Quoth the Raven: ‘Nope’
By Nathan Clark
Edgar Allen Poe. His name alone is enough to conjure up images of horrific death and darkness.
If his name doesn’t sound familiar, his work should. Elements from his stories have been seen in hundreds of movies, books and television shows. So isn’t it about time for there to be murder-mystery movie about Poe? The short answer is no.
“The Raven,” starring John Cusack as Poe, is a dark “what if” murder-mystery set in 1849; the year Poe died of unknown causes. Investigating a recent double murder, Detective Fields (played by Luke Evans) begins to notice eerie similarities between the case and one of Poe’s stories. Shortly after questioning Poe, there is another victim found slaughtered similar to another one of Poe stories.
Poe was a brilliant writer, a heavy drinker and a deeply troubled man. The film generously portrays him as a great writer, underappreciated by uncultured philistines in the 1800s, and a man who takes a drink every 10 minutes. Yet the film inexplicably fails to show the dark side of Poe.
Maybe it’s just me, but Cusack’s portrayal of Poe seemed too upbeat to be taken seriously. Granted, I doubt Poe was sad and dark every day of his life, but his sadness seemed to be missing during much of the movie.
The movie however, does a great job of making the environment look and feel like it is taking place in the late 1800s, but that’s not too hard to accomplish. Remove all color, add some fog, punch out the sun, throw some scratchy clothes on the actors and you’ve got yourself a period piece.
Poe is a classic American icon. Taking his life’s work and reducing it to a mediocre murder mystery seems cheap and sleazy. The only positive thing that might come out of this movie is maybe more people will go check out Poe’s work.
GENRE: MURDER MYSTERY
RUN TIME: 111 MINUTES