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John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, crime-solver, could have been great. It isn't.

click to enlarge Needs more forehead.
  • Needs more forehead.

Oh, I so wanted to love this flick. Two hot guys — John Cusack and Luke Evans — hunt down a killer in 1840s Baltimore. A killer inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. And one of the investigators is Poe himself? There is too much awesome in this fantastic (and fantastical) premise for a proper geek girl like myself to be properly rational about her anticipation. I know I expected too much. But, you know, the movie — it sort of promised a lot.

The Raven is not a terrible film. But it’s not an especially good one, either. It comes nowhere near living up to its “Edgar Allan Poe solves mysteries” potential. It’s pretty much a standard serial killer flick dressed up in 19thcentury drag.

I’m not even complaining about anachronism. That’s not the issue. What’s missing from The Raven is a sense of intellectual discovery. I know this is a lot to expect from Hollywood, but I stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that. There’s no reason why this movie couldn’t be smarter than it is without being any less gory or actiony or whatever it is that Hollywood thinks

audiences want to see. But the script, by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, cannot be bothered, and neither can director James McTeigue, which is truly mysterious, because his V for Vendetta managed to combine brains and brawn brilliantly.

The Raven almost understands Poe early on, with a wonderful early scene in which he goes up against his newspaper editor, who demands Poe write more sensational gory horror fiction

and stop writing the depressed and angry poetry criticism he prefers to write. The movie runs right up to something interesting, has it right on the tip of its tongue, but then it’s all hey! Look over here! Pretty blonde lady in danger!

The killer models his murders on stuff that happens in Poe’s fiction and yet nothing here feels very Poe-ish. The red herrings are uninteresting, and the final resolution to the mystery feels rushed and pointless.

It’s all a crying, bleeding shame. Perhaps someday John Cusack will have a chance to do Poe real justice in a better movie. The actor deserves it, the writer deserves it, and we deserve it.

THE RAVEN
Rated
PG-13
Directed by
James McTeigue
Starring
John Cusack, Luke Evans

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