The Raven is directed by James McTeigue and stars John Cusack in a fictional retelling of the last days of Edgar Allen Poe. Borrowing from the concept of the odd couple and detective fiction, the film sees Poe teaming up with a police detective to solve a series of grisly murders based on Poe’s work.
Now, McTeigue directed V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin. One of these is a great film and one of these is a fairly stupid film with stealth armies that tends to look great. If nothing else I expected Poe to look great visually. Unfortunately, it’s too dark and murky. Scenes are lit so there is very dark grey juxtaposed onto black, and any sense of depth within a location or drama from events and character interaction is lost in a sea of near impenetrable darkness.
John Cusack is always watchable, but here he is allied to a script which is ridiculous, dull and takes itself way too seriously. Poe is bitter and seemingly destined to forever lose the loves of his life, and spends his time railing against his contemporaries, calling them hacks and belittling them, trying to get drunk despite having no money, and trying to marry the daughter of a local businessman.
For the most part Cusack sticks to the script, and you get no sense of his own personality coming through rather than him acting. There is one point, however, where he shouts “huh?” and rather wrecks the illusion. Were the film better, it wouldn’t be quite as welcome.
The eventual reveal as to who the villain of the piece is isn’t much of a surprise. I don’t know if this was because it wasn’t surprising of indicative of how little I actually cared. I watched the entire film but a combination of my own ennui and the visuals led me to not actually care who the murderer was or their motives. Their motives seemed a little simplistic but, again, I put that down to the film not being very good.
As with a very bad Sherlock Holmes I once watched starring Rupert Everett, the film takes characters from a different era and tries enforcing modern sensibilities onto them. Unfortunately this manifests as modern clichés and plot devices that become even less credible and even more risible due to their anachronism. They stick out like a sore thumb, partially due to the very real lack of quality in the overall piece.