As The Crow 1994 Turns 30 Years Old, The Film's Production Designer Opens Up About The ‘Huge Influence’ It Had On Dark And Gritty Comic Book Adaptations

 Brandon Lee in The Crow.
Brandon Lee in The Crow.

The power of Alex Proyas’s The Crow comes in waves. There’s the initial popularity of the film, which earned critical praise for its grim approach to modern noir. There’s the financial performance of the movie, which tripled its budget by earning $94 million in tickets sold. And then there’s the cultural impact of The Crow, which continues to be felt to this day. Audiences are prepping for a modern reboot of the movie, which casts IT standout Bill Skarsgaard in the lead role. And the film industry has been borrowing visual cues from The Crow ever since Proyas released the movie… something production designer Alex McDowell proudly points out.

We got the opportunity to speak with Alex McDowell about his work on The Crow now that the movie is available on 4K Ultra HD (grab a copy now). And I asked him specifically about the influence that The Crow had on the comic book genre, seeing as how several other adaptations following in this film’s wake adhered to the “dark and gritty” aesthetic that Proyas, McDowell and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski created for this 1994 standout. That’s a power trio, so it was encouraging to hear McDowell say:

I think it was a huge influence. I mean, I think Alex Proyas has much more to do with that than I (do). But I think we had an opportunity to do this transition of music-based design, if you like. Of music videos, and the kind of punk aesthetic, the pretty disruptive drivers that we were given the tools to work with. We were given the privilege of being able to come in and be disruptive, because it was allowed at that point. Or respected, I think all of that – the freedom that that opened up, the fact that The Crow was really the first music movie, and established a new fan base (and) a new audience that had never existed for film – I think all of that combined continues to be really influential.

It didn’t occur to me until Alex McDowell said it, but of course The Crow took inspiration from music videos that were created at that time, by artists thriving in the grunge and alternative music scene. That’s what was dominating the zeitgeist in the mid-1990s, and McDowell had done production design on music videos by Madonna (“Vogue”), Chris Isaak, and Sheila E. He also began working, around this time, with music video director David Fincher. Later, they’d collaborate on a little movie known as Fight Club.

You will better appreciate the design work done on The Crow when you see the movie in 4K. And from that work, you’ll see the influence that director Alex Proyas and production designer Alex McDowell had on subsequent films. While Christopher Nolan’s Batman films deserve credit for bringing a darker tone to the comic book world, you can also trace that style shift to The Crow, and films like it from the 1990s.

Look for more information on the planned reboot of The Crow as we get closer to the August 23rd release of that movie, and many other upcoming 2024 films.