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Movie review: 'The Raven'

“The Raven” does Poe no justice.
Oklahoman Published: April 27, 2012

What would Edgar Allan Poe be doing if he were alive today? Clawing at the inside of his coffin, desperate to get at the people who used and abused his ingenious, diabolical tales as the basis for the pile of cinematic bird poo that is “The Raven.”

Like carrion feeders themselves, the filmmakers peck and gnash at Poe's stories to fill out a plot that sounds sort of cool in concept — a serial killer using the author's fiction as a blueprint for ghastly murders — but is featherheaded in execution.

John Cusack makes a terrible Poe, the somber role as one of literature's great tortured souls spotlighting his limitations as an actor. With his little goatee and his black cape, Cusack vaguely looks the part, but he's a lightweight — voice too whiny, mannerisms too exaggerated, cadence too reedy to bring alive the movie's frequent passages of Poe's lyrical writing.

Other than some stylishly gothic visuals crafted by director James McTeigue (“V for Vendetta”), “The Raven” is an unimaginative mess whose superficial appropriations of Poe's devilish yarns are deeply unworthy of the author.

An introductory sequence establishes Cusack's Poe as a garden-variety drunk, scruffy, squabbling, egomaniacal and perpetually penniless. Yet his popular stories of the macabre and his darkly romantic poetry keep him in favor with the ladies of Baltimore society. Particularly, with beautiful heiress Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), whom Poe hopes to marry, over the dead body of her disapproving dad (Brendan Gleeson).

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‘The Raven'

R1:501 ½ stars

Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson. (Bloody violence and grisly images)


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