THE RAVEN is like bad fan fiction dreamed up by some goth teen while watching SE7EN. Edgar Allen Poe’s life was so interesting on its own—filled with darkness, disease and drunkenness—that adding in some crazy, second-rate “Law and Order” story just seems unnecessary. While the final days leading up to the author’s death still remain a mystery, a thriller pretending Poe was off playing action star is silly at best…and at worst, boring.
I love Poe’s work and his imagery could be a perfect fit for a dark, bloody story like this. However, while hardcore fans of the writer might get a kick out of seeing his stories alluded to, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. As a procedural murder mystery, THE RAVEN is purely by-the-numbers. It has its moments occasionally (such as the gruesome “Pit and the Pendulum” murder), but overall the script offers no major surprises or sparks of creativity. And if there’s one thing Edgar Allan Poe should not be, it’s dull.
Cusack seems like an inspired choice for Poe, but he plays the famed author as a drunk, egotistical weirdo, living with a heart-eating raccoon and constantly yelling at people. It’s a bizarre choice, especially since it often hinders the character’s likability, but the bigger issue is Cusack’s lack of chemistry with co-star Alice Eve. Their romance is supposed to be the driving force for the entire film and you don’t really buy the two of them together. (Though it’s really not Eve’s fault since the script forces her to spend most of the movie literally doing nothing.)
James McTeigue’s direction offers some decent gore, a gothic atmospheric and generic action beats, but no finesse or subtlety to bring it all together. It’s so uninspired that it makes me believe the rumors that the Wachowskis had a hand in V FOR VENDETTA’s success.
Commentary by director James McTeigue and producers Marc Evans, Trevor Macy and Aaron Ryder: The four talk shop about the story, the actors and shooting on location in Eastern Europe. Nothing all that interesting.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:41): Six scenes, mostly just longer versions that don’t add too much.
THE RAVEN Guts: Bringing Death to Life (13:32): Your standard Making Of feature, with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Behind the Beauty and Horror (2:18): An even shorter fluff piece.
The Madness, Misery, and Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe (9:50): You get a decent history of Poe’s life, a background of his work and a bit on the mystery surrounding his death from some experts. A bit short, but still a good starting point for new fans of the author.
THE RAVEN Presents John Cusack & James McTeigue (2:45): The actor interviews the director, if you can call a two-minute chat an interview.
Music for THE RAVEN (5:10): Director McTeigue talks with the team behind the film’s score including composer Lucas Vidal.
A DVD and Digital Copy are also included.
It has its moments occasionally, but THE RAVEN is too generic a thriller to recommend. And it’s definitely not worthy of the master of the genre.
Extra Tidbit: Ewan McGregor and Joaquin Phoenix were originally up for the role of Poe before John Cusack.