Review: 4/10 Can of Whoop Ass
There is perhaps no sign of failure in film more telling than when it elicits an unintentional response from the viewer. It is proof that the film is hitting the wrong notes, at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons. This is the same reason why REALLY bad movies are actually fun to watch: they miss the mark by so much that it feels like a conscious effort towards satire. But at a lesser degree, because The Raven is not one of those TRULY awful films, the end sum is just an emotionally confusing, lackluster form of entertainment. I found myself laughing at parts of this movie that were not supposed to be funny and feeling awkward at parts that were. And above all, I felt a little sad that such a promising premise, full of historical intrigue, murder, and literary horror could fall so flat. And yet, there it lies.
But what a premise.
The Raven takes us back to the 19th
century, attempting to pencil in the last few days of perhaps the
of short fiction
In many regards, with such a strong premise leading the
way, this seems like it should be an easy film to make. All the
had to do was stay faithful to the source
handpick the very best out of the infinite amount of fascinating
exist in Poe’s collections of stories. In
other words, the writers only had to tell a story that was, in a sense,
written, using the material to direct the narrative.
But, with The Raven, I was reminded
very much of in
wrong? Primarily, this film suffers from
a lack of an identity, or more specifically, it suffers from too many
identities. The narrative action seems
to leapfrog from style to style, depending upon whatever a particular
wants to service, with no particular purpose or endgame in mind. Is The Raven meant to be a historical
film? A horror film? A character study of Poe? Romance? Murder mystery? It
seems to want to be all of these things,
and GREAT films can be many things at once: Forest Gump is just
as it is moving. But because The
Raven is predicated on such a particular person, time, and space
The film would have benefited from some likable characters. Poe is ostensibly the hero, but he is riddled with narcissism and self-destructive tendencies. Cusack plays Poe as the tortured genius that Poe probably was in real life, but that leaves his portrayal as whiney and annoying at times. A way to soften Poe’s moody temperament would have been to give him a comical sidekick, like a lackey or drinking buddy, or hell, even a raven that spoke from time to time (even if it is only to say “Nevermore” at the perfect moment). Instead, Poe is surrounded by people as abrasive as he is. The inspector, played by Luke Evans, is one of the most one-dimensional examples of acting I’ve ever seen. I bet if you go back, Evans doesn’t smile once, not once, throughout the entire film. NO ONE is that serious all the time. None of the other characters, from the villain himself, to the owner of the newspaper, to Emily’s father offer anything else but further examples of machismo and arrogance. I would have welcomed anything to break up the monotony of clever, serious men at each other’s throats. Emily is a breath of fresh air in her scenes, but unfortunately she spends most of the film trapped inside a wooden coffin. A custom soundtrack also would have gone a long way towards lending a unique identity to the film or lightening the mood, much how the Sherlock Holmes films are benefited by an original score.
The principle problem, as with all failed stories, is a lack of motivation. That is what creates engaging stories: well-formed characters with something at stake in the outcome of the tale. Why does the killer decide to recreate the murders in Poe’s stories? I won’t spoil who the killer turns out to be, but his reasoning is less than satisfactory. He even utters the line, “I think I went a little crazy,” which is of course absurd, as crazy people are not aware of their insanity. In the end, The Raven isn’t funny, it isn’t scary, and it isn’t all that interesting. How can a fictional account of a man’s life seem less interesting than his actual life appeared to be? Mostly, it’s just two hours of blah. And with all the possibilities laid out from such a fascinating premise, it’s a real bummer how shallow the film really is. Most damaging is that if this film should accomplish one thing, it should inspire the viewer to go check out Poe’s infamous stories, but alas, owing to the ambivalent nature of the film, I think most people will not be so inclined. Which is a shame.