Bill Skarsgård takes revenge from beyond the grave in The Crow trailer

Bill Skarsgård takes on the role of Eric Draven in the Lionsgate reboot of The Crow.

The 1994 cult classic film The Crow turns 30 this spring, so it’s as good a time as any to drop the first trailer for the long-in-development reboot directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman, Ghost in the Shell). Bill Skarsgård takes on the starring role made famous by the late Brandon Lee.

(Spoilers for the original 1994 film below.)

Based on a 1989 limited comic series by James O’Barr, The Crow was directed by Alex Proyas. The film starred Brandon Lee as Eric Draven, a rock musician in crime-ridden Detroit. He and his fiancée, Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas), are brutally murdered on Devil’s Night by a gang of thugs on the orders of a crime boss named Top Dollar (Michael Wincott). A year later, Eric is resurrected, dons black-and-white face paint, and proceeds to take his bloody revenge before returning to his grave. Alas, Lee was accidentally killed by a prop gun during the final days of shooting; the film was completed with the help of Lee’s stunt double (Chad Stahelski, who launched the John Wick franchise) and some clever special effects.

Despite the shadow of Lee’s tragic death, The Crow went on to gross $94 million against its modest $23 million budget and establish itself as a cult classic. Sure, the dialogue was occasionally hokey, and most of the characters were pretty one-dimensional, but there was no denying Lee’s star power and the striking visual energy, augmented by a killer soundtrack. There were three sequels focused on different characters with none of the original cast members, but none of those were as successful as the original.

Plans for a reboot first emerged in late 2008, but the development process proved rocky. O’Barr initially expressed pessimism about any reboot but later warmed to the prospect. As recently as November 2019, Proyas remained adamantly opposed: “It’s not just a movie that can be remade, it’s one man’s [Lee’s] legacy,” he said at the time. “And it should be treated with that level of respect.”

The project cycled through directors, stars, screenwriters, and so forth for more than a decade before Sanders signed on as director in 2022. Along with Skarsgård, the cast includes FKA Twigs as Shelly and Isabella Wei as Zadie. Danny Huston, Laura Birn, Sami Bouajila, and Jordan Bolger will also appear in as-yet-unnamed roles. Per the official premise:

Soulmates Eric Draven (Skarsgård) and Shelly Webster (FKA Twigs) are brutally murdered when the demons of her dark past catch up with them. Given the chance to save his true love by sacrificing himself, Eric sets out to seek merciless revenge on their killers, traversing the worlds of the living and the dead to put the wrong things right.

The fact that Eric apparently has a chance to save Shelly by sacrificing himself is a marked departure from the 1994 film and in keeping with Sanders’ stated desire to let the love story be the primary driver for his reboot. The trailer opens by introducing us to the young lovers, moving quickly from their first meeting to the consummation of their love. They’re basically two broken people who find happiness in each other—until Shelly witnesses a murder that results in the couple being brutally and fatally attacked. Eric comes back as The Crow, bent on revenge, even as he’s “running out of time to save her.”

Look, the trailer seems perfectly fine. Skarsgård is a phenomenal acting talent, but while Huston generally makes a great villain, one rather misses the wry humor of Wincott’s Goth sadist Top Dollar. The truth is, this reboot could be a tough sell to longtime fans of the original (like me), although it’s encouraging that the director seems to have won over O’Barr with his decision to hark back to the source material.

Sanders is very much aware of this challenge and is taking pains to emphasize his deep regard for Lee’s legacy. “What Alex Proyas did with The Crow in 1994—and Brandon Lee’s iconic embodiment of that character—will forever impact that generation and others to follow,” he said in a statement accompanying the trailer’s release. It expressed its time in a very specific, music-driven vision.” Sanders added that his own vision strives to bring The Crow (including the original book) to a new generation of young people, calling the character of Eric Draven/The Crow “the original anti-superhero” who grapples with universal themes of “love, grief, and rage.

Skarsgård also issued a statement that he has long been a fan of the original film; it was Sanders’ vision that convinced him to star in the reboot. “[Sanders] wanted to completely reimagine the story and the character and tailor it towards a modern audience,” he said. “It’s a character that I know many revere and have a strong connection to—he is unlike any I’ve ever taken on before. I felt a responsibility to Eric’s story and endeavored to stay true to the spirit of the source material.”

The Crow was originally scheduled for release on June 7, 2024. But the trailer tells us it’s coming “this summer,” which is vague. I guess we’ll see.


Listing image by YouTube/Lionsgate

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