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“The Raven”: Poe, Poe Pitiful Me!

May 1, 2012

Bruce Fretts: John Cusack IS Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven! Since I’m no Poe aficionado, I’ve recruited my pal Nancy Bilyeau–herself a best-selling mystery writer–to help me do the review. So what say you, Nancy: Did you run from the theater screaming “Nevermore!”?

Nancy: Oh that was just so painful, Bruce. I would have preferred two hours of watching a real raven peck at a carcass in the street.

Bruce: I walked out after an hour, it was so bad. Cusack should not be cast in period pieces. There’s something fundamentally modern about him. I kept waiting for Poe to hold a boombox over his head and try to woo Annabel Lee with a Peter Gabriel tune.

Nancy: John Cusack is a great actor, and there’s a germ of a good idea in this, to do a film on Poe and use his own eerie poems and frightening stories. But instead we’re left with a misbegotten mess. It’s like when bad movies happen to good actors–and good ideas.

Bruce:The premise is a serial killer is using Poe’s ideas to commit real crimes, but the movie is like a vile mix of Sherlock Holmes, with Cusack channeling Robert Downey Jr. and the Saw franchise, with gory, torture-porn violence.

Nancy: You’re making it sound like more fun than it was. The real Edgar Allan Poe was a brilliant but deeply disturbed man.

Bruce: Here he just seems like a creep.

Nancy: Maybe Heath Ledger could have done it. Maybe. You have to have someone who can jump into the dark. Because Bruce, Poe was a creep. He married his 13-year-old cousin. It doesn’t get much more creepier than that.

Bruce: Sylvester Stallone wanted to play Poe once. He would’ve been better casting than Cusack. The trouble is, they try to turn Poe into Holmes by making him investigate crimes. But Holmes is a beloved character, and even as miscast as Downey Jr. is, people are inherently interested in him. Poe, not so much. People like his writing but not necessarily him.

Nancy: Seeing as there were blows exchanged in a bar scene, I’m thinking Steven Seagal rather than Stallone.

Bruce: Anybody would’ve been better than Cusack. It was hard to watch him. I walked out when they buried the beautiful Alice Eve alive. I did appreciate the aerial shot looking down her cleavage at the masquerade ball, but once she was covered in dirt, I lost interest.

Nancy: People don’t know that much about Poe except for mystery writers who revere him (Nancy raises hand). You know he invented the detective as hero in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Sherlock Holmes and Poirot are all inspired by the work of Poe. None of the secondary characters were well done. The actors did try—but the script was not their friend.

Bruce: And what is the appeal of this Luke Evans guy, from Immortals and The Three Musketeers, two other bad movies we suffered through? And now he’s going to be in The Hobbit? I don’t get him, but I guess I don’t appreciate his pecs as much as Eve’s cleavage. In this one, he’s all buttoned-up, though!

Nancy: I am willing to keep giving him chances. He frowns well.

Bruce: If that’s what turns you on, okay. I’m more of a heaving-cleavage guy.

Nancy: As if I didn’t know that? I sat through the whole thing, Bruce. You don’t even know who the killer is, do you?

Bruce: No, but I can guess. Did Brendan Gleeson do it? I’m going by my former Two Cranky Guys blog partner Bret Watson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy theory. The most famous supporting actor is always the one who did it, because otherwise they wouldn’t have taken the role…

Nancy: Bret Watson is wrong in this case. Sorry, guys.

Bruce: I guess we should add SPOILER ALERT but how do you spoil something that’s already rotten?

Nancy: I can’t believe I pushed my way through an Occupy Wall Street May Day rally and then took five escalators to the top of the theater, sat with just two other people in a theater that could seat 500, and I stayed till the end, Bruce. I was taught to take the pain by our former masters at Entertainment Weekly. You’ve gone soft on me.

Bruce: So you’re not gonna tell me whodunit?

Nancy: The typesetter done it. I am not kidding.

Bruce: Wow, glad I didn’t stay for that!

Nancy: The whole idea of a serial killer using a series of real crimes or stories of real crimes or biblical passages–geez, it’s been done so often. Seven, Copycat

Bruce: This movie’s the real Copycat!

Nancy: And how.

Bruce: I can’t believe how bad the script was—I hated all the anachronistic dialogue: “We need to talk, Edgar,” etc. It was cowritten by a woman named Hannah Shakespeare, who also penned an episode of the NBC flop The Playboy Club.

Nancy: The one redeeming thing is that the real Edgar Allan Poe wouldn’t have hated the existence of this movie. He would have liked it—if he got a cut. He was destitute, near starving, most of his adult life. He wrote for money–but as most writers can attest, that is not a genius plan. Poe was paid $9 for his poem “The Raven.”

Bruce: I paid more than that to see the movie, although I didn’t get ripped off with the extra RPX surcharge like you did! At times, it seemed like they were ripping off The Wire, with the Baltimore setting: “The mayor wants results!”

Nancy: Like Dirty Harry—”You’re talking to the mayor, Harry!” Actually the serial killer plot in Dirty Harry is a trillion times better than the one in Raven. The movie says it “solves” the mystery of the death of Poe but there is a theory to Poe’s death that I find more entertaining. He died on election night and the theory is that voters seized a half-conscious drunk and had him vote in a dozen precincts, wearing him out to the point where he collapsed and died on a bench. Voter fraud killed Poe.

Bruce: I should’ve expected a crappy movie from James McTeague, the director of Ninja Assassin and V for Vendetta. I’ve got a vendetta against him now.

Nancy: I am worried that people who go to this movie not knowing much about Poe won’t want to read his work! That is a crime far more atrocious than sawing someone in half, as I suffered through in Raven. I like how the people who were tied up and about to die kept begging, “Why are you doing this? Why?”

Bruce: Yes, and the pit and the pendulum-inspired crime was committed against a critic, no less! I take that personally. The less said about this bird turd, the better. At least there’s no danger of a sequel, considering how badly it bombed at the box office this weekend. And Poe’s about to get his ass kicked by The Avengers.

Nancy: Why is it we see so many movies that contain bird feces, Bruce?

Bruce: That’s right—The Three Musketeers had bird crap, too. If only we could’ve dragged Bret to this one as well…

Nancy: Bret would quite simply have imploded with disgust and rage against the world. I couldn’t live with that.

Bruce: Quoth the Watson, “Nevermore indeed!” His telltale heart would’ve stopped.

Did The Raven attack you, too? Do tell! 

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8 Comments
  1. I’d give my eyetooth to watch a movie with you too.

  2. That is, you two.

  3. Undine permalink

    “I am worried that people who go to this movie not knowing much about Poe won’t want to read his work!”

    Indeed. I’ve had that same thought, myself. I posted my own take on this little atrocity here:

    http://worldofpoe.blogspot.com/2012/04/world-of-poe-goes-hollywood-and.html

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