As a literature enthusiast, I have to admit how I was very interested and excited when this movie came out in theatre. I may have yet to read every single one of Edgar Allan Poe’s masterpiece however, I do like some of them. I remember having a hard time in choosing whether to purchase ticket for The Raven or Bruce Willis’ Looper. Nonetheless, in the end, I settled down with The Raven.
Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin) and based on a screenplay written by Ben Livingston and Hanna Shakespeare, The Raven is a thriller-crime film that revolves around Edgar Allan Poe (played by John Cusack) during the last few days of his life as he pursues a serial killer whose murders are connected to his stories.
We are first introduced to Cusack’s version of Edgar Allan Poe – a poor, gloomy man whose intense sarcasm serves as his signature weapon in revealing his hatred towards other writers. Cusack’s Poe, being a total wreck of a boozer, reminds me so much of Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes – both men being very talented and intelligent despite their unfortunate habit. If Inspector Lestrade knocks on the door of Baker Street, seeking for Mr. Holmes’ assistance, Detective Emmett Fields (played by Luke Evans) seeks the help of Poe when a serial killer is running loose around Baltimore, emitting cries and screams of murders based on none other than his works. Horrified, Poe then agrees on helping Fields with the investigation.
What caught me on the edge of my seat is the atmosphere following the very first few series of murders. They were done just the way a true serial killer would have carried out his deeds; gruesome, disastrous, thrilling. Bloodcurdling screams and a lot of pleadings made, a monstrous highlight from this movie is how Poe’s long time rival (played by John Warnaby) was exterminated through a “process” inspired by one of Poe’s masterpiece, “The Pit and The Pendulum.” Other than that, as the camera continues to move, there isn’t much that gave me the same anxiety and adrenaline rush I had felt during the first few minutes of the movie.
And so, the game begins. With the help of Detective Fields, Poe finds himself engaged in a game of hide and seek as he tries to predict the next location of where his prey will strikes next. It is for the fact that we are able to watch Poe’s short stories coming to live that makes the whole scenario and every camera moving interesting. By using references from “The Masque of the Red Death”, “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Cask of Amontillado”, James McTeigue had tried his best to keep his audience pinned to their seats and no, it was not a total vain. Not really.
It is quite obvious that The Raven is a dark, gothic movie directed at the speed of light, like a galloping horse – quick, sneaky, like a snap. To say that it is a total disappointment may not be necessarily true because admit it or not, there is some fun buried in this movie that lasts for 111 minutes. Like I’ve said, the whole idea and aim of this movie is perfectly set, completely arranged however, the way it has been delivered may not be as accurate.
We all know that Edgar Allan Poe is the hero of this movie. Nonetheless, there are some points in which I like to clarify, points that – for some reason – may have placed a disappointment on me. I was never a person who enjoys a drama where a hero would literally, just like that, give up and say, “hands up. Tell me what you want and we’ll trade. I’m done” without any other attempt in fighting back or at the very least, a plan. When rich girl Emily Hamilton (played by Alice Eve) was kidnapped and trapped, all hell break loose and Poe finds himself raising both hands, choosing to bow down to any of his killer’s wants.
While it is understandable that James McTeigue is, indeed, trying to tell us that Poe and Emily are probably Baltimore’s own version of Romeo and Juliet, he has failed to achieve that objective in deeper, more meaningful depth. Okay, maybe not a complete, utter failure but the movie could have done more and perhaps, better to bring the audience to feel as if they are being part of Poe’s and Emily’s tragedy. “Weak” is something I’d probably use if asked to describe their relationship in one word.
Poe writes all; from love poetry to science fiction as well as mystery and horror ones. Who would have thought that poetries could kill – now that is what I’d like to call as the main attraction of The Raven. Sadly though, a movie is judged based on how it is delivered. Despite the creatively constructed concept, there are a few holes you can spot in this movie. To claim that The Raven is a complete shame may not be very wise because believe it or not, I don’t mind watching this movie again next year. I really don’t. It’s a good entertainment and I respect that. Few gaps and holes here and there, yes but 100% disappointed? I wouldn’t say so. The ending may not be what I had expected, may not be something that satisfies me nonetheless, The Raven is worth trying especially if you love Poe’s works and a sucker for this kind of movie.