Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Mini review: The Raven (2012)

"Yeah... sorry guys."


Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha HA!

Now that I've gotten that out of the way... oh, fuck it, let's laugh some more! (Short interval. Extended laughter.) OK, but seriously folks, The Raven. The Raven!

For those who haven't seen it, the above "EMILEEEE!" refers to a memorable scene in which John Cusack screams out loud the name of his beloved. He's with a crew of police officers and they've all been instructed to call her name among the brick-walled catacombs of Baltimore's underground waterworks. Without waiting a beat, Cusack screams out the aforementioned name, as though demonstrating. Or something. I don't know. Frankly, I'm not sure what was going on there or, for that matter, throughout most of the film. The only thing I can think of is that something went horribly wrong in the editing room. How else to explain what I saw?

Yup, an extreme editing-room debacle is the only way to explain the bizarre lack of pacing, set-up, tension, and characterization demonstrated in this film. Perhaps a rough cut was screened and it was so bad the original editor committed suicide; then they tried to re-cut the film but there was so much blood on the celluloid they couldn't quite make it out so they just hacked away at little bits and pieces and voila, The Raven. It's the only possible explanation.

I can't quite recall when I've ever seen a film with less atmosphere. Truly. The Raven seems to want to open in medias res but it only succeeds in cutting short any opportunity we might've had to get to know Poe. Not that it matters, because this is an entirely fictional Poe, completely divorced from any biographic reality. Which would be fine -- I get it, it was an artistic choice -- but... why? Have you read any biographies of this guy? His life was nuts! Why wouldn't you want to throw a little bit of that madness in there? Oh sure, they toss off a perfunctory scene in which Poe tries to get wasted at a local bar and acts like an a-hole and has no money. But that's it. From then on, "Poe" bears no relationship to Poe. Too bad. Because his real life -- not sure if I made this clear -- was fucking insane. Interesting, even. Might've been a GOOD THING TO PUT IN YOUR MOVIE YOU STUPID A-HOLES!

Whoa, sorry.

Moving on.

So Poe really seems to have no drinking problems or money problems to speak of after that little episode in the bar (he does seem to teach some sort of poetry seminary for bourgeois ladies, which no doubt was highly lucrative, so he's got that going on) nor is he in any way very EXTREMELY HEARTBROKEN BECAUSE OF HIS DEAD WIFE! Pardon, I did it again. So sorry. But I mean REALLY. Virginia died while drowning in POOL OF HER OWN BLOOD not two years before and it merits only a casual mention! Casual! Why? Because "Poe" has a new girlfriend! Some horse-face named Emily!

And yes, I did just call Alice Eve a horse-face. Like Egaeus, I could not help but obsess over her teeth. Those two looong, equine front teeth. What were they doing there? Why were they taking up her whole face? Why were they taking over the movie? Why couldn't anybody stop those TEETH?! AHHHHH!

I stared at them all through the riveting scene in which Alice and Edgar declared their love for one another (how did I know they loved each other? The dialogue. "I love you," Alice said. "I love you too," Edgar replied. I realize I am conflating Emily and Alice's names here but you know what? I don't care. Fuck you, The Raven!).

I just can't go on. I cannot bear to think about this movie any longer. John Cusack, you weren't bad. You kind of looked like Poe and it's not your fault the editor got blood all over the celluloid. Guy who played the Inspector, you were trying really hard to be in a cool movie, and I get that. Same with the fat old guy who played Emily's dad and the other guy who played the newspaper editor. And the minor character who literally had ONE SPEAKING LINE and turned out to be the killer? I'm sure your best scenes were left on the cutting room floor, awash with sinew and membrane. I'm sorry. I really felt like you all were trying your best and I don't fault you.

I suppose I can only blame the writers and the director for the hideous accident that was The Raven. Why you took an amazing character like Poe and turned him into the bland denuded "Poe" we saw on screen I cannot fathom. Perhaps you thought any connection to reality would upset the sophisticated modern moviegoer. Perhaps you envisioned us screaming, "I didn't ask for a bio-pic, motherfucker!" and then tearing the movie theater seats from their floor-bolted moorings. That if you had, say, used Sarah Elmira Royster in place of "Emily Hamilton" we'd slash the screen with switchblades and set fire to the place. I'm not sure why you thought this.

But alas, we cannot change the past now. We cannot, say, have the film open with young Virginia Clemm choking on her own blood and pulmonary fluids, in a frigid, wind-slashed, practically unfurnished cottage. We can't then follow Poe as he descends into mourning, madness, alcoholism and crushing poverty, wandering up and down the east coast, desperately plying his acquaintances and childhood sweethearts with pleas of marriage if only to save him from going mad and/or dying of starvation. No, we couldn't follow him to Baltimore where in his delirium we -- and he -- are unsure that he is not himself the killer, where the police bribe him with food and drink to help them solve the crime. No, better to have some stupid, toothy blonde be his motivation. And throw in a pet raccoon while you're at it.


Dan said...

So, what you're saying didn't like it? Nuts! This could've been so good!

Dan O. said...

Despite a handful of narrative missteps and a few errant accents, it's actually a pretty neat "what if?" story. Although I can definitely see it's not for everyone to sit and enjoy. Cusack was also pretty good and definitely lifted up this material. Nice review Andrea.