Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: The Crow: Salvation - Collector's Series (2000)
Studio Line: Dimension - For Vengeance. For Justice. For Love.

Hot stars Kirsten Dunst (Bring It On) and Eric Mabius (Cruel Intensions) star in The Crow: Salvation - the third exciting motion picture in The Crow legacy! Wrongly executed for the murder of his girlfriend, Alex Corvis (Mabius) returns from the dead and sets out to find the real killer! Aided by his girlfriend's sister (Dunst)…and under the guidance of the mysterious crow…he unmasks a tangled web of corruption and deceit! Alex seeks not only retribution for his injustice, but redemption for the darkness in his soul!

Director: Bharat Nalluri
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Eric Mabius, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, William Atherton, Fred Ward
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English DD & DTS 5.1; subtitles none; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 18 chapters; rated R; 102 min.; $29.99; street date 3/20/01.
Supplements: Production Design Featurette; "Who's That Bird?"; Behind-The-Scenes Featurette; Behind-The-Makeup Featurette; Feature Commentary With Director Bharat Nalluri, Actor Eric Mabius, Producer Jeff Most, Composer Marco Beltrami And Production Designer Maia Javan; DVD-ROM Features: Screenplay Viewer; Weblinks.
Purchase: DVD | The Crow Boxed Set | Music soundtrack - Various Artists | Score soundtrack - Marco Beltrami

Picture/Sound/Extras: A/A(DTS), B+(DD)/B-

From what I’ve read, it seems that most Crow fans find the first sequel - City of Angels - to be the worst of the lot. Most adore the 1994 original but they appear to loathe the 1996 extension. While the most recent iteration - 2000’s Salvation - hasn’t received excessive praise, it looks like it’s gotten a much more positive reception than its immediate predecessor.

Welcome to the law of diminished expectations in action. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the series. I saw The Crow theatrically in 1994 but hadn’t viewed it since then, and I didn’t watch COA or Salvation until I received the DVDs. I found the first two films to be fairly comparable in terms of quality; The Crow was more original, but I thought COA seemed slightly better-executed.

However, as I noted, many Crow-philes simply hated COA, and I’m sure their expectations for Salvation were correspondingly low. Therein lies the reason I think Salvation got higher marks from fans than did COA: since the latter was so hated, these folks couldn’t help but like the third entry better.

Since I went in with no predetermined attitudes toward the series, I didn’t have those thoughts to contend with while I watched the various movies. That doesn’t make my opinions more or less valid than those of the fans, but it does mean they’re different. From my viewpoint, I thought Salvation was easily the worst of the three Crow flicks.

For the most part, the story of Salvation was similar to those of the first two movies, though it was more of a mystery. At the start of the film, Alex Corvis (Eric Mabius) is set to fry for the murder of his girlfriend Lauren (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe). We see Lauren’s father (William Atherton) and sister (Kirsten Dunst) as they attend the execution, where Alex refuses to confess to the crime.

There’s a good reason for that: he was innocent, and soon after the electric current stops flowing, Alex is reborn as “the Crow”. From that nearly-invincible perch he attempts to solve the question of Lauren’s killing, which he insisted was perpetrated by a man with a scarred arm. Along the way, he also kills a lot of the folks involved.

The mystery framework makes this a somewhat different kind of Crow, but it also means that the result is less compelling than the first two entries. Despite its otherworldly motif, Salvation really is nothing more than a standard murder mystery. Alex plods through the story as he tries to make things right, but the spooky atmosphere of the other movies is absent, and the whole thing felt more like a cheesy “B”-movie than a dark, sinister revenge fantasy.

It doesn’t help that Mabius isn’t up to the level of his predecessors Brandon Lee and Vincent Perez. While both of those actors had their flaws, they still inhabited their roles well and created ominous presences. Mabius can’t muster that sort of threat or aura. Granted, he should be a somewhat more innocent Crow since he’s younger and more naďve, but I still didn’t buy him in the part. He felt very ordinary and he lacked any spark in the part.

As a whole, the movie failed to ignite. I like Dunst a lot but she was wasted in this inconsequential role. Her character of Erin has little to do other than eventually become the inevitable damsel in distress; since the Crow can’t be killed, the films need convenient mortal targets to create some suspense, and she’s this movie’s candidate. Dunst felt bland and disconnected from the part, and she made little impact.

Not that I can blame her, for The Crow: Salvation is nothing more than a lackluster and pedestrian murder mystery. The film offered little of the tension or darkness found in the first two movies, and it seemed like a million other cheesy flicks shown on cable every weekend. The project was all style with no substance and felt like a trashy extended music video for the most part.

The DVD:

The Crow: Salvation appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although all three Crow films looked terrific on DVD, Salvation took the prize as the best of the bunch; it provided a terrific visual presentation.

Sharpness seemed flawless at all times. Never did I discern even a hint of softness or fuzziness, as the movie consistently appeared crisp and well-defined. These elements came without any apparent concerns, as I also saw no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges. On occasion, some grit, grain and other apparent defects cropped up during the film, but these only occurred when we saw Alex’s flashbacks, which made it clear that the “flaws” were intentional. As such, I witnessed no print concerns and thought that it presented a clean, fresh image when appropriate; mucked-up scenes were meant to be that way.

