Actors: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, & Luke Evans
Synopsis: A fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allen Poe as he tries to track down a killer that is using his macabre stories as inspiration to commit real-life murders.
While I own over 500 dvds/blu-rays, there is absolutely no substitute for seeing films in the theater. For me, it’s an experience. The whole thing. From getting a ticket, the popcorn, the sticky floor, and the seats. I don’t know. Call me a dork. I’ll proudly wear the title. One of my favorite things about seeing films in the theater is the immediate chatter post viewing where everyone starts to offer up their fresh reviews. I always find myself getting engaged into conversation with some random, usually old guy, after a film if I see it by myself. 90% of the time, I wish I taped that conversation because they normally are the best reviewing material that I can come up with. Shooting critique with someone else that is a fan of films right off the cuff normally results in the best stuff. The Raven is one of those films that I wish I had that conversation taped. Mostly because it was rather short and direct. I was asked “what did you think of it?” and after a long pause “well it was alright. I don’t feel like I wasted my $9” to which his response was “Son. I have come to the conclusion that if you find yourself saying that at the end of a film. You wasted your money. This was mediocre at best and I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends.” He has a point.
The Raven, which is a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allen Poe, follows a serial killer that is obsessed with the writings of Poe to the point where he recreates the macabre killings in real life. He uses these killings to leave clues to the next victim as if to have a battle of intellect with Poe and the detective trying to stop him. It isn’t until Poe’s love is kidnapped and life is threatened do things get interesting.
While that brief synopsis sounds interesting enough, it’s the execution that leaves a lot to be desired. The film has a quick pace and doesn’t waste too much screen time between major incidents but I think it’s this pace that ends up being one of the films major downfalls. There were plenty of moments throughout that I felt they could have divulged a little more on who the victim was, their importance, and especially during conversations between killings where Poe and Detective Fields. By the time the film reached its climax, I didn’t feel ready for it to happen.
Another other major blemish with the film comes in the form of the climax. When the killer is revealed, I found myself saying “Who?” Normally in a film such as this, clues are given throughout the entire film and a montage is shown where the main character pieces it together as if to say “See idiots. It was right in front of your face the whole time”. In this film, there is a half-assed explanation for a few pieces of evidence and then the showdown happens. Even the killer’s explanation for the murders wasn’t explained in the best of fashions either. The relationship, if you want to call it that, between Poe and the killer is limited but they try to play it off as much more. I felt cheated.
Last complaint I have about the film is the decision to cast John Cusack as the lead. I normally am a big fan of Cusack films. Say Anything, Better Off Dead, High Fidelity, and Grosse Pointe Blank are all films that I can jump in at anytime and find myself enjoying just as much as the first time I’ve seen them. But for this film, I felt it was bad casting. There was something just off with it. After hearing that Joaquin Phoenix and Ewan McGregor were also both up for the role of Poe, I feel that the producers went with the weakest of the candidates.
The reason I feel that I wasn’t completely cheated out of my $9 was that the movie did have some things going for it. For starters, the setting was fantastic. I find myself getting drawn into films that are set during the 1800’s. A time without cars and the need for candlelight is such a great backdrop for a film, especially one that is meant to be gothic in nature such as this. Luke Evans was perfect casting for Detective Fields as well. Where Cusack lacked or made scenes awkward, Evans would pick up the pieces and make things bearable again.
The old man is right. The film wasn’t worth wasting my experience at the theater. It’s a DVD or premium cable channel viewing at best. The film has enough aspects that work that I wouldn’t dare say avoid it completely but it doesn’t have enough to make me tell you to rush out and watch this either. If you happen to catch on TV and you have nothing to do for 90 minutes, this wouldn’t be a terrible way to kill that time.