I suppose that I shall start by saying that, even though the film is called The Raven (and features plenty of ravens within the film), it has nothing at all to do with Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem (if you want an adaptation, watch the 1963 Vincent Price film). I suppose the title is meant as a way for people to easily associate the film with Poe.
The film fictionalizes Poe’s (John Cusack) latter days, in which he is no longer that well known (and a bit of an alcoholic). A serial killer begins to terrorize Baltimore with kills inspired by Poe’s stories. As such, the detective on the case, Fields (Luke Evans) recruits Poe to help solve the murders. Things are made personal when the killer kidnaps Poe’s fiance Emily (Alice Eve).
I have to say that this film left me with some very mixed feelings. As a Gothic mystery, the film is somewhat watchable for the bulk of the time. That said, there was quite a bit in this film that did not rub me the right way.
For starters, I think that John Cusack was miscast as Poe. His first scene in which he’s a raving drunk (and almost reminiscent of crazy Nicolas Cage) was almost unbearable to watch. Things get better with him as the film goes on, however I never saw the character as Edgar Allan Poe. I saw him as John Cusack trying to play Edgar Allan Poe. They really should have cast an actor with a darker demeanor for the role (heck, even Cage might have worked).
Alice Eve was constantly bad in the film, though I wouldn’t blame it on her, since the bulk of her “role” in the film involved looking scared and begging the unseen killer to let her go (with the camera right in her face). My opinion of the film definitely went down everytime she was on screen. I also have to make a comment about Brendan Gleeson, who plays Emily’s father Captain Hamilton. He has one of the most inconsistent character arcs I have ever seen. At the start of the film, he absolutely hates Poe (and even threatens to shoot him). However, when we see him much later on, he is mysteriously much more tolerant of Poe (and almost nice). The actor I really had no problem with in the film was Luke Evans, who gave a competent enough performance. It was probably because he is playing a no-nonsense character.
Another problem I had with the film can probably be more directly blamed on the desires of director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta). Like I said, despite all the bad acting I just mentioned, the actual plot of the film is somewhat watchable. However, I do have an issue with an (unnecessary) scene in which we see one of the deaths in full gory detail.
Now, I have nothing against grisly images in the film (and there are plenty throughout), however the bulk of the victims are found posthumously. As such, this death scene, which is like something you would see in the Saw movies, sticks out like a sore thumb (I’m not going to directly spoil the scene, though images from it appear in the trailer). I’m guessing that McTeigue put this scene in the film, just so he can shoot, what is most definitely, the most elaborate death in the film.
Then of course there’s the mystery itself. I was actually afraid at one point that the film’s writing and editing might have given away the identity of the killer early. However, I am happy to say that the revelation of the killer is truly a surprise (even if it is a bit out of nowhere). In addition, I do have to say that the moment Edgar Allan Poe comes face-to-face with the killer is probably the best scene of the film.
In the end, I’m going to give the film a mild pass. There’s a lot I didn’t like about the film and I’m in no rush to see it again, but I thought that story came together nicely enough that I did not feel that I wasted my time.
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”