James McTeigueâ€™s â€œThe Raven,â€ which opened April 27, had all the makings of a thoroughly entertaining film. Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is an unsung hero of American literature whose genius continues to terrify millions centuries after his untimely and mysterious death. He was truly one of Americaâ€™s first great literary minds. After I found out the movie was rated R, my expectations grew even more as I envisioned the film would more accurately portray the macabre stories that chilled my youthful bones as I lie awake in the late evening digesting â€œThe Raven,â€ â€œThe Tell-Tale Heart,â€ â€œAnnabel Lee,â€ and many others in an attempt to allude the Sandman. The film, however, fails â€“ miserably.
The filmâ€™s premise is intriguing. A serial killer is on the loose using Poeâ€™s work of fiction as the backdrop for his grisly murders. Poe, after being questioned by detective Fields (Luke Evans), is forced to use his uniquely morbid mind to catch the killer after his fiancÃ© Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) is abducted by the killer. The two play a game of cat and mouse in an effort to rescue Hamilton. And, this all takes place during the final days of Poeâ€™s life, which historically is little known.
The opening scene involves an incapacitated Poe staring from a park bench at the early morning moon before the screen turns black with the exception of a paragraph explaining the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poeâ€™s final days. What follows is a mess. McTeigueâ€™s film has no direction, and itâ€™s truly difficult to care about Hamilton, Fields or any of the other poorly underdeveloped characters. McTeigue does a fair job with Poe, but really the credit goes to Cusack for bringing Poe to life by portraying the literary genius as an inebriated elitist whose vocabulary leaves those around him dumbfound and angry â€“ presumably at having to be confronted by their own ignorance. Furthermore, Cusack looks remarkably similar to Poe.
Though the film is a work of fiction, what really makes it unbearable are the historical inaccuracies that would make even the most passive Poe enthusiast cringe. What caused the authorâ€™s death is still a mystery, although a recent study by the University of Maryland Medical Center decided rabies was the most likely cause of death, but the directorâ€™s outlandish story of Poe willingly giving his life to save his love after days of heroically chasing a serial killer through the streets of Baltimore is difficult to swallow â€“ more so than the shot of poison Poe takes toward the end of the film. Furthermore, Poeâ€™s fiancÃ© was named Elmira not Emily, and they were engaged in Richmond and not Baltimore. And although Poe is widely known to have been a raging alcoholic, he had been sober for roughly six months prior to his death and refused alcohol even while on his death bed. So, portraying him as a drunk unable to resist the fire water simply plays into the negative perception many Poe detractors painted immediately following the authorâ€™s death â€“ there were many.
â€œThe Raven,â€ did have its moments and provided a few entertaining twists and turns. Cusackâ€™s portrayal of Poe was refreshing, and Alice Eve is quite pleasing to the eyes. Unfortunately, the two actors simply couldnâ€™t bear the weight of the rubbish around them. The film concluded as it opened with a delusional Poe staring toward the sky as his time on Earth expired. I believe at that moment Cusack was asking himself whether anyone should watch his film for which Iâ€™m sure he concluded â€œNever more.â€
â€œThe Ravenâ€ is rated R for bloody violence and grisly images.