July 6, 2012

The Raven (2012)

"When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's works, a young Baltimore detective joins forces with Poe to stop him from making his stories a reality."

Even though "The Raven" kept me entertained all the way to the end, this is the same kind of historically inaccurate thing which I've hated ever since "From Hell" (2001). Actually, I think my loathing of movies where the accents aren't right, the speech is too modern for the time, and other anachronisms abound, began with "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991), but it's probable that there are even worse examples in existence which I can't remember.

Because life is too short for bad movies, I'm going to keep my review of this awfulness as brief as possible. You already know that "The Raven" could be summed up in one four-letter word, but it wouldn't be very informative if I was to just post that word 72 points high with no explanation.

I'll deal with the good bits first. Unfortunately, they are all copied from better movies. There are at least four scenes in particular which are so close to the far superior "Masters of Horror" episode, "The Black Cat" that I'm surprised nobody filed a lawsuit about it. It's absolutely ridiculous that multi-million dollar movies can keep ripping each other off like this, but woe betide anyone who downloads them for free. Copyright theft is still theft, and if I can see it, so can a judge. I'm amazed at how The Asylum gets away with what they are doing over and over again too, but that's another matter. Ironically, Edgar Allan Poe himself was vehemently against the plagiarism which saturated the newspapers and other journals of his own time.

The gory bits in "The Raven" are, of course, quite superb, but obviously, I've seen all those set pieces done better in other movies as well. Maybe there is some hidden "meta" subtext to this movie about a serial killer using the works of the famous horror writer for inspiration which I missed the point of. For me, this all looked like cheating, laziness, and a demonstration of utter contempt for the audience.

If someone wants to make a historically accurate movie about the life of Edgar Allan Poe, I have nothing against it, but "The Raven" is a great example of how not to do it. It may not be quite as bad as the lack of thought which went into "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", except for the slow-motion bullets, but it's certainly up there with the Robert Downey Jr. "Sherlock Holmes" movies. You could swap any of the characters or actors from any of these films and still come up with the same product.

I suppose I ought to say something about the uneven acting. While some of the performers such as Luke Evans (as Detective Fields) and Alice Eve (as Emily Hamilton) actually put some effort in, it's painfully obvious that John Cusack (as Edgar Allan Poe) isn't even trying to play anyone other than himself.

John Cusack is a damned good actor usually and he's always watchable, but clearly, he didn't do much more this time than allow the make-up people to attach a silly little beard to his chin and think that was all the preparation that he needed for the part. Okay, so that may not be entirely accurate as he also did his fair share of promoting the movie in interviews, but you can tell that he was only chosen as a "name" to sell this crap to the masses anyway.

Although it would be very tempting to blame everything on John Cusack's performance, the truth of the matter is that whoever did the casting is the one who really screwed it all up. The internal logic of the film is actually okay, and there isn't a lot wrong with the script if you like this far-fetched kind of thing. The trouble is that nobody fits their roles apart from the Liverpudlian stage-hand who is the only one who has the right accent for the time.

Another very bad thing is the distinct lack of black cats in the movie. There is an already dead one at the start which is shown being eaten by ravens but nevermore. See what I did there? I really wanted there to be a cat, so I was a little bit annoyed that some bright spark thought it would be clever to replace Poe's famous pet which he carried round on his shoulders with a raccoon! I like raccoons, but it makes absolutely no sense that he would have one other than a nod towards the suspicion that the real Poe's death may have been due to rabies. That myth has nothing to do with ending of this movie anyway.

I could go through all the anachronisms such as the "Serial Killer" headline on the newspaper about a hundred years before anybody even thought of such a term, but I'm sure you can Google them or see them stand out in glaringly obvious ways should you be unlucky enough to watch "The Raven" yourself.

As I said at the beginning, "The Raven" certainly entertained me, but unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons.

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