The Raven

Once upon a weekend dreary, at the movies, weak and weary,
From the meaningless action of the film I’d seen before
While I waited, quietly seated, in the dark I sat and tweeted,
As if some one actually needed, needed my opinion for.
`Decent Action,’ I tweeted, `Decent action that I’d seen before -
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remembered, at Comic-Con I was a member,
In Hall H I was attendant on “The Raven” panel floor.
Eagerly I wished to see it; – vainly I hoped Cusack freed it
From the current trend of sorrow – sorrow for his lost career -
For his once proud, wonderful, but currently offtracked career -
Mentionless here for evermore.

So the brightening of the silver screen brought hope the movie
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
Unfortunately now, to sadness of my heart, it hurts reporting
`’Tis some average outing that feels as if you’ve seen before -
Truly some average outing that feels as if you’ve seen before; -
This it is, and nothing more,’

Cusack plays Edgar Allan Poe in his final days… drunk, destitute, but not wholly despondent, because he has the love of Alice Eve’s Emily Hamilton. He can’t make enough money to buy a drink, but his stature as a renowned poet still holds sway. When a serial killer begins bringing his tales to life, he is called in to help investigate the crimes… a situation that grows complicated when Hamilton is kidnapped and Poe is coerced by the killer to begin chronicling the events, lest she be killed.

And thus unfolds a tale where mutliple crimes are committed based on Poe’s tales, and Poe – playing detective and victim simultaneously – is called upon to help follow the trail of clues the killer is leaving for them. All the while, his gorgeous young love is being kept prisoner and on the verge of being buried alive. It’s scavenger hunt against time, with a string of morbid clues creating the trail.

The high concept of this film is phenomenal. The Poe bibliography is filled with creepy tales of macabre murders that would make wonderful fodder for today’s grizzly serial killer thrillers. And the tales certainly due get their representation here, but not quite with the feeling I’d wish them to. Director James McTeigue embues this movie with sort of a “Dark Sherlock Holmes” feel… where I would have much prefered a “Period Piece Se7en” feel. That’s not to say there are Guy Ritchie flourishes or that level of action, but… somehow the creepy just doesn’t come across as much as it should have, and instead McTeigue works in chase scenes and a shootout.

Cusack certainly has the looks for Poe, but I have to confess, I found his performance spotty. I just have to call it like I see it. I’m a big fan, I’m on the record with that, but there were times when I just wasnt picking up the intensity that I would have liked. I could put that on McTeigue, too I suppose, but I had been hoping for more. At times he delivers the requisite level of pathos you’d expect out of a character of Poe’s ilk, but at others, I just wasn’t feeling it.

The pieces never quite fit together or make sense, either. How is Poe able to woo such a gorgeus young woman if he’s so washed up? If he’s with Alice Eve why is he acting like such a mope? I’ll avoid direct spoilers, but I do have to relate that I was really disappointed with the film’s resolution, too. Everything revolving around the finale was pretty much a let down for me. The word I’m looking for is “Fizzle”.

Which is a shame. The concept held such potential, and I’m dying for Cusack to return to form and add another winner to his impressive resume. Throughout “The Raven” there are numerous flashes of what it could have been. A moment where Cusack embodies Poe, or moments where the ghastly crimes bring the twisted imagination of Poe to the big screen. At the end of the day though, I have to admit that the movie never delivered on its potential and wound up a middle of the pack distraction at best.

C+

 

46 thoughts on “The Raven

  1. I Had Such High-Hopes For THE RAVEN.
    I Will Still See It, Fo SHO, But I’ll Be Sure I Go Into It Without Those High-Hopes, And Be Ready For A Touch Of Disappointment.
    I Loved Your Review, By The Way.
    And Thanks For The Info!
    -BRAD

    • No problem Brad, thank you. Appreciate the kind words.

      Yeah, maybe with tempered expectations you’ll do better. I know for me, it just didnt add up. Its still not a BAD movie, just not a very good one either, you know?

      Glad you liked the review! :D

  2. I’m please to know it isn’t Se7en ish at all. That movie had me so pissed off at movies that I didn’t see movies of a certain type and with certain performers for a number of years. I want my escapism to be a bit better than that ending. It if was like that then I would refuse to see it. I’m okay with it being a dark Sherlock Holmes.

    Cusack’s acting IS spotty. That’s why he a flop here a success there and then another flop. It’s the nature of Cusack. That is why I don’t just go to Cusack movies because he is in them. He never completely lived up to his potential. I only go to his shows if the movie looks good.

    “If he’s with Alice Eve why is he acting like such a mope?” Well, Poe was a depressive. Probably relatively being a mope was a relatively natural state. I can probably live with it.

    I rather like this concept rather than a straight bio-pic and it reminds me of some of the various Poe-based hidden object games and their story lines. I will still go check this movie out. It may still be an amusing way to kill a couple of hours on a Sunday morning before my stitching group.

