May 5, 2012

Movie Review: The Raven (2012)

When I first heard about The Raven, I was certainly intrigued. The idea of a murder thriller based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe is definitely a solid idea that should offer plenty of intriguing setups for the villain and problems for our protagonist to overcome. The problem is that the execution is not good at all. The end result is a movie that is lifeless, bland, and left me wanting a whole lot more.

I am not even sure where the problems begin. Everything about The Raven is bland and uninspired at best, boring and annoying at its worst. I went in hoping for something interesting, perhaps a touch classy, and hopefully with a bit of blood. Above all, I was hoping for something with a little bit of intelligence. Sadly, what I got was little more than a period Saw movie.

The movie is set in the final days of Edgar Allan Poe's life. It is a period that nothing is known about. Writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare have turned the final days of a great writer into a pedestrian murder mystery. Instead of something exhilarating, it is a a lazy excuse to cram a bunch of Poe-inspired murders into one film. Frankly, in retrospect, the whole project seems to be an ill advised one. I never thought of it before hand, but I wonder what the genesis of the project was. I cannot imagine anyone who is a big lover of Poe being interested in something like this, taking the last days of a real person and creating a fictional story leading to his death with elements inspired by the fictional writings of the real person. It is like a snake trying to eat its own tail.

John Cusack plays Poe and with the exception of a few humorous exchanges early on, turns in one of his more lifeless performances. Poe never made much money from his work, majority of his fame found him after his death. In The Raven, we follow a near broke Poe as he tries to find his next drink before being enlisted by a police detective, Fields (Luke Evans) to help investigate murders that have seemingly been inspired by his writings. The investigation takes a personal turn when Poe's girlfriend, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), is kidnapped by the killer. At every turn, Poe is being taunted by the nefarious and skilled killer. Will they find Emily in time? Is there any doubt in your mind?

The further into the movie we got, the more bored with it I got. I kept hoping for something fresh, new, exciting, and even just entertaining to happen. I never happened. I found my mind wandering. One of the thoughts I had was wishing that I had chosen to revisit From Hell, I think I would have been better off. Another thought was wishing an actual Poe adaptation had been made, a new version of The Tell Tale Heart, or Fall of the House of Usher, or The Cask of Amontillado could potentially be amazing and certainly more entertaining than this. The last thought I had was wishing to see an adaptation of Caleb Carr's The Alienist, I am thin on remembering details but I remember this book being a really good tale of early forensics and serial killing.

In the end, The Raven did not leave me with any real reaction other than boredom. It is not a movie I can recommend and I doubt I will ever desire to see it again.

Not Recommended.


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