At The Movies: The Raven
I hate Hollywood.
You know, I thought that the recent Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. that re-imagined the drug-addicted intellectual super-sleuth as a martial arts expert/action hero were pushing it as far as raping the memories of classic literature went. However, if there was an even more ill-fitting person to get this ridiculous treatment, it's Edgar Allan Poe; this is especially true considering the fact that Poe was not a fictional character, but a REAL PERSON.
But, this seems to matter little to director James McTeigue and company, as The Raven is a fictionalized account of the life of the famous author and poet of the macabre as he is called into service by the Baltimore police department to track down a serial killer who is basing his murders on the fates of the characters in Poe's grisly short stories. Yes, folks, Poe has to play detective to solve crimes that originated in the pages of his own books, obviously perpetrated by a crazed fan of some sort, leading to Poe engaging in fast-paced shoot-outs and chase scenes while racing against the clock to save the life of the woman he loves.
How contrived and ultimately lame does that sound, especially considering the fact that the real Poe was plagued with maladies ranging from alcohol and drug addictions to cholera, heart disease, rabies, and tuberculosis? Hardly the action hero type, I would say.
Of course, we'll get to the secondary reasons why this movie is a miserable train wreck in a moment, but first I'd like to highlight The Raven's main shortcoming- its star, John Cusack, who plays Poe himself. Plainly put, the guy is as miscast for the role as Bea Arthur would be if called upon to play Adolph Hitler. Cusack is a gifted actor when it comes to comedies, but it appears that anything with a certain amount of gravitas is well beyond his reach. It certainly doesn't help that he spends the entire movie looking like it's the last place he'd rather be, which is kind of how I felt sitting in the movie theater watching this crappy movie.
As for the film itself, it ultimately fails because it's so incredibly boring. The real Poe was a complex and interesting (yet very flawed) guy, and I think a legit biopic would have been far more enticing than shoehorning him into this terrible Sherlock Holmes-wannabe of a movie. The rest of the cast is limited in number, and none of the characters are really given much if anything intriguing to say or do as the pace of the movie just kind of plods along. Luke Evans, who plays Detective Emmett Fields, and Emily Hamilton as Alice Eve, Poe's love interest that he spends his days drunkenly pining away for, are both almost as bland and uninspired as Cusack is.
And while the action scenes don't quite approach the utter ridiculousness of Robert Downey Jr.'s Holmes flicks, there are a few scenes that reek of that taint, such as one where Poe chases the killer on horseback while having a shootout with him. Considering the fact that the real Poe was a frail, sickly man (as mentioned above), this portrayal of him really didn't even come close to ringing true. It's a shame dead people can't sue filmmakers from beyond the grave.
So, here's my 200th review, and instead of reviewing something at least fun, which I'm sure this week's The Avengers will be, I get to review sewage with a plot shamelessly stolen from the life of a classic author who never asked for this stupid movie to be made to begin with. This treatment ranks right up there with the instant death known as the "remake" to me, folks, and it will never get my endorsement. At least, until it's done right.
And The Raven? It's not done right. Avoid.
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