    • Yeah, if your expectations arent too high, its a good way to spend a couple of Sunday afternoon hours.

      I think the consensus on Cusack though, is that he’s over qualified for the roles he takes half of the time. This was the first time where I really questioned that, although you never know if the director just isnt bringing out the best in them or putting them in the best light.

      Meanwhile, I know Poe was a depressive. I’m just saying Alice Eve should, legically, alleviate such a condition. :D

      Sorry you didnt dig on Se7en. I thought it was creepy and awesome!

    • I thought about doing the whole review that way, and then I realized it would take weeks. LOL So I wound up with three stanzas. :D

      Thanks Ian, appreciate the props, and I’m really glad you enjoyed it brother.

  3. The poem part was awesome. Too bad about the film, I was hoping for something good. I like dark films but they need to move. Guess I’ll wait until Blu-Ray release on this one too. I don’t get toi the movies often enough and when I do, it has to be something the entire family can see. So I”m thinking it will be Avengers for us and then probably Pirates.

    • If going to the theatres is a difficult trick to pull off for someone for whatever reason… family… whatever? Then I definitely recommend skipping this one buddy. Big time. Blu – and probably a rental Blu – would be the way to go.

  4. I wonder how many other reviewers will work in a Raven homage/parody? Probably the same number who worked in a Dr. Seuss rhyme scheme for the Lorax? I’m not sure how I managed to get this vibe, but even just from the trailers I had hopes for this movie but I had a strong feeling that it would just be mediocre, and it sounds like I was right.

  5. Marvellous review Fogs. There are no bounds to your writing sir. Very poetic ( and funny ). I would only have watched this for Cusack but I think I’ll give it a miss. Cheers man, youve just save me some cash.

    • Heh heh heh. Thank you Mark. Thats right kindly of you.

      I wish the news was better, you know? Cusack, Poe? The ingredients were all there… juts didnt turn out that well. Sad to say.

      • And what is the deal with Cusack? Normally the man could do no wrong in eyes but it’s been a while since I seen a decent flick of his. As for Poe, are there any other decent adaptations of his work available? The Simpsons done a nice short parody of “The Tell Tale Heart” once but surely that’s ripe for a movie adaption at some point?

      • I guess I’m at a loss to think of one off hand. I’m sure there have to be some classics though… older films.

        Which is why this was so no brainer, right? I mean, its fertile ground, lets go!

      • It certainly is fertile ground. Most Poe adaptations are older film’s. Surely some are ripe for remakes, considering that seems to be Hollywoods forte at present? We are currently living in the comic book adap times though but once that’s over with, maybe we’ll see more. I was hoping The Raven would have been good, if only to spur on further works of Poe reaching the screen. Maybe that will be put on hold now.

      • Hmm… good Poe adaptations… there are a couple Vincent Price films that are loosely inspired by Poe’s work that are really good, but they’re also very loose adaptations. The Raven (1963) basically borrows the title and the basic notion of the poem (the lost Lenore) and spins a new tale out of whole cloth (and is fairly comedic to boot). Lot of people in it though; Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and a very young Jack Nicholson. Pit and the Pendulum essentially is a new tale just with the eponymous trap. Tales of Terror stays closest to the stories, but is a set of three vignettes rather than a true feature-length film.

  6. So true about Cusack’s career. He’s always been one of my favorites, but his output over the past half decade or so has been severely underwhelming. I’m massively curious about The Paperboy. Doesn’t look like what I expected from Lee Daniels after Precious, and the cast is oddly fascinating.

    • You know what? I heard that was upcoming, vaguely… but I’m still so sketchy about it. Gonna have to look into that now that you’ve put it on my radar, DB

      The man needs a good film. I’m rooting for him.

  7. Great review, Dan! I was hoping for so much more from the movie as well…I jotted down a short review last night when I got home & had been eagerly awaiting to read yours today! I never did make it to my double feature, but I’m going to see Five Year Engagement next Friday after The Avengers. Here’s my brief review:

    ~~ I was hoping for darker, even wished for deeper, and craved for a bit of suspense. As a fan of macabre and the suspenseful, I’ve always been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing & subsequently, the ever popular portrayal of his most heinous characters by the late Vincent Price. If you are a fan of the latter, this is not that.

    The movie is based on the fact that Edgar Allan Poe was found near dead & delirious on a park bench in Baltimore on October 3rd, 1849. The movie depicts why he may have been found there by weaving a tale of a string of “copy-cat” killings based on Poe’s fictitious murders within his writings. These murders are meant to incite Poe’s attention & lead all involved in a game of clues via a macabre scavenger hunt.

    There’s mediocre acting, far too many “I can see every pore on your face” close-up shots, a bit of slo-mo which I detest unless it makes sense for the production, and a bit of “forced” angst-y, something big is about to happen tension (a la Jon Bon Jovi’s character in U-571, “I… hear… splashes.”). Despite this, however, it’s an interesting premise, a great date movie for a matinee, and an enjoyable movie to (pardon the pun) kill some time. ~~

    • Reading that, going, yup. Yup. Totally true. Yup. :D

      Fun playing critic isnt it?

