of 1996 Awards).
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