Friday, April 27, 2012

The Raven (2012) - Movie Review

The Raven is the true story of how the Baltimore Ravens were founded.  Wait...I'm being tapped on the shoulder and reminded that this isn't what the movie is about.  Sorry, I'm distracted by the ongoing NFL draft.

John Cusack plays Edgar Allan Poe, some obscure writer that nobody has ever heard of.  Okay, enough kidding around.  There actually was some unusual circumstances surrounding Poe's death.  The story is that he was found wandering around Baltimore, delirious and wearing someone else's clothing and died shortly after being taken to the hospital.  Little is known or understood about how he got there or what happened.

The Raven attempts to add some story to the week leading up to his death.  A mysterious murder is committed that has confounded the police.  When a detective (Luke Evans) realizes that the murder has a similarities to one of Poe's previous works, he interrogates Poe and considers him a suspect.  However, when the murders continue and are also inspired by his work, Poe is asked to help find the serial killer.  Later, the killer directly challenges Poe to stop him, which his fiancée's (Alice Eve) life in the balance.

Contrived premises involving a real event always kind of bug me.  Let's take something that actually happened, but little is known about, and force a story around it.  It can work, if done well and adds some depth to what we already know.  In this case, you don't really learn anything compelling about Poe other than he was an alcoholic and broke.  I actually think a docu-thriller would have worked better, rather than just being a pure work of fiction.  I guess as far as making people interested in Poe it might have that effect, but I think a lot of the references in the movie would probably be lost on people not heavily familiar with his work.

While The Raven is bloodier than I expected, it still felt like it pulled some punches.  At one point a character jams a needle through a hole in an attempt to injure a person and you hear a 'squish', but then later, you see that the person is uninjured, so what was the noise for?  To fake us out?  I would have thought something based on Edgar Allan Poe would have been darker or more disturbing, but it's just not scary or all the suspenseful.  Plus, the other issue is that there's really nothing new here.  A copycat serial killer has been done many times before.

It is a nice looking movie though and has a good cast.  Luke Evans is a totally underrated actor and I wish he'd start getting some stronger roles.  One of my favorite actors, Brendan Gleeson, is wasted in a small roll again.  Alice Eve is striking but really isn't given much to do.  Initially, I thought John Cusack might have been miscast as Poe, but I didn't find anything wrong with his performance.  He brought some unexpected humor to a otherwise drab movie.

I was expecting a little more from The Raven, as it was directed by James McTeigue, who's best known for V for Vendetta, a movie I've always enjoyed.  I don't think he could ever settle on a tone for the film, so it's all over the place.  The script by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare is very thin.  There's very little depth to any of the characters.  Overall, there's just nothing to sink your teeth into.

The Raven is an example of a movie that was based on a decent enough idea, but the execution was poor.  It's just kind of lifeless and it felt like something was missing the whole time.  I didn't think it was a terrible movie, but it drags on a bit.  I was surprised after the movie to see that it was only 100 minutes long.  It certainly felt longer.  This is the type of movie that's much better suited for a rental on a rainy day.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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