      “I was hoping for darker, even wished for deeper, and craved for a bit of suspense.” Exactly. And for whatever reason, this one was lacking. :( Such a bummer.

      It’s a timekiller, yeah, like you say. Thats why I didnt totally kill it in my grade, I mean, if you’re in a forgiving mood, its not gawd awful or anything.

      You brought up the fact that this was supposed to play off of Poe’s death – true. Supposedly on his last day he was even calling out for “Reynolds” or kept asking for Reynolds, and no one knew what he meant. Thats kind of cool, I guess, that they worked that in.

      • It was fun playing critic, I jotted that down while it was fresh in my mind. I find that if I let my thoughts on a movie sit for too long I over-think it & can’t focus my ideas.

        They tried to force a lot of Poe facts throughout, either in dialogue or what was happening within the film. Some examples of this are: his West Point dismissal, his pet Raccoon (one theory of his death was Rabies) & the death of his wife. They fell short in making them flow or even useful in terms of the plot.

      • Very well said. LOL. :D Youve got a real future at this!

        Youre totally right, they did try to cram in a lot of facts. You’re also right that the flow wasn’t very good.

        Unfortunately. :(

  8. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. Basically it’s a semi-interesting mystery thriller, that’s riding on the coattails of having Edgar Allan Poe as their main character, but it ultimately just feels generic with a couple of good moments here and there. Cusack is great though. Nice review my main man.

    • Thanks Dan, I just saw we wound up giving it the same Lambscore. LOL

      I’m not sure that I’d agree that Cusack was great… I thought there were moments where he totally nailed it, and then other times where I was thinking… I could use a little more “Ooomph” here, and he just didnt have it. LOL

      I’m normally a huge fan, too.

  9. Love your review! I’m a sucker for the poetic parodies.

    I’m really sad to hear this one isn’t that great. There is such potential in the source material. The fact that you mention this as a “dark Sherlock Holmes” is interesting because that’s the impression I got from the trailer, like they had almost used that as a template in order to get away from something more biopic (which I probably would have preferred personally).

    Hopefully they’ll do better with the reboot or sequel. Hahaha!

    • I think I would have vastly prefered something more biopic, now that Ive seen it. Beforehand, though, I dont know if I would have said that. The source material did have so MUCH potential, but… they realized only a fraction of it here.

      Thanks for the compliment on the parody LOL. Stuff like that is fun to do!

  10. Great review, Fogs. I wish it had been more positive, since I had had high hopes for this, but it looks like it’ll be a rental flick, if that. It’s too bad; the idea had potential.

  11. This was an odd one for me. I thought Evans and Cusack did a great job (more so Evans since Cusack went slightly Nic Cagey at times) and the film was beautifully shot and put together, but everything else just felt…eh. Like it was on the cusp of being good but instead only ended up being okay. I’d still say it’s worth a rental but I’m telling people to lower their expectations. Which is a shame since this movie had a ton of potential.

    Oh well, hopefully Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will live up to the awesomeness of it’s book counterpart.

    • Eeeeeh. I dont have a good feeling about that one, honestly. That trailer makes “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” look like “Van Helsing: The Early Years”

      On this one though, I’m with you. Cusack did occasionally go Nic Cage, and most of it did feel “eh”.

  12. You have a pretty Poe attitude. (Ha-Ha). Didn’t see it but because I have off from work Thursday night, I’ll catch both Raven and Pirates. Then Friday, oh what was the name of the movie I’m planning on seing? Oh Well. It’ll come to me. I marvel at my bad memory.

  13. Hey, we were on Hall H at the same time Fogs, I too was anticipating this after I saw the panel. I thought Cusack did a good job portraying Poe, but too bad the film doesn’t really live up to expectations. I still might rent it though.

  14. Very clever! And a great line of thought from your followers. Just back from the film and I enjoyed Cusack’s embodiment of EAP; he had some memorable aphorisms, too. The only thing the film couldn’t speak to is the fact that Poe died wearing another man’s clothes. The plot thickens! Great review!

  15. And here I was hoping the entire review was going to be in prose!

    I had had this film on my radar and fully intended on seeing it at the cinema when it came out. But… the lack lustre reviews and lack of decent times stopped me. Good thing – sounds like I saved myself some money and time.

    • Its not a total waste of time Jaina… if you get the chance to rent or watch on tv or something, its a decent enough time waster.

      It just never rose to the level of anything remarkable, unfortunately.

      As to the whole review being that style? LOL. That was my intent at first. When I saw how long those three stanzas took? I had to pass! :D

  16. It’s such a shame The Raven didn’t live up to my expectations either; it had such a fascinating plot setup! I wanted to see it but I’ll just pass on it.

  17. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | LAMBScores: The Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Five-Year Engagement, The Raven and Safe

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