Let Shelly Webster Be the Hero of The Crow Reboot, You Cowards

Once again, The Crow is on the verge of being rebooted. We’ve been here before: There was almost a Luke Evans Crow! Then there was almost a Jason Momoa Crow! There were several sequels to The Crow that we simply shan’t speak of! But this new new new Crow has a star (It’s Bill Skarsgard), a writer (Zach Baylin), and a director (Rupert Sanders, unfortunately), and is scheduled to begin filming in June. That feels pretty real.

But will this filmmaking team have the imagination to give Shelly Webster her story back?

The 1994 Alex Proyas film starring Brandon Lee—who was tragically killed in an on-set accident—is a certain kind of classic, a deeply ’90s film with a perfect cast and a stellar soundtrack. Much of it holds up. It’s dark and gloomy and gothy and passionate, and it does something that I found incredibly affecting when I first saw the movie as a teen, and that’s still a gut-punch now: It makes a woman’s pain and trauma into a powerful tool.

I’m going to talk spoilers here for a 30-year-old movie, just FYI.

In The Crow (which is based on James O’Barr’s comics), Eric Draven (Lee) comes back to life to avenge his death and the rape and murder of his fiancée, Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas). The men who break into the couple’s apartment throw Eric out the window to his death, but Shelly doesn’t die immediately. She suffers for hours and hours in the hospital, where Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) sees her. When Eric and Albrecht meet, Eric uses his supernatural powers to take all that pain from Albrecht’s memories—and in the end, uses it to defeat Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) the crime boss whose men killed Eric and Shelly.

Rewatching this movie three years ago, my breath caught at that moment. There are so many movies where men want to avenge the hurt done to women, and yet so few where the women’s pain is not just important but vital. It’s what matters the most. Eric begins his quest for vengeance out of his own rage and hurt, but it’s Shelly’s pain that ends it.

And ever since then, I’ve wanted a version of this story where that pain—that power—is in her hands. The Crow is not a good movie in which to be an adult woman: Shelly is raped and killed; Darla (Anna Thomson), the mother of Shelly’s young friend Sarah (Rochelle Davis), is an addict scared straight by Eric Draven; Myca (Bai Ling), Top Dollar’s lover, has an even flimsier character than the rest, and also meets a terrible fate. (To be fair, almost everyone in this film meets a terrible fate.) But I love it despite all this; I love its run-down cityscape, its Devil’s Night setting, Michael Wincott in the best of his many villainous roles, and Brandon Lee’s heartbroken fury. (It also seems off to cast a white man in the role Lee made famous, but that’s a whole other argument.)

This morning, news broke that FKA Twigs is co-starring with Skarsgard in this reboot, “playing the girlfriend/fiancée.” But it’s entirely unclear what her co-starring status means. Borys Kit writes, “The role was not significant in the original movie but sources say that in this re-imagining, the part has been re-conceived into a co-lead. It is unclear if the character never quite dies, perhaps returns in some supernatural form, or may even be a representation of the crow itself.”

If the inciting event remains the same, this reboot should let Shelly Webster rise from the grave to take revenge on what was done to her—and for the loss of her lover. Let her wield her own pain. Even better? Take the rape out entirely. I’m not a purist; I’m not opposed to a new Crow. But it should build on Proyas’s original film—not just repeat it.

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