Book vs Movie: The Crow

So this is my first time doing one of these comparison things so bear with me as I try to get the writing formula down.

THIS WILL ALSO BE RIPE WITH SPOILERS.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Today I am comparing the book and the movie versions of The Crow.

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First, let’s talk about the main character: Eric Draven.  Actually, he isn’t given a last name in the book, he’s just Eric.  The whole deal about Eric is that he has returned from the dead to seek vengeance on those that murdered him and his fiancée Shelly.  Both the book and the movie have him splitting his time between hunting down the thugs that committed the crime and wallowing in his pain back in the house/apartment where he and Shelly lived.  So which medium has the better Eric?

Well, the book is pretty cut and dried.  Eric does two things in the book.  The first, is hunt down gang members and murder them, usually brutally.  The second thing he does is wallow in his misery.  The book especially takes time to flashback on all the happy memories of Eric and Shelly and you get to hear Eric’s thoughts as he goes through this.  You get his self-destructive thoughts, his pain and misery, and his cutting.

Eric in the movie does the same two things, but differently.  Eric in the book takes out every gang member he can find.  Eric in the movie is trying to take out only a select few people, and other gang members and such are casualties of war.  Collateral damage if you will.   Eric in the movie also returns to the place he and Shelly lived, and he also wallows in his misery, but he is much less self-destructive.  Everything Eric touches of Shelly’s gives him a flashback and he feels her loss as physical pain.  But instead of getting a running commentary about how much pain he’s in, you can see it on his face.  Movie Eric also tries to use music to get past his pain (they added in a small bit about him being a rock star) instead of self-mutilation, which is probably a healthier change.

But I think what makes book Eric’s pain all the more painful is the way he died.  Movie Eric knows how Shelly suffered and died through other people’s accounts and what the crow shows him.  Book Eric knows how Shelly died because, although he was shot in the head, he didn’t actually die right then.  He was paralyzed and watched the entire thing, cementing his rage and his pain.  Movie Eric was thrown out a window in the middle of the act, so there’s much that he doesn’t know firsthand.  So while I think movie Eric emotes better (is less whiny, for one) book Eric has the better backstory and you can identify more with why he’s doing what he’s doing.

Point, I think, goes to the book for that.

This now leads us to our supporting cast.  The main difference between the book and the movie is the supporting cast.

In the book, the only real supporting cast is the crow.  The crow is much more supernatural in the book, not only guiding Eric on his quest but somehow is able to speak to him and goads him when he gets all angsty.  He berates Eric for dwelling on the past, on Shelly, and calls him self-indulgent for doing so, believing it to distract Eric from his goal.  The crow also verbally passes on information to Eric that helps him in this quest.

The movie’s crow is supernatural but less so.  Occasionally, Eric can see things the crow is seeing, and the crow helps him figure out why he’s there by making him relive the crime that he and Shelly were victims of.  The other major difference there is that they somehow decided in the movie that the crow would be Eric’s invincibility shield.  Once you kill the crow, Eric becomes less superhuman and you can kill him again.  It’s never really explained why that is.

But the movie’s two main supporting characters are only a footnote in the comic.  The one is officer Albrecht, who in the book is just a beat cop who briefly talks to the detective assigned to Eric’s case, passing along Eric’s regards.  In the movie, he was the detective handling the case until he got demoted for sticking his nose where it wasn’t wanted.  He’s portrayed as kind, staying by Shelly until she died, and never having solved their case bugs him.  He’s also the one that’s been looking out for Sarah since Eric and Shelly died.

Which brings me to Sarah’s portrayal, who went by the name of Sherri in the book.  I had a problem with the book here because Sherri is a street kid who Eric runs into a couple times on his quest.  In only a couple of meetings they bond very closely, and Eric gives her Shelly’s engagement ring.  But we’re never given to know much of this girl besides the fact that her mother’s a druggie and is neglecting her and it’s because of that forced feeling of the meetings that I don’t end up liking Sherri very much.

Sarah is a different story.  We are given to know that Sarah’s mom is a drug addict and she roams the streets skateboarding and looking for stuff to do.  Eric and Shelly were her friends, and cared for her because her mom didn’t.  Albrecht also ends up having a relationship with her after Eric and Shelly die.  So when Eric comes back and talks with her and gives her Shelly’s ring and stuff, it makes more sense because they were close before his death and he’s helping her move on.

So the point in this case goes to both the book and the movie, simply because I like the crow better in the book and Sarah better in the movie.

This brings us to the other half of the story: the villains.  The villains in each adaptation are gang members that like to drink, get high and cause violence.  They also all have terrible names.  In both versions T-Bird is the head of the gang, and Funboy is the morphine addict sleeping with Sarah/Sherri’s mom.  Tin-Tin is the first of the gang to be eliminated in both versions and the extra character is Tom-Tom (going by the name of Skank in the movie.)