As was the case for the first two Crow films, Salvation boasted a very stylized palette, and the DVD reproduced it well. Colors looked clean and bold, and they could be quite impressive; the strip club and the flashback scenes showed the most solid hues. Since this was such a dark film, black levels became even more important, and the disc replicated them well. Blacks seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately thick but never excessively heavy; all low-light scenes were easily visible. Ultimately, this was an excellent picture that presented no discernible concerns.

Also very strong were the soundtracks of Salvation. As we found with the first two films, Salvation featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Unlike those earlier movies, however, I actually heard a difference between the two tracks. Both worked well, but I felt that the DTS mix came across as the more active and involving experience. That track provided strong bass and it also appeared to integrate audio more cleanly. Dubbing sounded more obvious and a little flat on the Dolby track, and the different elements didn’t blend together as neatly. As a result, the Dolby audio could seem a bit sterile and less natural. Don’t get me wrong - the Dolby mix still sounded quite good. However, in comparison with the DTS track, it lacked the same depth and pizzazz.

Keep those comments in mind while you read my remarks, as they’ll apply solely to the DTS mix; you’ll have to modify them slightly to consider the Dolby track. The soundfield seemed extremely active and engaging throughout Salvation. All five channels received almost constant use, as music and various effects elements came at me from all sides. The sound seemed to blend together nicely; different aspects appeared in their appropriate locations, and the results panned cleanly and smoothly. The front spectrum dominated slightly, but the surrounds were nearly equal partners and they added a lot of force to the production; this mix really pounded me into submission.

Audio quality also seemed strong. Speech appeared natural and accurate, with no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music was clear and bright, and the score displayed appropriately clean highs and rich lows. Effects seemed especially excellent, as they presented realistic and distinct sounds without any distortion. Bass worked especially well, as the DTS track of Salvation offered some extremely low and deep elements. Thunder and other bits really rumbled, and the track could seriously rattle me at times. All in all, the audio for Salvation provided a terrific experience.

As a “Collector’s Series” release, the DVD of The Crow: Salvation packs in a modest mix of extras. First up is an audio commentary from director Bharat Nalluri, actor Eric Mabius, producer Jeff Most, composer Marco Beltrami, and production designer Maia Javan. All of the participants were recorded together except for Nalluri, who was taped separately; his remarks were then edited into the piece with the others.

I enjoyed the commentaries found on the first two Crow DVDs, and though Salvation was my least favorite of the three films, I still thought this was a compelling and informative track. It included a nice mix of details about both the technical and the creative elements of the production, with a special emphasis placed on how they worked to maintain consistency within the Crow universe. Although I didn’t like his work in the film, I was impressed with the seriousness displayed by Mabius, as it seemed clear that he really gave a lot of thought to the role. All in all, this was a solid little commentary.

The remaining components of the DVD are a bit less exciting. A Production Design Featurette simply combines a filmed montage of production stills and some artwork with musical backing from the soundtrack. The program lasts for two minutes and 45 seconds and probably would have been more useful as a collection of stillframes.

Who’s That Bird? was more fun, as it provides a short look at the feathered stars of the Crow flicks. This eight-minute show focuses on the different birds used for the films and we hear about their work from trainer Larry Payne. This is an area of movie-making that doesn’t often receive attention, so I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about animal training.

The Behind the Scenes Featurette seemed decent but was pretty typical of the genre. It combined the standard array of film clips, interviews with participants, and shots from the set. As was also the case with similar programs on the other two Crow DVDs, the best aspects of this featurette were those snippets from the production; they offered some nice glimpses of the day-to-day work. Otherwise, this eight-minute and 10-second piece was fluffy but watchable.

The Behind the Makeup Featurette takes a short look at that topic. In its two minutes, we hear a little from actor Mabius, producer Most, and makeup artist Alex Diaz as we watch Mabius go through the motions. It’s too brief, but I still thought it offered an enjoyable look at this process; it was made interesting because of the emphasis on shots of Mabius as the makeup was applied.

Sneak Peeks gives you access to a variety of ads for other Miramax/Dimension product. You’ll find promos for Existenz, Blackjack, Scary Movie, Russell Mulcahy’s Tale of the Mummy, and The Prophecy 3. As was the case with the DVD for other two Crow films, there’s no evidence of a trailer for Salvation anywhere on this disc. Strange!

In addition, The Crow: Salvation provides some DVD-ROM elements. We get a “Screenplay Viewer”. This displayed the movie in a small box while the text scrolled at the side. This does little for me since I didn’t like the film, but fans may enjoy its inclusion. Lastly, the DVD-ROM area offers a link to the “DVD Destination Website”. There you’ll find a connection to the official page.

Of the three Crow films, Salvation was easily the weakest. Frankly, it’s the only one I didn’t enjoy, as it came across as little more than a pedestrian mystery tale. Flashy visuals do little to enhance the movie’s emptiness. The DVD offers terrific picture and sound, and also packs in a few good supplements. Nonetheless, this one should be left only for die-hard Crow fanatics, as it will likely do little for anyone else.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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