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'THE RAVEN': Three Stars (Out of Five)
John Cusack plays legendary writer Edgar Allan Poe in this fictional account of his last days alive in 1849. In this story a killer is imitating Poe's most famous macabre work and it's up to Poe and a Baltimore detective (played by Luke Evans) to stop him. The film was written by actor turned film writer Ben Livingston and writer Hannah Shakespeare. It was directed by James McTeigue (who also directed the stylistic action films 'V FOR VENDETTA' and 'NINJA ASSASSIN') and co-stars Alice Eve and Brendan Gleeson. The movie is somewhat interesting but never delivers quite enough thrills or emotional involvement to make it really memorable or worthwhile.
As the story opens Poe (Cusack) is a poor alcoholic and a shell of the man he once was; constantly struggling to get his work published in the Baltimore paper. He's in love with Emily Hamilton (Eve) and plans to marry her but her father, Captain Hamilton (Gleeson), wants his daughter to have nothing to do with him. When the Baltimore police find a grisly murder scene that resembles the killing from one of Poe's stories Poe is brought in for questioning. When the killer continues to murder victims in ways that seem influenced by Poe's short stories and poems Poe teams with the detective in charge of the case, Detective Fields (Evans), to stop him. Things become especially intense when Emily is kidnapped by the killer.
Unlike some I like the idea of revolving a fictional murder mystery around Edgar Allan Poe's literature and casting Poe as it's lead character. Cusack is especially good as Poe and the rest of the cast is adequate but the characters aren't ever really that fascinating or likable. I do like McTeigue's stylish directing and the murder scenes and atmosphere are nicely done but the story as a whole is lacking. The action for the most part works but by the film's conclusion there's definitely something pretty unsatisfactory about the film going experience as a whole. In the case of this move the sum of the parts is definitely greater than the whole.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Raven's storyline is much like the movie Seven. The difference is the murders are inspired by Poe's works. Poe and the police must figure out the crime before his love dies. The story has been told before, but is well executed and told. Well acted and directed movie. The interaction between Poe and the detective creates great drama. I found The Raven entertaining. Poe is worth V O D ing. The movie is a lot like Sherlock Holmes. The background was Maryland but resembled England. John Cusack was trying to be Robert Downing Jr. The end of the movie Poe was poisoned, I wonder if that is how he actually died in real life. I give the movie a seven out of ten.
There are many who seek to entertain by illustrating the darker
elements of human existence. Murder, intrigue, the macabre. One of the
greatest, perhaps the greatest, author to do so was Edgar Allen Poe.
Most have been lucky enough to have never experienced the horror they
put on the page brought to life. In this latest John Cusack film, Poe
is not so lucky.
We first see Poe (played by Cusack) in the last days of his life. The event depicted has been the subject of debate among historians but, for dramatic purposes, it's accepted as fact and I take no issue with that. Days earlier, a woman and child are found and have been murdered in a grisly manner. The murderer managed to flee the scene despite the doors being locked when the police arrived and windows that appeared to be nailed shut. An investigator, Detective Emmett Fields (played by Luke Evans) discovers how the killer concealed his escape and recognizes that the inspiration for the trickery was a work of fiction produced by Poe. He is the prime suspect until another murder is committed while he is being questioned. It appears to be inspired by yet another work of Poe's and so Fields (Evans) hopes that involving the man who used to be his prime suspect might allow him to gain some advantage over the murderer who's now claimed the lives of three innocent people. All the while Poe is madly in love with the daughter of a respected military officer who cannot stand him. But when Emily (Poe's love interest, played by Alice Eve) is in jeopardy, the Captain (Emily's father, played by Brendan Gleeson) and Poe put their differences aside and work together to save the one person they both love more than anything.
