Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Movie Review: The Raven

Edgar Allen Poe is one of the greatest minds of literature. He has penned classic stories filled with horror, death and regret all told in his signature gothic tone. 'The Raven' is a not a film based on one of Poe's stories (despite the fact that it shares a name with one), it is a fictional account of the last days of his life. I never expected anything from this film, so I wasn't surprised that ended up as a poorly written story that simply uses the name of the great author in order to be given a purpose outside of pure greed. 

After a murder is committed that is directly copied from a story by writer Edgar Allen Poe, the police seek the famous author's help in solving the case. Poe agrees to help and sets to work discovering who the murderer is that seems to want to engage in a cat and mouse game with him. As the murders progress, more and more of Poe's stories come to life around him and he finds that this murderer does not only want to taunt Poe, but destroy him.

'The Raven' has a very weak plot, it is set around the solving of a series of murders yet the murders seem more and more implausible as the film goes on, since there is no form of supernatural element present in the film these flaws are not forgivable. Almost every character in the film is so badly written that scenes not involving any sort of set piece become bogged down with terrible dialogue and drag on endlessly. The film as a whole cannot be thought of as wholly awful but no sooner could it be considered anything but a dull and monotonous film that isn't worth watching.

John Cusack stars in the lead role of Edgar Allen Poe, whilst Cusack is a capable actor he does have a tendency to overact, something which he does repeatedly in this film. Luke Evans plays the role of Inspector Fields, the detective whom Poe assists with the investigation, Evans delivers a very stiff performance with quite clenched expressions throughout, he isn't the worst in the film but he didn't impress me in the least. Brendan Gleeson appears in the role of Captain Hamilton, the father of Poe's sweetheart Emily. Gleeson is great as always but he's given such a confined and badly written role that there's really nothing he can do to make anything out of it. The role of Edgar's love interest Emily Hamilton is played Alice Eve, the role itself is so drastically crafted that I'm left unsure of Eve's actual potential since no actress outside of Meryl Streep could have done much with such a one-dimensional character.

Inspector Fields (left) and Edgar Allen Poe (right).

'The Raven' delivers its best moments during the grisly murders conducted by the films villain who carries out each killing as an adaption of one of Poe's stories. These scenes feature a cleverer approach to killing that is akin to a film like 'Saw' where the traps set out by the murderer are cerebral in nature. The films frankly terrible script diminishes these brief moments of wit though, since the movie is packed full of utterly cringeworthy dialogue and some unbearably cheesy writing. Another flaw in relation to the script concerns how the characters behave unnaturally, Poe in particular reacts to situation in an incredibly "written" fashion and Inspector Fields has no other discernible qualities that prevent him from being simply the stereotypical 19th century police officer.

The movie is clearly attempting to capitalise on the success of the Guy Pierce directed 'Sherlock Holmes' it very evidently takes a similar tone and attempts to turn Poe into the unpredictable hero persona similar to Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. In 'The Raven' it is so poorly executed that Poe ends up as not only someone the audience can't relate with, but also one they aren't even going to like. I'm not sure why this film exists to be honest, if it wasn't to tap into the market of people wanting more films similar to Guy Pierce's 'Sherlock Holmes' then it most likely would not exist. Through using a famous literary figure from history and basing the story on the last days of his life which still remain a mystery, the creation of this picture seemed like it would make a great profit for the studio, however disappointingly for them it made 4 million dollars less than its budget rendering 'The Raven' a commercial flop.

Thanks to Cusack's overacting, the Edgar Allen Poe in this film seems more like a Hollywood creation than anything, the elements of the real man are here such as his troubled life and alcoholism but the movie ignores exploring the inner workings of its main character in favour trying to impress the audience with theatrics. The lead female is merely in the film to be the damsel in distress that shocks Poe into action and nothing more, her presence in the film lacks enough substance to consider her as any semblance of a rounded character.

Brendan Gleeson appears in a sadly underwritten role.

'The Raven' doesn't really waste time with any scenes that aren't required in the story, as from the second Poe is on the case the story progresses from murder to murder and deals with the solving of the case efficiently. The movie however still seems to drag despite its even pace, this is partly due to some of the bad dialogue but mostly down to the fact that the plot is made uninteresting due to its dull characters, predictable situations and disappointing reveals including the identity of the film's villain. There is a pick-up in both interest and pace towards the end of the movie but sadly it isn't enough to redeem what has already been such a dull viewing experience.

With a lot more work 'The Raven' could have been greatly improved, a total script overhaul and better casting could well have delivered a more enjoyable and certainly more profitable film than this. It may be a somewhat well intentioned tribute to Edgar Allen Poe but the quality of the film and its poor excuse for writing are an insult to the man who is widely considered one of the great literary minds.

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