Dir: James McTeigue
Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, and Luke Evans
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 5/9/2012
Edgar Allen Poe crafted tales with elements of the macabre woven into stories of mystery, which made Poe’s work an undeniable influence on literature and film. The attention that Poe spent on atmosphere and the imagery associated with the depictions of violence in his body of work is represented in horror films of the past and present. The popularity of the author’s celebrity is still seen today; look no further than the month long celebration of everything Poe at PoeFest in Phoenix. Unfortunately, The Raven misses the opportunity to explore the author and instead substitutes a disjointed plot that haphazardly attempts to make use of Poe’s narrative works.
The plot is situated in 1849 Baltimore in which a series of gruesome murders have been committed based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. The authorities are perplexed by the intricacies of the crimes and decide to recruit Poe to assist with the investigation. However, Poe meets his match and is drawn into a game of wits with the clever killer. When The Raven was announced, I was hesitant yet interested in the plot and cast. John Cusack seemed capable enough to embody the darker aspects associated with the character Poe and the plot appeared to provide enough twists and turns to add some thrilling elements to the narrative. However, after the first on-screen encounter with Poe it’s clear that The Raven would have benefited from some additional script work. There are touches of Poe’s compositions that are loosely written into the script, which might be enough for viewers new to Poe but will likely feel insufficient to Poe enthusiasts. Cusack finds stride with Poe at times, specifically when the film delves into the dark genius of Poe; which only makes it frustrating when the script decides to veer away from this fascinating narrative aspect. There are also some nice touches of photography and art direction throughout the film, however those good elements are distracted by poor CGI choices and set design flaws.
The only time The Raven succeeds is when the literature takes over the narrative; the gruesome nature and raveled mysteries that Poe was a genius at crafting is subtly displayed when the crimes are committed. More attention should have focused on this element; Poe’s words were so powerful and descriptive the literature would have created more atmosphere and tension, and could have been used to explore the characteristics that composed Poe. There is an inherent dark side to Poe’s character and literature that the film only touches upon, this missing component ultimately makes The Raven feel disjointed and lacking a cohesive factor to pull together the loose structure of the film.
2.5 out of 5.0