The Raven (2012)

The Raven
Director: James McTeigue
Writer: Hannah Shakespeare, Ben Livingston
Cast: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jimmy Yuill, Sam Hazeldine
Seen on: 9.5.2022

Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is not what one would consider a successful writer. Barely making enough money, poverty exacerbated by a drinking problem, he has really nothing but a bit of infamy. He would like to marry Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), and she him, but her father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) disapproves. When a mother and daughter turn up murdered just like in one of of Poe’s stories, the suspicion of the police fall on him at first. Especially when another body turns up. But Poe can convince Detective Fields (Luke Evans) that he is not to blame. Instead, they team up to find the killer before he can use another of Poe’s stories.

Although the film is loosely inspired by some circumstances of Poe’s life, you should not make the mistake of thinking it is any way, shape, or form realistic. It’s the fever dream version of Poe’s last weeks of life. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly interesting fever dream.

The film poster showing Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) walking fiercely, gun in hand. In the background behind him stretch a pair of red wings in which we can see a crying woman, a dead body and men looking fiercely.

I didn’t expect much of The Raven, I will admit. I vaguely remembered it tanking when it came out ten years ago. At the very least, I know that it didn’t receive very positive reviews at the time. But I was looking for something light that wouldn’t ask too much of my braincells and The Raven seemed to fulfill those criteria. And that turned out a pretty accurate assessment on my part.

Unfortunately, lightness doesn’t equal entertainment qualities, and the film is certainly lacking there. I think the biggest issue I had was that it was both too serious and not serious enough. It would have needed both a lot more glee to make the grizzly murders work, and a little more actual character work to make Poe, Emily or Fields more than cardboard cutouts. (Emily, in particular, practically the only woman to get to speak in the film, only to be quickly damseled.)

Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) talking rather intimately with Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack).

If the film had leaned more into the melodrama (and honestly, it’s a film that screams for melodrama, I’m surprised they didn’t go all the way), I might have forgotten that serial killers are something rather modern, at least in the way we think of them. Here we get a very modern serial killer in 1849 and that just doesn’t fit.

I really thought that I could lean back and enjoy the film. Instead I found myself glancing at my phone more and more. It just couldn’t hold the tension, not even between Fields and Poe who probably get the most attention of the film overall. The fic should be writing itself, but I couldn’t even be bothered to think about it. That’s how lackluster the film feels.

Detective Fields (Luke Evans) standing next to Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack)

Summarizing: a whole lot of meh.

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