I've always been a fan of the first "Crow" movie. It was an excellent film by director Alex Proyas("Dark City") with perfect art direction and a great performance from Brandon Lee, who was tragically killed during production. Yet, as the first film did well, the studio wanted a sequel. The result is a weak revisiting of the original, a film that doesn't grow on me - it only gets even less entertaining whenever I revisit it.
Where "Crow" director Alex Proyas is a skillful and even gifted talent at making wonderfully dark, gritty looking pictures without going into "music-video" territory, "City Of Angels" director Tim Pope (whose former experience included directing Bangles music videos) steps right over that line. Pope also isn't as skilled with action sequences, as this picture really doesn't have nearly as many as the first picture. For this sequel, French actor Vincent Perez stars as Ashe, a man who is killed along with his son by a group of criminals. As with Lee's character in the original picture, he returns from the grave to get revenge, guided by a crow.
And there's little thrilling or even engaging about it. In comparison to Brandon Lee's performance that made the first installment so powerful, Vincent Perez doesn't seem nearly as energetic or intense. The supporting cast really doesn't have much to add, either. Mia Kirshner, who first gained notice in Atom Egoyan's much-praised "Exotica" hasn't been seen much since the one-two combination of this film and the John Travolta flop "Mad City". Richard Brooks doesn't make much of a villian either, although to his credit, he doesn't have much to work with. And speaking of material, the suprise dissapointment here is David Goyer's screenplay. A writer known for some suprisingly good genre offerings("Blade", "Dark City"), everything here - dialogue, characters, story - comes up lacking.
The film at least does have talent in terms of some of the behind-the-camera crew, such as ace cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier("Good Will Hunting") and production designer Alex McDowell, who also worked on the first picture. This simply makes for a film that, although occasionally visually interesting, can't make up for what the rest of the film lacks, and lacks very noticably.
VIDEO: Well, even if the story isn't anything interesting, at least it looks great, especially on this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer from Miramax/Disney. The film has a great level of detail to the visuals and that could have been a little tough with all of the dark scenes and the occasional smoke/mist in some sequences. The picture on this effort though, remains sharp and detailed throughout, even in the darkest sequences.
The picture is not without a few very minor flaws. Print flaws are noticed occasionally, but aren't a constant irritant. Just the isolated mark or speckle visible, but no major wear. A couple of scenes seemed to have a bit of slight grain, but this seemed like it could be intentional for the "look". No instances of pixelation or shimmering appear throughout for a picture that looks very clean and natural.
Colors are a large part of the film, and although I didn't always enjoy the wash of colors that seem to take place in many of the film's sequences, the colors themselves looked very good here. Deep greens, occasional bles and a great deal of reds and browns. Some scenes have a nice golden lighting, as well. Colors look well-saturated and bold, with no problems that I noticed. Although I didn't think that the presentation here was quite flawless, I was greatly impressed by how strong and well-defined much of it looked.
SOUND: The film is offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 for this special edition. I can't say that I was engaged or excited by the film's audio for a few reasons. Although there is some activity, the film simply doesn't have nearly as many action sequences as the first film and the majority of the agressive nature of the soundtrack comes from the music. Both Greme Revell's interesting score and the constantly blaring rock soundtrack (which isn't nearly as interesting) both become the focus of the sound presentation.
Surrounds are active, although the majority of the time their use was devoted to the music. Occasionally they offered some effects during the more intense action sequences, but nothing that I found too thrilling or inspired. Audio quality is very good as the rock songs sound crisp and strong and bass is often deep and rich. Dialogue also sounds clear and easily understood, not harsh or thin.
Still, when you have a film that presents a world like the one in the "Crow" movies, I would rather the film be creative with its use of sound and attempt to immerse the viewer in that world through even smaller, subtle sound details. This film though, seems to be trying to sell the rock/metal soundtrack, and often gives it a bit more presence and focus than it should have. It's not a bad presentation and certainly has a few moments, but doesn't quite go as far as it probably could have with the material. Although both audio versions were respectable and had moments, the DTS version seemed somewhat crisper and enveloping, although differences remained slight.
MENUS:: The main menu provides an animated clip of various scenes from the movie along with Revell's score in the background. Sub-menus are not animated, but generally put images from the film to good use.
Commentary: This is a commentary from producer Jeff Most, composer Graeme Revell, actor Richard Brooks, production designer Alex McDowell and costume designer Kirsten Everberg. This is a fairly low-key but informative commentary that gives us a look at many aspects of the making of the movie. Revell offers an interesting discussion of the role of the score in terms of helping to define characters and add to the emotions of the scene.
McDowell and Everberg are quite informative about making the look of the picture from two different perspectives. The role of the costume designer isn't something that you always think about, but Everberg has a lot of good detail to share about how her work adds to the characters. Brooks also contributes occasionally, discussing what it was like to create the villian and work with the other actors. Most also occasionally offers some general production information, as well.
With all of the people contributing to the commentary there are only a few minor pauses of silence. I liked the track quite a bit because not only was it informative, it seemed open and honest as well, as the people involved do seem to admit that, although they enjoyed working on the film and there are some successful elements such as the visuals, the final film was not what they had quite wanted.
Making-Of: This is a documentary that is a little over 20 minutes in length, taking us through the thoughts involved in making a sequel to the original picture, as well as the worries and obstacles involved. Some of the film's cast and many of the crew (such as writer David Goyer and director Tim Pope) are interviewed on their feelings of the roles or working on the production. Some behind-the-scenes footage is also shown.
Original Poster Concepts: 21 original poster concepts are presented, many of which I actually liked better (or even a lot better) than the final one.
Production Design & Costume Featurette: Production Designer Alex McDowell and Costume Designer Kirsten Everberg narrate this featurette, as McDowell discusses the intent for the look of the picture as scenes from the final film as well as concept art are shown. Everberg discusses the look of the characters as concept art and pictures of the characters are shown. It's interesting to listen to her talk about touches that were used for the character or how far or not far to go with the look. A very informative documentary that is certainly worth a viewing. Runs for 22 minutes.
Sneak Peeks: Trailers for "Hellraiser: Inferno", "Prophecy 2", "Highlander: The Final Dimension", "Halloween: H20" and "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" are included in this section.
Also: Production design gallery, DVD-ROM features including screenplay viewer, production art gallery & weblink. The film's trailer is not included.
Final Thoughts: I think this falls into an instance where, if you enjoyed the film, you will certainly find this DVD enjoyable as Dimension's Special Edition dvd provides a good commentary and excellent audio/video presentation as well as a few other extras. Otherwise, I don't recommend it.
The Film * 1/2
Video 95/A = (380/400 possible points)
Audio: 89/B+ = (356/400 possible points)
Extras: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
Menus: 81/B- = (162/200 possible points)
Value: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: * 1/2
DVD GRADE: B