Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Raven (2012) **

R, 110 min.
Director: James McTeigue
Writers: Ben Livingston, Hannah Shakespeare
Starring: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin R. McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Sam Hazeldine

The whole great American poet as action hero thing just doesn’t work. The occupation of the villain makes him an even less likely candidate for his role in this action/mystery than Edgar Allan Poe as the hero. I suppose “The Raven” is a descent enough thriller, I just had a problem watching Poe race through the woods in a gun fight with this villainous mastermind who apparently inspired the V character in director James McTeigue’s earlier film “V for Vendetta”, at least with his fashion sense.

The film is appropriately moody and atmospheric. It’s nice to see a couple of Poe’s more sinister plot machinations visualized on screen for the first time in a long while, but the whole thing plays a little more like a comic book than it should. I think the filmmakers want us to take this seriously as an adventure Poe might’ve actually had in his last days. There’s no sense of any tongue in cheek about the proceedings here. The period costume and production design is impeccable, and yet it falls short.

Should Poe be better at this game of catching killers than Baltimore’s best detective? Should he have any clue how to use a gun? Why isn’t he more of a suspect in these murders based on his stories than he is? The police suggest he’s a suspect and just as quickly dismiss it so they can use him to consult on these grisly murders. Wouldn’t the stakes have been raised more if it really looked like Poe had committed the crimes?

“The Raven” just doesn’t work for me. I suppose it’s worth a look for Poe fans, but those who don’t even know who Poe is might have an easier time enjoying themselves. I would’ve much rather seen Poe’s story “The Raven” visualized on the screen once again than watch a murder mystery that actually involved Poe himself.

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