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review added: 3/15/02



The Crow: Salvation
Collector's Series - 2000 (2001) - Dimension

review by Brian Ford Sullivan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

The Crow: Salvation - Collector's Series Program Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B/B+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B+/A-

Specs and Features

102 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep-case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??), audio commentary (with director Bharat Nalluri, actor Eric Mabius, producer Jeff Most, composer Marco Beltrami and production designer Maia Javan), 4 featurettes (Behind the Makeup, Behind the Scenes, Production Design and Who's That Bird?), DVD-ROM features (including script viewer and weblinks), animated film-themed menus with music, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

When James O'Barr's The Crow originally debuted in comic form in 1989, it was part of a newfound revolution in comics toward darker, adult-themed storytelling. The drama told the story of a young couple - Eric and Shelly - brutally murdered by a roving gang of thugs. Eric is then resurrected a year later by The Crow, a mysterious force of vengeance, to put his troubled soul to rest by getting revenge against his and Shelly's killers. Gritty, moving and hypnotic all at the same time, it was no wonder that this beautiful story of love and death would be brought to the silver screen just five years later. And it certainly didn't hurt that, with the success of Tim Burton's Batman, Hollywood wanted the next "dark hero" to serve up to the masses.

Director Alex Proyas brought The Crow to the silver screen in 1994 and it remains to this day one of the best comic-to-film adaptations ever made. Almost lifted word for word from page to screen, The Crow was everything fans of the comic could ever have wanted (not to mention that it opened the door for many other "dark" comic-to-screen adaptations). And of course, one must not forget Brandon Lee's amazing performance as Eric, and the accident on the set that took his life.

The success of the film aside though, one wonders why a franchise was built around the character, as the story itself was a self contained one. That didn't stop Tim Pope's 1996 sequel The Crow: City of Angels from arriving. A mess in every sense of the word, the sequel was simply The Crow paradigm applied to a B-movie standard. Not much better can be said of the franchise's venture into television in 1998, as its incarnation there - The Crow: Stairway to Heaven - lasted just one season. That leads us to The Crow: Salvation, the latest installment in the franchise.

Directed by Bharat Nalluri, Salvation has its own illustrious history, as it struggled to a theatrical release (only playing at one test theatre), but Dimension finally settled on a direct to video release. This time around, the Crow comes to the aid of Alex Corvis (Eric Mabius) who is wrongly accused and subsequently executed for murdering his girlfriend Lauren (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). When he returns from the grave as the dark hero, Alex is aided by Erin (Kirsten Dunst), Lauren's younger sister. With her help, they hope to get to the bottom of the mystery that resulted in Lauren's death.

Surprisingly better than the last film adaptation, Salvation is a more serviceable attempt at The Crow paradigm, however there's not the same connection you felt with Eric and Shelley in the original. We rarely see what makes Lauren and Alex's love last to the grave. More often, it feels like Lauren exists simply to give the action a reason to be (avenging her death), rather than the pathos of a man who lost his one true love and tries to find answers through vengeance.

With a budget slightly higher than City of Angels, Salvation not only plays better than the previous installment but looks better too. That can also be applied to the film's anamorphic transfer to DVD. I was surprised how well the image looked despite noticeable grain and the lack of black definition occasionally. All in all, for direct to video, this is about as good as you can get. As for the sound, the disc offers both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks, again a surprise for a direct to video release. In the previous films, music plays a big part in setting the mood and that's the case here. Both mixes really hit you with a punch when they need to and have a nice, even balance between the dialogue, sounds and effects.

As part of the Collector's Series, Dimension has added quite a few extras to the disc, once again quite surprising for a direct to video film. First off is a screen-specific audio commentary, featuring director Bharat Nalluri, actor Eric Mabius, composer Marco Beltrami, producer Jeff Most and production designer Maia Javan. As one might expect with this many participants doing this many different jobs, there's a vast array of information covered. The group isn't recorded together, so it's basically an assembly of separate tracks. Don't worry though; it's edited so it doesn't feel very jarring when different speakers are brought in. I found I wasn't that intrigued by all that was said, but certainly fans of the franchise will find lots of neat goodies here.

Dimension has also included a slew of featurettes. Who's That Bird? is an interesting eight-minute piece on the actual crows used in the film, and shows you how the trainers get birds to do the things they do in movies. I was surprised how interesting it was. Two lesser featurettes include a mix of still photos and concept sketches set to the film's score, and a look at the film's makeup department. Both come in under three minutes. Lastly, there's a Behind-the-Scenes featurette which, despite its typical back-slapping, features some nice interview segments of James O'Barr talking about the character. Those familiar with O'Barr know that The Crow is based on his own experiences with love and death, and his emotions about it come through in the interview. Good stuff for sure. And for those with DVD-ROM capabilities, the film's script and web links are available.

All in all, this is probably the best direct to video DVD ever made, but that "direct to video" part certainly won't win anyone over. While the film itself isn't that memorable, those who liked the original will find parts of this latest installment enjoyable. Don't think this is the end of The Crow franchise just yet... those crazy kids in Hollywood often mention rapper DMX taking over the role in the fourth feature if it goes ahead. I don't know about you, but after three additional incarnations, the first time should have been enough.

Brian Ford Sullivan
bfsullivan@thedigitalbits.com




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