Friday, April 27, 2012

THE RAVEN: The Film Babble Blog Review



THE RAVEN (Dir. James McTeigue, 2012)

The questionable casting of John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe is the least of this film’s problems.

Basically what director McTeigue (V FOR VENDETTA), along with screen-writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare (that’s right), have done here is just like what Roland Emmerich and co. did in last year’s ANONYMOUS - they’ve taken the broken shards of centuries-old speculation and made pure modernized malarkey out of it.

Set during the last week of Poe’s life, the film depicts him as a broke drunk, unable to produce works anything like the ones that made him semi-famous. As Cusack’s Poe plods through the foggy Baltimore streets of 1849, a madman has been committing a series of murders based on methods described in Poe’s published work.

The detective on the trail of the killer (an intense unsmiling Luke Evans), doesn’t believe Poe to be a suspect so he gets him to join the investigation, because he knows all the gory details of the stories being severely re-enacted, you see?

There’s a love story wrapped up in all of this with Alice Eve as Poe’s fiancé who gets abducted by the man in black, who is always disappearing into the shadows and fog no matter how many policemen are about. Eve's father (Brendan Gleeson, who really works a lot) had previously disapproved of the Master of the Macabre, but now that his daughter has disappeared, he's on Team Poe.

Though he wrote detective fiction, I’ve never thought of Poe in the role of crime-solving sleuth, and I sure won’t after this fades from my memory. I’m already hearing comparisons to the superior Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. SHERLOCK HOLMES movies, and they are indeed apt, but the only plus here is that there are no overly stylized slow-motion fight scenes.


There is, however, a sewer chase scene involving gunplay that cribs so heavily from THE THIRD MAN that it made me roll my eyes way back into my brain. But maybe seeing how it goes down here might help discourage the proposed remake of that 1949 Carol Reed classic so maybe that will rank as another plus.

The more convoluted THE RAVEN got, the less it held my interest. There are too many twists on top of twists with NATIONAL TREASURE-style mechanics, and a narrative that often cheats with its handling of the mystery.

It’s competently crafted, with okay to fair cinematography by Danny Ruhlman, but this film so wants to have an engulfing gothic atmosphere and it just can’t cut it.

I also dislike that the Poe they portray is apologetic about the contents of his work. They throw in instances of gore (you can guess what the pendulum sequence is like), presumably to sate the SAW kids, so then why do they give us a meek guy who is guilt ridden about the effect of his writing?

Seems like it would’ve been more interesting if Poe had a dark twisted sensibility (you know the one the actual guy had?), and was secretly turned on by the atrocities foisted upon him.

That might be the real problem this film has - it has plenty of plot twists yet it’s far from twisted enough to really do justice to its subject.


More later...

2 comments:

Armando dela Cruz said...

I agree. It's just...wrong. Dude.

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