Sunday, April 29, 2012
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the grandfathers of horror. You find a writer who writes most of their work in the horror genre these days and they were either influenced directly by or influenced by people whose work were influenced by Poe (myself included). The man himself was said to have died under mysterious circumstances (he was found after having gone missing for 5 days, drunk out of his skull and yelling about a man named "Reynolds"). A Hollywood screenwriter I guess who was a fan of Poe's biography picked up on this and wrote a largely fictionalized account of what Poe's last days involved when he "disappeared". A similar film was made about another famous writer who vanished for a short period of time (1979's Agatha starring Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave, a fictionalized account of the 11 days Agatha Christie went missing in 1926). I guess whether you like the film or not hinges on how much real-life Poe stuff is involved and how you feel about the murder investigation which is the chief plot of the movie.
Well, for those who want an accurate portrayal of Poe and his life, by all accounts, it's pretty accurate. Poe is a drunk, he hates Rufus Griswold (who wrote his obituary in real life after he died) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (who he hated for some reason), his destitute economical situation, his marriage to his wife Virginia, being kicked out of Westpoint, screaming for Reynolds when he died in an asylum, it's all in there, even shown or mentioned. However, there is still things that did not happen (and we're not talking about the murder mystery either), stuff like he didn't actually own a house in Baltimore (as he was too poor), his relationship with Emily Hamilton (complete fiction) and when he was found just before he died, he was not wearing his own clothes, but someone else's (a minor point but in real life it showed his death may have been helped along by someone else). So, if you're thinking this is a true reflection of Poe's life, like a lot of "autobiographical" films, there are elements of truth and elements of fiction and it depends what you're comfortable with in that regard.
So, on to the murder mystery. I think it was okay, it was clever to have the murderer kill people like people died in some of Poe's works (such as The Pit and the Pendulum and the Cask of Amontillado) and the mystery itself is good enough to keep you guessing who the murderer is (though I narrowed it down quickly to where they at least worked). I think the murderer when revealed is a little bit of "been there, done that" and their motives are fairly generic, which is a little disappointing, I think the premise of the film is better than the execution of the film. I liked John Cusack as Poe, he brought some life and wit to the role. I liked Luke Evans as the secondary character, the inspector trying to catch the murderer. Everyone else is fine, but not noteworthy. I did not find the romance stuff between Poe and Emily very convincing, for some reason it didn't work for me, maybe it was the age difference, I don't know, but it just smacked a little forced to me.
However, I did overall enjoy the movie. I thought it had great atmosphere, it reminded me a lot of From Hell which I enjoyed, though I liked that film a little better if for no other reason than I thought the story was a little better in From Hell and had more to do with actually finding Jack the Ripper where this one, the investigation takes longer to get to as they're trying to establish the relationship between Poe and Emily. That's not to say it was bad or anything, but for my own personal tastes, I think they could have got on with getting Poe involved with the mystery a little sooner. Also, at the end of the day, putting Emily in danger with the murderer was not needed because the police already identified they needed Poe and would have made him help them regardless if Emily was in peril or not, so that was a bit superfluous as well.
In the end, The Raven is a nice movie that could have been better. I liked Cusack as Poe, I think the premise was great, I liked the atmosphere of the movie, but I thought the film was somewhat generic for what it had to work with, I didn't think the romance was really needed or really worth the time invested in it and I'm going to give it a good rating, but not a great one.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.