“No aspect of his life has so fascinated Poe’s fans and detractors as his death. Unfortunately, there is also no greater example of how badly Poe’s biography has been handled. Shrouded in opinion and contradiction, the essential details of Poe’s final days leave us with more questions than answers. In the end we must accept that the few tantalizing facts we have lead to no certain conclusion. Poe’s death must, probably, remain a mystery — but the puzzle still teases and entices us. It is easy to find ourselves reviewing the stories again in hopes of finding something new, to settle the question once and for all.” - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore
The fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe is the basis for James McTeigue’s “The Raven,” a ridiculously unbelievable story. I went to the screening somewhat blindly. I enjoy the writings of Poe and I enjoy John Cusack, the actor portraying Poe in the film, but I guess I should have known better. Any time a movie attempts to tell a story about a real person in a fictionalized setting, is bound to have flaws. In “The Raven,” a serial killer is on the loose. The only connection to each murder is that each represents one the Poe’s writings. Poe’s girlfriend, Emily Hamilton (Alive Eve), could be the next victim, so Poe is sent to help Detective Fields (Luke Evans) discover who the killer is. Who is a better expert on Poe’s stories than Poe himself?
“The Raven” fails both as a biography and a mystery. First, Cusack appears to be playing Robert Downey Jr. playing Sherlock Holmes, the role Cusack apparently really wanted. Very little information is given about Poe’s personality except that he isn’t well-liked, has a drinking problem and isn’t financially stable. Evans makes no effort to make the character likeable. As far as the mystery goes, the “who-done-it” doesn’t give any clues on who the killer could be. The killer doesn’t even make an appearance until the last 15 minutes of the film. By the time of the big reveal, the viewer is less “I’m shocked” and more “who is that guy again?” Finally, the film has no redeeming value and is overly grisly. Poe had a knack for describing the macabre in an intelligent way. “The Raven” is way more “in your face” in its’ storytelling.
What “The Raven” does have going for it is that it is very stylish. McTeigue, known for “V for Vendetta” and the “Matrix” movies, certainly show’s his touch in that way. What may be the most mysterious thing about this movie is that, for a story about an American author, the film is very international. All of the filming took place in Belgrade, Serbia and Budapest, Hungary.
What could have been an exciting morality tale, ended up a bloody mess with a disappointing ending. Sorry John. You could have done so much more. (Originally posted on Examiner.com)