Now, I believed this was Cusack's first film since 2009's 2012. In fact, I'd forgotten about Hot Tub Time Machine which followed that as did two other films I never even knew about. Also noteworthy is the fact that, of numerous works based on or otherwise connected to Poe and his publications, this is the third to be given the title The Raven. But even with all that against it, this film is entertaining. No member of the cast should hold their breath waiting for an Oscar nomination. Neither should anyone who was involved behind the scenes, but it's an involving tale in an interesting setting with a well-acted cast and I liked it.
Not nearly as good as the Director's V for Vendetta (2005), this is a
slightly above average movie that is elevated by an intriguing premise
(much like Time After Time (1979), also a better movie) and John
Cusack's interesting performance. There is enough mystery for the who
done it types and enough gore for modern Horror fans and enough homage
that should generally satisfy Poe's fans.
But this is not high art, like Poe. It is a modern, flawed film that has quite a few glaring historical inaccuracies and is another of those bluish looking, color deficient, washed out movies that seem to think that dull gray is an atmosphere.
It keeps moving along with some verve, but the double ending is a bit of a letdown. Also, there are some modern screen tricks along the way that belong in other movies. Overall, it is quite entertaining, if not excellent, and is not a misfire, just more cinematic than poetic.
This film was part of the Imagine film festival (SF/fantasy/horror)
Amsterdam 2012. By accident I saw it two times in the same week, once
as a Sneak Preview (film title kept secret until the last moment), and
a few days later as member of a larger group with "normal" tickets
(could not find a volunteer to take my ticket). In both cases I failed
to pick up the atmosphere (gas lanterns, carriages and horses), being a
certified nerd who does not "get" such things as feelings and moods.
But the worst problem was that my remembrance of the underlying E A Poe
stories stood in the way, elements of which were used wrongly, in a
manner that was probably not (I dare to say: certainly not) intended by
the original writer.
Anyway, I was also most unimpressed the first time due to confusing plots and characters. The second time I could lean back and glue the kaleidoscope of scenes together, and was thus able to appreciate (a bit) more what was going on. Focusing on the thriller elements the first 45 minutes worked very well, with tension building up, wondering where all this was heading. But then the illogicalities started. One example: The first viewing left me at a loss why the woman main character was not killed instantly, contrary to what happened with all victims before her. Not until the second viewing, the reasons behind this difference became clear.
As a long time admirer of the two underlying E A Poe stories (Murders in the Rue Morgue, Pit and the Pendulum) I found that the crux of both stories was missed entirely. We saw crude extracts that only showed the obvious and superficial elements. A frivolous defender of the film makers might say that it is by design, trying to convince us that the murderer was not smart enough to grasp the fundamental themes of the two stories. I completely missed the detective's logical thinking process dependent on scraps of witness reports (Murders in the Rue Morgue), and ditto the fear element as crucial part of torture (Pit and Pendulum).
Leaves me with a rhetorical question: Is it a good thing that I needed a second viewing to get all this??Anyway, someone not burdened with previous knowledge of the two E A Poe stories, may overlook their faulty adaptation. But my other problems still cannot be ignored, and I assume that many thriller lovers will have the same viewer experience. Considering casting and acting as compensating factors, a score of 5 out of 10 seems appropriate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An interesting view of Poe as a crime solver, the society of the day
and the intricacies of being a "commercial poet/writer" in the 19th
century. The writing and acting is crisp and moves the story along at a
good pace involving the viewer deeply. Several surprises are paid off
handsomely and the atmosphere of the movie is consistently superb.
The reasons for my low rating are as follows: 1. The culprit is an aspiring, admiring writer not a Navy SEAL but yet is able to use weapons handily and pull off multiple physical maneuvers that would require serious training beyond that of his occupation.Not very plausible. and 2. The ending requires suspension of belief and is inconsistent with the Poe that's been developed along the way. He is a driven passionate man-of-action for the entire film, but then acquiesces to a binary choice handed him by the killer. The Poe developed earlier would have chosen a third course and subdued the killer - providing an opportunity to extract the information via other means. Again an implausible ending for Poe. Required plot rescue is accomplished by the final gunshot.