So let me break this down by character and in what order they die.  Tin-Tin dies first, and he’s not really known in the book except for the fact that he dies first and he points Eric in the direction of Gideon’s Pawn Shop to get his engagement ring back.  In the movie, they gave him a little more personality.  Tin-Tin is good with knives, it’s his calling card, and they end up “stuck in every one of his major organs in alphabetical order.”  At least it’s an inventive death.

In the movie, the next one to go is Funboy, but he’s a little more important in the book.  In the movie, Funboy dies interestingly enough.  He’s stuck through with a bunch of morphine in the shape of a crow.  The only importance the scene serves is that Eric shows Sarah’s mom the error of her ways and she goes back to her daughter.  In the book, he’s actually T-Bird’s right hand man, and when Eric comes to him, he feels guilt for the crimes he committed.  He makes a deal with Eric that he’ll give up T-Bird’s location or something and in exchange, he’s allowed to commit suicide by overdose rather than having Eric murder him.  It’s a much more…poignant scene in the book.

In the movie, T-Bird, the head of the gang dies next.  The book saves this for last.  T-Bird is a typical gang leader in both versions but while he’s next to forgettable in the book, the movie gives him a little something extra.  In the movie, during the murder scene, T-Bird points out some rather interesting text on good and evil which comes back to his mind while he’s suffering the punishment for his misdeeds.  It’s ironic (I think.  I never use that word right) and it fits very, very well.

The extra bad guy, Skank in the movie and Tom-Tom in the book, are forgettable deaths.  Skank only stands out because you can tell he was mentally disabled and falls into this darkness because they were the only people that accepted him.

But the movie has one extra point to it, which is that it’s not just some random gang of junkies committing a random act of violence.  The book has Eric and Shelly’s murder be completely random.  Their car breaks down on the way back from the beach and they end up accosted by these scumbags who are high and wanna cause trouble.  In the movie, Shelly and Eric fought unlawful tenant eviction, and the gang do the dirty work of the mob boss that runs the city.

So we have an actual overlord for the chaos that goes on and this guy is a real creepo who is sleeping with his half-sister (played by Bai Ling, whom I adore) enjoys cocaine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is responsible for most of the murder and mayhem that take place in the city (including shoving a sword through Gideon’s head.)  And the half-sister (her name is not revealed in the movie but a Wikipedia search has her name down as Myca) is some sort of psychic, seer thing (again, not something actually revealed but since she’s the exposition of the crow holding Eric’s power thing, it’s assumed.)

Point goes to the movie in this case, because while I liked Funboy better in the book, the movie simply has the better villains overall.

Which brings us to the reason we read any book or watch any movie: the story.

As I have mentioned, the stories are the same while being slightly different.

Both stories are revenge stories.  Both involve a lot of killing and a lot of personal pain.

What is different in each is the backstory and the ending.

The backstory of the book is an act of random violence.  While out on a romantic date, the car breaks down and while Eric is trying to fix it, a group of junkies pull up and decide to cause some chaos.  They shoot Eric in the head (not killing him yet, just paralyzing him so he can watch the whole thing) and they pull Shelly out of the car and rape her.  They kill her in the middle of it so she’ll stop screaming (which apparently doesn’t stop Funboy from having his turn.)

Meanwhile, the movie eliminates the randomness of the story.  It’s briefly revealed that Eric and Shelly were fighting tenant eviction in a terrible neighborhood.  They got a petition signed by the other people living in the building but they guys who owned the building didn’t like this idea and made an example of Eric and Shelly.  To me, this ties the story together better while not taking away the realism of the original random act of violence story.

The ending is also different.  In the book, Eric emotionally moves on, finishes his quest and pretty much walks off into the sunset.  In the movie, Eric finishes his quest, then Sarah gets kidnapped and he has to save her.  But unlike the book, if you hurt the crow itself in the movie, then Eric loses his invincibility and can be killed again.  He only manages to defeat the big baddie by transferring all 30 hours of Shelly’s hospital pain that he carried after talking to Officer Albrecht.  30 hours of pain all at once will literally kill a man apparently.  Afterward, Eric goes back to his grave and is visited by an angel-like Shelly with the assumption that he now gets to move on and be with her in the afterlife.

It’s hard to tell which of the stories is better in this respect.  However, combining what I feel is a better backstory with better developed characters means the point goes to the movie.

This also means that the movie ends up with more points and gets to win as the better of the two versions.  This isn’t saying you shouldn’t read the book, because you totally should.  Just that I think the movie developed the story a little better and it a little more appealing.

Winner: Movie.

Thanks for sticking with me through this guys!  I hope the next one works as well as this did!

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