How a fan re-edit became the closest cut of The Crow: City Of Angels to how director Tim Pope envisaged the film – and that’s according to Pope himself.

The Crow: City Of Angels, released in 1996, was the first sequel to the much-loved original 1994 film. The original starred the late Brandon Lee of course, who died tragically during an incident on set. When it became a hit, though, the studio wanted a sequel. At first glance, a successful one as it turned out. Yet despite opening at number one at the US and Canadian box office, it was poorly received by critics. Over half of its $17 million box office takings were from the opening weekend, and business trailed off quickly.

However, it later transpired that this film was re-edited against the wishes of its director by Miramax. That there was a reason for the muddled cut that made it to the big screen.

It all started with an original script for The Crow: City Of Angels, which was penned by David S Goyer. His name should be well known to comic book aficionados as he’s written or co-written many screenplays for film and television, including The Dark Knight and Blade trilogies as well as the Superman reboot, Man Of Steel. He also directed Blade: Trinity.

Enter Tim Pope, who had directed music videos for big names such as David Bowie and Paul Weller. His first short film, Phone, caught the attention of the Weinstein brothers, the heads of Miramax at the time, and based on that, he was offered the chance to direct The Crow: City Of Angels. He accepted the offer.

Tim Pope, David S Goyer and Miramax tgus set out to create a Crow sequel that differed from the original, out of respect to Brandon Lee. But, of course, they were still hoping for a successful movie too.

Production on the film was frustrating, with Pope reporting there was interference throughout most of it. Still, after filming wrapped, he provided his first cut to the studio. Furthermore, a cast and crew screening of this cut was apparently well received, and there was said to be a feeling of excitement about the movie at that stage.

Yet not everyone was impressed. The higher ups of Miramax, most notably, and as it paid the bills and owned the project, this would become a problem. The studio ordered Pope to re-edit the film so that it closer matched the story structure of the original. Pope refused, and Miramax decided to go ahead and make the changes anyway. Because of the alterations that were made, both Pope and Goyer have disowned the theatrically released film, commenting that it differs greatly from their vision.

Chet Williamson meanwhile was tasked with writing the novelisation of the film in just three weeks, yet he but completed it in two because he loved David Goyer’s script. He commented on his website: “I was contracted to write a novelization of David S. Goyer’s screenplay, which was a powerful and moving piece of work. Unfortunately, the film itself left most of the good stuff on the cutting room floor, if it was ever filmed at all.”

Pope’s final cut the film runs significantly longer than the theatrical release, with some claiming there’s anything from 30 to 40 minutes of deleted scenes out there. In fact, a director’s cut was subsequently released onto DVD, although I cannot find any verification that Pope was involved with this version (we talk more about this in the current issue of the magazine: director’s cuts that didn’t involve the director). Comparing the original edit to this spurious director’s cut reveals a total of five minutes of new or alternative footage, none of which makes any difference to the narrative.

But that wasn’t the end of this particular story. In 2007 a fan referring to themselves as ‘DCP’ released an unofficial edit of their own onto the internet entitled The Crow: City Of Angels – The Second Coming. In DCP’s own words, “via subtitled animatics, this recut, extended edition restores the story and structure that Miramax completely cut from the film after taking control away from director Tim Pope. Miramax then released a very fake ‘director’s cut’ to the public in 1996, with the real cut never seeing the light of day. This is the most complete version to date!”

Fan edits of films are nothing new and still continue to this day, but what makes this one that little bit extra special was that it was given a blessing by the film’s director, Tim Pope. It’s hard to find another example of where that’s happened. As stated in an article on fanedit.org: “In September 2008, Tim Pope, director of The Crow: City Of Angels, became the first director to publicly praise an edit of his/her own film”.

“It was quite emotional seeing ‘the film that might have been’,” he wrote. “Thanks for putting this together and for your enormous efforts…”

Of course, being a fan edit it’s never been made legally available, and it’s unlikely to ever appear. The best chance of a new version would seem to lie with a third party picking the project up and trying to get Tim Pope involved. Yet the director has regularly been asked if he wishes to return to the film and showcase his original vision, but he has no desire to do so. He says fans should seek out the fan edit which closest represents his take on the material.

That said, his website – timpope.tv – contains a short six-minute black and white version of City Of Angels that in his words is, “…a visual ‘rebooting’ of the original film footage, seeks to grab back some of the ownership of the original story, as told by writer David S. Goyer.” Maybe, over time, he can be persuaded to go a little bit further, and give us the full version of The Crow sequel that we never got to see. For now, a fan edit has got closer than a major film company managed to…

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