April 30, 2012
Movie Monday: The Raven
How you feel about The Raven may depend on how you feel about John Cusack. I think he's a bit of a national treasure and the not-boyfriend likes to make fun of him. Thus, it was a good choice of movie for us to see together. (We were accompanied by a mutual friend because we roll like that on our not-dates.)
Just watching the trailer, you can probably see what happened. One executive went, "We need an answer to Sherlock Holmes!" Someone answered, "Edgar Allen Poe! Intoxication! Detectives! Murder!" Thankfully, it seems that a decent number of the people making the movie actually read Poe at some point in their lives. Now, I'm not praising The Raven for historical accuracy. I'm just saying they don't try to pretend Poe is a master detective. He's a poor, drunken poet and critic who gets wrapped up in a series of murders because the killer takes inspiration from his words. The police notice and ask Poe to help them figure out what the killer will do next.
Back to John Cusack. He tries to be Poe, honestly. Poe has some wonderfully twisty lines, to show off his intellect. Cusack speaks the speech trippingly and does a beautiful job of getting the words out. He is, however, never convincing as a drunkard or a temperamental man. The Raven may give Cusack a pale complexion and a receding hairline, but it can't conceal his charisma. He's more of a puppy dog than a scavenging bird. Despite the prettiness of Poe's dialogue, the best lines came from people's reactions to him. To paraphrase:
Poe (trying to buy a drink without money): "I'm a poet! I'm POE!"
Dude at bar who could care less: "Well, that's a given."
The most pleasant surprise was Alice Eve as Emily Hamilton, the love interest. In her first scenes I kept thinking, "Oh, you're dead. Dead, dead, dead. You are doomed, love interest. The narrative is calling for your blood." I mean, I liked her. She had some spunk.
Poe: "I love you. Most ardently!"
Emily: "That's nice. You gonna put a ring on it?"
Emily: "Do it at my birthday ball. Too many witnesses for my dad to shoot you."
But, when she gets inevitably kidnapped by the killer, I assumed it would be too late to save her and she'd die sadly in Poe's arms. So I rejoiced when the movie cut to her in captivity. Because Emily doesn't sit pretty and pine for her Edgar. She disassembles her corset and sets to rescuing herself. Seriously, the guys I was with compared her to The Bride.
The Raven is mostly what you're expecting. It is a deeply silly, psuedo-historical detective story shot in a blue color palette. There's gore. (I closed my eyes during the Pit and the Pendulum scene.) There's a shallow love story. There's a serious policeman (Luke Evans) who plays second fiddle to the detective. If that's what you like, you'll enjoy the movie. To me, you're better off renting The Raven than going to see it in theaters.