Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Raven

(2012) **
"Jesus, you. Really?"

The Raven starts out with a premise loaded with potential: a murderer in 1840s Baltimore is going around using the stories of Edgar Allen Poe (including a pretty well staged Pit & the Pendulum) for inspiration. Poe gets dragged in to help the Baltimore police solve the crime.  Unfortunately, the writer decided to take that cool premise and graft it onto a hokie attempt to explain the last few days of Poe's life.

John Cusack is woefully miscast as Poe, and really, does he ever play anyone other than John Cusack?  Almost as poorly miscast is Poe's love interest, Emily, played by Alice Eve, who you will remember from such buddy comedies as She's Out of My League and Entourage. I actually liked her in those, but never for one instant do you ever believe that either her or or Cusack are citizens of mid-19th century America. Worse, the two also have absolutely zero romantic chemistry together, which sort of undermines the peril we're meant to feel when the killer kidnaps her for bait.


One of the main bummers about the plodding script is that they so blatantly missed an opportunity to plum Poe's stories for inspiration in creating a proto-Sherlockian mastermind detective. Actually, I think that's exactly what they tried to do, but all Cusack and his inspector pal ever do is bumble about yelling at each other. It's like the screen writer knew what he was supposed to do: show how the brilliant mind who created Auguste Dupin could solve a real murder mystery to save his lovely Annabel Lee. That, I'm sure, was the pitch that got this thing green lit and Cusack to sign on. It just never ever ever comes close to showing those kinds of smarts.

This isn't to say it's totally unwatchable; hence the 2 stars. Even a miscast Cusack is still fairly interesting, and some of the side characters are decent. There's also one pretty great gore-scene (the pendulum!) and a buried-alive situation that is sure to give one the creeps. But the overall impression for me was of a missed opportunity. 


Octopunk said...

"Actually, I think that's exactly what they tried to do, but all Cusack and his inspector pal ever do is bumble about yelling at each other."

Ugh. I hate it when a movie is pushing a character attribute but not really showing it to you, like someone's talent or intelligence.

If anyone cares, I've just caught up on comments, starting with AC's Juan of the Dead. I had aspirations to start a new review but I'm going to drop off in front of a movie instead.

Catfreeek said...

I felt exactly the same way about this flick and I actually saw it in the theater when it came out.

DCD said...

I had heard this was lame when it came out. Such a bummer because it did sound like it had promise plus I love me some John Cusack. So double bummer.

Landshark said...

Exactly, Octo. It reminded me of reading The Da Vinci Code--the main guy is supposed to be this brilliant Harvard professor of semiotics, but Brown (apparently) doesn't know how people like that talk or think, so the character is totally unconvincing.

Crystal Math said...

I had a bad feeling about this movie from the first moment I saw the trailer.

AC said...

yikes, what a waste of source material and talent!

50PageMcGee said...

agreed. it's sad when good ideas meet lazy writing.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I tend to avoid movies set in the 19th century. "Costume things" is how John Cleese referred to them in a How To Irritate People sketch. The chances of getting legitimately frightened in a costume thing are almost zero.

Trevor said...

I gave it the exact same rating last year. I love Cusack too, but he's so dull here. And good call on the chemistry - at no point do you feel that he and the girl have any kind of relationship.