It could have been great and wasted some good acting, hence the 4
If I were asked to come up with a single word describing "The Raven",
it would have been "underwhelming". This anemic second-rate movie is by
no means what we expected from the Australian director James McTeigue
whose 2005 debut the stylish Sci-Fi action thriller "V for Vendetta"
- was refreshingly interesting, emotionally touching and received well-
deserved favorable reviews from critics and wide audience alike.
Sadly, unlike "V for Vendetta" "The Raven" is virtually indistinguishable from the multitude of the mediocre thrillers continuously produced by Hollywood. There is nothing in particular about this movie (except maybe the acting to some extent) that would set it apart from the rest of the pack.
The weakest component of this so-so thriller is its pitiful screenplay carelessly tossed together by the inexperienced newcomers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare. The mystery thriller audience, being not too picky, perhaps could have forgiven most of the flaws plaguing "The Raven" - from the glaring plot holes, to the puzzling loose ends, to the failed character development attempts. Unfortunately for the movie, it contains a major defect that cannot be that easily overlooked: the alarming lack of logic combined with the shocking absence of psychological credibility. Things simply do not add up in "The Raven" both from logical and from psychological perspectives.
Not only the final scenes of "The Raven" where the dangerous secrets are revealed and the deep mysteries are resolved are regrettably anticlimactic, but they also leave us in a state of perplexed disappointment. Now, that we finally know "the truth", the more we think about it, the less credible it looks to us. The harder we try putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, the clearer we see that it does not have plausible solution. Moreover, we keep finding more and more fundamental flaws: logical inconsistencies, practical infeasibilities, and psychological impossibilities.
In addition to having major issues with the "mystery" part, "The Raven" also somewhat disappoints as a thriller. Simply put, the movie is not thrilling enough. It almost never reaches the level of suspense necessary to keep us "glued" to the screen. While "The Raven" prominently features reckless chases, spooky dark tunnels, mysterious strangers, secluded hiding places, and dangerous misty forests, all these genre clichés apparently do not work as designed and leave us mostly disengaged as a result. Some key ingredients necessary for boosting excitement and stirring up emotions appear to be hopelessly missing from these formulaic, unoriginal scenes.
The similar observation is applicable to the gruesome murders that the mysterious villain of the piece appears to be painstakingly copying from the Poe's stories. With all their shocking images and gory details, these crime scenes are not in the least impressive and are far more disgusting than terrifying. In fact, somehow the authors managed to make them almost boring, lacking clever and tasteful visual presentation as well as intriguing intellectual substance.
Another disappointing observation is related to the language used in the movie. I am not necessarily against certain language modernizations in the historical pieces, but these language adjustments should be unobtrusive enough to be appreciated by the audience. Avoiding language archaisms should be done in a tasteful manner; it benefits greatly from a careful, measured approach.
Unfortunately, "The Raven" does not demonstrate necessary caution in handling the delicate language adjustments. As a result, instead of flowing smoothly and blending nicely, the overly modernized language of the movie unexpectedly becomes a focus of the unwanted attention.
Of the very few decent scenes in the movie, most are funny ones, filled with warm irony and soft humor. One scene of that kind that comes to mind is the hilarious little show where Poe reads one of his famous melodramatic tear-jerking poems to the adoring female audience. Not surprisingly, the scenes where the timeless Poe's poetry and prose are recited from the screen are among the rare true highlights of the movie.
As I hinted before, the only reason why you might consider watching this otherwise quite ordinary thriller is the good acting. John Cusack gives a nuanced, atmospheric performance as the famous American author Edgar Allan Poe, even despite this well-known historical character being mercilessly deformed for "The Raven" by the shrewd gang of ignorant screenwriters.
Brendan Gleeson is solid and memorable as usual as Captain Hamilton, a disapproving father of Poe's love interest Emily Hamilton, unconvincingly and colorlessly played by Alice Eve (She's Out of My League, 2010). In the movie, Emily is for various reasons out of Edgar's league, whereas on the acting field the disposition is the opposite: John Cusack is hopelessly out of Alice Eve s league. In addition, very little chemistry can be detected between the lovebirds, Edgar and Emily, which makes their love theme look strained and unconvincing.
