As one of the pillars of American literature, it would only be fitting for a film about Edgar Allan Poe to be as dark and captivating as his works.
Unfortunately, “The Raven” is not that film.
“The Raven” is a fictional story about Poe’s final days in Baltimore in 1840. After a murder, detective Emmett Fields discovers that the circumstances are identical to those in Poe’s short story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”
Fields joins forces with Poe to track down the killer, who commits more murders that directly replicate Poe’s stories. This turns Poe into the detective and hero of a mystery that is similar to the ones he wrote.
What could have been a murder mystery, clever and grisly enough to please Poe himself, turns out to be a weak attempt at a chiller that is sure to anger fans of Poe and the macabre.
Under the guidance of James McTeigue, who directed the brilliant 2005 film “V For Vendetta,” it is surprising that “The Raven” comes up so short.
The mediocre dialogue and inconsistent acting conflict with the main premise, producing a film that is poorly executed.
John Cusack’s portrayal of Poe is definitely not one of the best of his career. He does not seem to fully immerse himself in the character as an actor should. He simply comes off as John Cusack dressed up as Poe.
The other actors are also very hit-or-miss. It usually is not a good sign when the performances given by bit actors are more convincing than those of the main cast, which is exactly the case in this film.
But the actors are not the only problem. Most of the scenes are overrun with sloppy dialogue, clichés and modern language that are obviously out of place in an 1840s setting.
Also, the character of Poe was loud, obnoxious and narcissistic during the first half of the film. The viewer is more likely to be annoyed by him rather than root for him.
However, despite these failures there are actually a handful of things that work in the film.
The dark and sinister visuals are aesthetically pleasing.
Fans of Poe should enjoy the killer’s murderous depictions of the familiar stories, as well as the incorporation of lines from some of his well-known poems, such as “Annabel Lee” and “A Dream Within a Dream.”
But not even these highlights can make up for what the film lacks in depth and complexity.
With such an interesting premise, the real tragedy of “The Raven” is that it does not live up to its great potential. It has the minimal amount of suspense and gore to grab the viewer’s attention, but it suffers from not having enough great film elements to keep it consistently exciting.
“The Raven” turns out to be more of an insult than an homage to Edgar Allan Poe and his classic works.
Danielle Navarro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.