Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has said that the writing of Edgar Allan Poe inspired his Sherlock Holmes stories. It's not too much of a stretch then for a movie in which Edgar Allan Poe tracks down a serial killer whose murders mimic Poe's stories.
John Cusack plays the famous author and delivers a performance that keeps you entertained throughout the film. However, a lack of focus and predictable plot elements prevent The Raven from being a standout film.
The Raven is a fictional tale that fills in the gaps of Poe's final days. Although Edgar Allan Poe is relatively well known at the time, he's broke and alcoholism prevents him from creating another great story. He's working on selling his latest piece and is planning to re-marry, when the police call on him. It is revealed that a serial killer's murders are very similar to Edgar Allan Poe's stories and the police require Poe's help to catch him.
I enjoyed John Cusack's performance as Edgar Allan Poe and watching him dive into that character's many personality traits at the beginning of the film. Unfortunately, once the killer is made known, the movie turns into a fairly by-the-numbers detective story and we don't get to see Cusack shine in the way he did at the start.
Cusack is supported by a solid cast that helps keep your interest throughout the movie, including Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. With the lesser actors this movie could have been a complete disaster, but you can't go wrong with people like Brendan Gleeson, who elevates any movie he's in.
This movie could have been very close to Se7en, providing a graphic period detective piece that is worthy of Poe's name. Or the filmmakers could have taken another route and provided an over-the-top PG-13 adventure similar to Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes movies. One problem with The Raven is that they tried to do a little bit of both at the same time and it results in a mixed experience for the audience.
A bigger issue is that killer and mystery aspects of the film are poorly developed. Unfortunately, audience members with a sharp eye should be able to easily determine who is responsible. Even if you don't, the end reveal doesn't really have the kind of impact that will shock or surprise you.
This movie is directed by James McTeigue, who also directed V for Vendetta, so he knows how to make a good movie. Visually, the movie is impressive and I enjoyed looking at the various period set pieces that were created for the film. I feel that the script didn't allow Cusack to fully run with Poe throughout the entire film and it may not have been clear who the audience for this movie was at the time they started shooting.
The Raven is an entertaining movie and not a complete disaster, but I'm often disappointed when a movie cannot achieve its full potential with a solid cast and crew. In this case, you have a talented director in McTeigue, John Cusack as a charismatic Poe, and a strong supporting cast. I think everyone is giving it their all here, but the story plays it too safe and the movie doesn't rely on its real strengths. If you're a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, period horror films, or John Cusack, you should have fun with this movie. However, I feel that there was a wasted opportunity to create something great.
Film Score: 2.5/5