‘The Raven’ is such an elegant film in every aspect: dialogue, setting, costumes, etc. Every scene is so delicate and it unravels rhythmically just like the poem, although at some points it does lack emotion and perhaps even tension. Director James McTeigue did a great job using the poem as a base, filling it in with a few facts about Edgar Allan Poe’s life and the city of Baltimore. More than anything I have to give him credit for inserting Poe into a poem of his by allowing him to play detective, it is an interesting twist to his work. This thriller/mystery film pays tribute to the author of the poem as well as the genre itself, by giving us an entertaining artistic story.
Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is the one who takes us by the hand throughout this story; he’s daring to earn a living as a writer by trying to get his work published at a local newspaper. No one seems to have any sympathy for the man, who is pretty arrogant, except for a few fans and his girlfriend Emily (Alice Eve). Poe gains credibility with his poem ‘The Raven’ and a book of grotesque stories of his which is also popular. These macabre stories begin to take a life of their own when a madman feels inspired by them. Between Poe and detective Fields (Luke Evans) they must try to solve each crime to determine the killer’s next step and catch him.
Poe spent a great deal of his life being a critic, which is a job mocked in the movie as being “easy”, but as one of the biggest writers in the world he was not easy on anyone. One definitely wonders how he would feel about this project, which made him a character inside one of his masterpieces. Just by the premise alone people will either be curious or turned off automatically. Cusack does a fine job at becoming Poe, his dialogue is illustrious but at times his rhymes and poetic prose become a bit irritating. His counterpart Evans on the other hand had flat conversations with Cusack about his romantic life and work, which was supposed to reassure the public about his respect for Poe but instead the conversations felt empty. Some of the action scenes are not very engaging, but the mystery that surrounds them is interesting.
This movie has a darkness and refinement that set a perfect mood for the tale; even the gruesome scenes have a neatness to them. The film is satisfying to a certain degree, it doesn’t disappoint, but it also seems to not want to strive for more. It’s very clean from beginning to end without taking too many risks, which perhaps was wise; since putting someone as idolized as Edgar Allan Poe as a main character is challenging for both director and fans considering that this is Poe in a different perspective.