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This movie is set in the mid 1800s and involves poet Edgar Allan Poe. A serial killer is on the loose and murdering people using Poe's descriptions from his published stories and poems. Poe teams up with Detective Fields, a Baltimore policeman to try and catch the killer by using his knowledge of the descriptions. Even though the stories are fictional, they start to become reality and the killer is a step ahead of them. Then it takes on a personal note as Poe's lover becomes a target. Will they stop the killer in time? Written by
Michael Hallows Eve
Shallow and Disappointing; Edgar Allan Poe Deserves Better
Well, here was a misfire. THE RAVEN is another one of those films where I should have listened to the critics. But, come on, the premise was cool and it's not often that John Cusack disappoints. Plus it was directed by James McTeigue, the man behind V FOR VENDETTA. How did this turn out so poorly? I remember having read reviews for it but I never actually seeing it arrive in theaters. I guess I know why now. I don't know a whole lot about the life of Edgar Allan Poe but I do enjoy his stories. This wasn't enough to find anything to love about the movie. This is throwaway entertainment at best, though entertainment might be too strong a word because I was pretty bored. The movie is a mystery/thriller based around the details leading to Poe's mysterious death in 1849. Poe is a penniless alcoholic scratching for booze money from his apathetic editor who wants nothing more than another macabre tale to capture his readers' attention (and money). Meanwhile, Poe is courting the daughter of a powerful man with a hatred for the alcoholic vagabond. When Baltimore is haunted by a serial killer who draws his inspiration from Poe's tales, the author is approached by Detective Fields to act as a consultant in hunting the murderer. Soon, the investigation turns personal for Poe when his beloved Emily is taken captive and they must work against the clock, following clues to find her before she becomes the killer's final victim.
THE RAVEN is an obvious attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Guy Ritchie's SHERLOCK HOLMES franchise. It fails. Whereas Ritchie's movies are fun, exciting (if loose) adaptations of the source material, McTeigue's movie is boring and formulaic. It just drones on from one scene to the next, connecting the dots to a conclusion that I just didn't care about. I realized the reason a lot of the tension fizzles is because the movie continues to cut away from the investigation to Emily and her captivity. Maybe if we weren't constantly reminded that Emily is alive, there would've have been a bit of suspense as Poe and Fields race to save her life. "Will they save her? Will she die before they can stop the murderer? Oh wait, there she is. Nope, she's fine." Then there's the matter of the final reveal of the culprit. I'm not going to reveal their identity here for those out there who are interested in the movie, but I was pretty disappointed. To be honest, I didn't even recognize the person at first. I had to think back and remember if I'd seen them in the movie before that point. There are no clues or pieces for the audience to try and solve the case in their own minds, it's just: here's a bunch of brutal murders and here's the killer. Surprise! The murders themselves are mildly interesting, particularly the scene drawn from Poe's "Pit and the Pendulum". The violence loses some of its edge due to the shoddy CG that fills out the movie. Nothing looks genuine. In 2011, Roland Emmerich used CG to create expansive shots of Elizabethan era London for his film ANONYMOUS and it worked great, but McTeigue tries the same technique for 19th century Baltimore and it falls flat because it looks fake.
Speaking of fake, let's chat about the cast. I love Cusack but he was sorely miscast as Poe. From the very beginning, he never really disappeared into the character and always came off as John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe with a hint of Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes. As much as I enjoy Cusack, I'm not sure he's the right person for any sort of period piece. Throw him back in the hot tub time machine and let someone more appropriate tackle a role like Poe. Luke Evans is Poe's partner in the investigation, Detective Fields. Fields is a dull character with nothing defining about him with the exception that he's intelligent and all business. Good for him, but it doesn't make for the most exciting character. Alice Eve is beautiful as Emily and Brendan Gleeson is probably the best in the cast as Captain Hamilton, Emily's father and ardent Poe hater. Shallow characters in a shallow movie. That about sums up THE RAVEN. It's a forgettable experience that had a hard enough time capturing my attention while I was watching it. If you're looking for a thriller but don't really want to have to put any thought into the experience, THE RAVEN might be what you want.
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