The Crow in 4K review — Can’t rain all the time

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Brandon Lee brought Eric Drayven to life in the cult classic The Crow. It’s also been 30 years since his life was tragically cut short, so I never expected that Paramount would ever bring this movie back into the spotlight. Thankfully, that’s precisely what they’ve done, bringing with it a whole host of upgrades, not the least of which being a move to native 4K presentation. We are also on the cusp of a remake of the original, starring Bill Skarsgård in the lead role, so it seems like a great opportunity to revisit the magic of the original.

I remember to this day hearing about how Brandon Lee was killed by a weapon that was accidentally loaded with real bullets – a problem that has continued to occur to this day, sadly. I also remember being surprised to hear that the Director, Alex Proyas (Dark City, I Robot, Knowing, and Gods of Egypt – ok, not everything he’s touched is gold…) would continue to work on the film, finishing it using a combination of clever CGI, darkened shots, stunt actors, and a whole lot of rewrites. Eventually, and defying the odds, it was released, and to fairly reasonable scores. Sure, entirely too many people spent the film trying to find precisely which scene where Lee was killed, but beyond that lied a solid performance by the actor, great over-the-top bad guys, a memorable soundtrack, and one of the best comic-based movies of its time. Once again, Eric Draven rises from the dead, so let’s take a closer look at The Crow, now in 4K.

If you are unfamiliar, The Crow tells the story of Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his girlfriend Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas). On Devil’s Night, the two are murdered, with Eric thrown from their loft window. Shelly suffers a far worse fate as she’s beaten, assaulted, and eventually succumbs to her wounds. Police Sergeant Daryl Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) investigates the crime, but like much of the crime in Detroit, goes unsolved. It turns out, sometimes when a crime is so heinous and tragic, a crow can bring that restless spirit back from the dead to set things right.

On the one year anniversary of their death, Sarah, a young girl the couple cared for out of the kindness of their hearts, visits their graves. Soon after, Eric rises from his grave, hell bent on providing some well-earned retribution.

As I mentioned, the tragic death of Lee caused a barrage of rewrites. The story of The Crow suffers for it, though it’s still somehow remarkably coherent in the exchange. It’s fairly straightforward with few twists or turns that you won’t have seen coming from a hundred miles away – fairly stereotypical for a comic movie, to be sure, but laid slightly more threadbare by the circumstances. Still, even 30 years later it has some very memorable lines that will stick with you long after watching it. Let’s dig into the technical bits.

The movie ships with a fantastic steelbook and a slipcover to match, with a transparent crow cutout with Eric Draven’s iconic visage shining through. It’s slick, and one of the few times where the slipcover adds to the overall package. Check it out:

The movie is encoded on a single UHD66 disc, with a native 2160p HEVC video resolution and a 1:85:1 aspect ratio – a standard 16:9 ratio that was commonly used in theaters at the time of the original release. The movie is 102 minutes long, and comes with English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles. All that sounds great, but it doesn’t tell you much about the upsampling. In a word, it’s fantastic. The 4K restoration was inevitably a challenge, thanks to this being an extraordinarily dark movie, both by necessity and director’s choice. Incredibly, the blacks are incredibly saturated, with high enough contrast to bring the parts that need highlighting forward, while leaving the shadows properly inky (due in no small part to Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography). There are occasional scenes with some light scattering, such as on some background items like a hideous couch in Officer Albrecht’s house, but these are few and far between. Given that this movie is 30 years old, it’s shocking just how clean of a transfer this really is. Even the early CGI, stylized and often given a fish-eye lens style, come out looking fairly clean. Frankly, this is the best The Crow has ever looked since its theatrical release, arguably even including that. Paramount did the hard work here.

Audio is a bit of a mixed bag. The middle channel comes through nice and clean, providing clear audio and voices, and the beyond-stellar soundtrack (featuring The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against The Machine, Rollins Band, Pantera, Nine Inch Nails, Helmet, and more!) sounds absolutely magnificent. The more subtle backing tracks, explosions, and fire sound great, but we’ve gotta talk about the foley work. Gunshots vacillate between a dull thud and a crack so loud that you’ll be reaching for the audio remote. When Draven smacks Tin Tin in the mouth, that sound is even louder than a gunshot. During the final shootout, the sound of the shotgun racking another shell is louder than the shotgun blast itself. For as excellent as the video work is, another pass on the audio side would have gone a long way.

Some films as old as this one have benefited greatly from a remaster to Dolby Atmos, but I’m guessing it wasn’t possible here. Your back channels aren’t going to see much of a workout here, with the DTS 5.1 track from the 2001 BluRay release making an appearance once again.

I was surprised to see Paramount announce that the film would come with “new and legacy bonus content”. Most of these 4K movies don’t get much in the way of new features, so anything 30 years on would be novel. Inside the SteelBook case you’ll find the film, obviously, a digital copy, and a fairly large stack of additional content. What’s new is a 3-part documentary entitled “Shadows & Pain: Designing The Crow” that dives deep into the making of the film. Production Designer Alex McDowell talks through what it took to bring the movie to life, what it was like to work with Alex Proyas, and of course, his experience working with Brandon Lee. Here’s the complete list:

  • Shadows & Pain: Designing The Crow
  • Angels All Fire: Birth of the Legend
  • On Hallowed Ground: The Outer Realm
  • Twisted Wreckage: The Inside Spaces
  • Sideshow Collectibles: An Interview with Edward R. Pressman
  • Audio Commentary with Director Alex Proyas
  • Audio Commentary by Producer Jeff Most and Screenwriter John Shirley
  • Behind the Scenes Featurette
  • A Profile on James O’Barr
  • Extended Scenes:
  • The Arcade Bombing
  • The Funboy Fight
  • The Shootout at Top Dollar’s
  • Deleted Footage Montage
  • Trailer

While this movie will forever be linked with Brandon Lee, and rightfully so, it’s in this final performance that we see arguably his best work. It’s a fantastic film, but equally as hard to watch, as it could have been even better than it is. Even so, what we have here is an impossibly good restoration that has never looked better.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!



The Crow

Review Guidelines

With an incredible restoration to 4K, Paramount breathes new life into this cult classic. While the audio could have used another pass, The Crow is a great upgrade from the previous BluRay, and has never looked better than this.

Ron Burke

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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