The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Raven | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Raven

Directed by: James McTeigue
Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson

John Cusack does for Edgar Allen Poe what Robert Downey Jnr did for Sherlock Holmes, and if you think that's a good thing then please shut down your browser and never cast your eyes over this site again.
Hollywood has recently caught on to the idea that if they exploit famous literary characters they can save on paying for rights as it's all public domain material. Guy Ritchie has already desecrated the work of Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burrough's "John Carter" is in theatres as I write and later this year we'll get "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". As usual Tinseltown is behind the game with this tactic, Hammer and AIP were doing this back in the fifties and sixties, the difference is they did it well, respecting the material whilst updating it for the audiences of the times. There are few classic literary adaptations that stand up to Hammer's "Curse Of Frankenstein" or AIP's Roger Corman directed Poe series.
Here we get Cusack playing Poe in the final days of his life, the twist being a series of murders copied from the writer's own stories plaguing Baltimore. Sounds like a winner right? Well this isn't 1963 and this isn't a Hammer production. Now I'm not naive enough to think that Hammer made films out of any love of cinema, they were just out to make a quick buck. The difference between Hammer and the modern major studios is that they had a respect for their audience, something which Hollywood lost years ago. 
There are a lot of really talented people working in the American film industry but most of them are in the technical departments. I feel sorry for them because when it comes to the creative departments Hollywood has never had such a shallow talent pool. The editor of this is Niven Howie, he's been working consistently for the past twenty years, if he didn't know what he was doing this wouldn't be the case. The director is James McTeigue. He became a director by working as an Assistant Director for the Wachowski brothers. Need I say more? Thelma Schoonmaker couldn't make sense of the footage a hack like McTeigue would present her with. The editing here is nonsensical, scenes crash into one another so clumsily that by the time you realise it's a new scene we're already onto the next one. Is this the fault of Howie or McTeigue? I would bet my life on the latter. 
Cusack is a great comedy actor and that's nothing to be ashamed of, there aren't very many about anymore. As a dramatic actor he just doesn't cut it, no matter how hard he tries he's always John Cusack. Here he plays a character who was known for being abrasive and unlikable. I've no problem with a lead character being unlikable but when they are downright irritating, as is Cusack's Poe, it's hard to take. Add in the horribly pretentious dialogue and his rapid-fire delivery and it's one of the most grating performances of any year.
It's an incredibly wordy script for what is essentially a horror flick and scenes drag on while at the same time confusing the audience with badly written nineteenth century pigeon English. 
There's so much that rubbed me the wrong way about this film; unintelligible direction, too much dialogue, bland and dimly lit cinematography, overly dramatic music, CGI blood, and a poor use of colour. Why do so many film-makers think people only wore dark clothing before the last century? Take a look at any pre-twentieth century paintings and you'll see clothes so colourful they would be considered loud at a pimp's convention. Dark clothing is a very recent trend and only came to prominence thanks to The Beatles. If you don't want to use colour then shoot in black and white!
Not many film-makers would dare butcher Shakespeare but when it comes to writers like Poe and Conan Doyle, Hollywood treats them with the same respect it affords to cinemagoers, miniscule.