Luke Evans, previously known mostly for his thoroughly mediocre so- called "Zeus" from the weak "Immortals" fares a little better and looks slightly more mature in "The Raven" but still does not impress. I am not sure whether it is a lack of experience, a limited range of acting abilities, or a poor work of the director, or a combination of the three, but Luke Evans visibly lacked sophistication and versatility while playing Detective Fields the second most important character in the movie. His acting looked one-dimensional compared to the captivating, multi-faceted performances of John Cusack Brendan Gleeson and Kevin McNally (Maddux, the newspaper editor).
In conclusion, you might be much better off reading the classic poems and stories by Edgar Allan Poe than watching the unremarkable "The Raven" noteworthy only for its shameless exploit of the Poe's everlasting legacy.
The movie can be recommended for hardcore John Cusack fans only, since, unfortunately for Brendan Gleeson fans, there is not enough Brendan Gleeson in "The Raven" to justify watching the whole movie for the sake of his performance.
First of all, if you're coming to watch a biopic on Edgar Allen Poe your not getting anything historically accurate. With that out of the way, James McTeigue try's his best at this thriller, shooting it well with fast paced action scenes and great shots. Even the actors (John Cusack, Alice Eve, and Brendan Gleeson), try their hardest to make this a genuinely thrilling film. But no matter how hard they try they are bogged down by the bad dialog and uneven storytelling of the screenwriters (Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare). In the end I would rate this movie a 6. Some people love it, others hated it. Your choice to make.
I can say without hesitation that this film is a true masterpiece. The
story was solid, touching, and well-paced. It had just the right
mixture of action, suspense, mystery, humor, and intellectualism.
This film will be a treat for anyone, even someone who has never read Poe. But if you love Poe, this film will be even better.
When you stop to think that this film was completely passed over at the Oscars, it makes you realize just how little that award means nowadays. Most of the films that won an Oscar this year were utter tripe compared with this film.
"The Raven" is very similar in tone to the new "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey Jr. If you loved that film, you will love this one. "The Raven" is in the grand tradition of films that actually make you think, and present you with a human story instead of explosions and blurry karate sequences. This film has heart- a great tribute to a great man.
For many viewers this film seems to have been expected to be a
biography of Edgar Allan Poe's life and it is obviously not that. There
are many known facts about the author/poet's life and there are almost
as many aspects that are not known. In this cinematic story the writers
(Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare) appear to want to explore the
concept of murders based on Poe's famous stories and present these
mysteries as reenactments during Poe's time - Variations on themes -
and when taken with that approach in mind the film works very well
(despite some significant flaws in the creation of the film as directed
by James McTeigue). The film captures the flavor of the times and the
mixing of the stories between fiction and reality makes for an
Baltimore, 1849 and we find Poe (John Cusack) as a drunkard trying to get his works published by the local newspaper edited by Maddux (Kevin McNally). His devoted assistant is Ivan (Sam Hazeldine). In the midst of Poe's financial decline a series of murders occur, murders that appear to be copies of Poe's many stories, and the police (Detective Fields - the talented Luke Evans - and Captain Hamilton - Brendan Gleason) decide to engage Poe's help in solving them. As a side story Poe is infatuated with his boss's daughter Emily (Alice Eve) and when Emily goes missing Poe s determined to capture the serial killer, even making it known that he would trade his useless life to save Emily's life. The remainder of the film is a chase to the finish and along the way we learn the references to many of Poe's great poems and stories.
No, this is not a great film, but suspend reality and it is an entertaining mystery movie. The cast is solid and the special effects are convincing. If the film dawdles too long over certain features it does have other saving graces. But oddly enough, the graphics and the obnoxious music chosen for the closing credits destroy the mood and make the viewer want to simply turn off the film.
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