The Raven (2012)
Starring John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Hazeldine, Kevin McNally
Director of Photography: Danny Ruhlmann
Music by Lucas Vidal
Edited by Niven Howie
Written by Ben Livingston & Hannah Shakespeare
Directed by James McTeigue
Rating: 4,5 out of 10
The Raven gets many things wrong.
It relies on gory over-the-top violence instead of a plot that makes any sense. Serial killers are so much less fascinating if all their intricate plans are only aimed at one person. If you think about pendulum alone and how much it must have costed to build it and you think of the resolution of the movie, please don’t tell me your head doesn’t hurt.
Its second failing is somehow the worst because it treats Edgar Allan Poe so badly while trying to make a movie about him. Part of the problem is John Cusack’s decision not to act but to shout at everyone for most of the movie. An actor as good as Cusack should know that shouting is not acting and that constant shouting is annoying. The next time I teach The Tell-Tale Heart I really don’t want to have his portrayal of Poe on my mind. Poor Poe.
The last offense goes against women. There are many movies that get women wrong but only few that so consistently portray them as weak, stupid, helpless. Looking at it in more detail, makes you wonder if the filmmakers’ intention was to make women look bad. Basically every woman in this movie is treated badly. There are several shots of dead women surrounded by men towering above them, signifying the inferiority as victims against superiority as investigators.
Men in general are portrayed as strong and strong-willed. When Emmett Fields (Luke Evans, one of the better performances in this movie) is shot and then treated by a doctor, we see him clenching his teeth through the procedure. While women are shown as easily slayed, basically cannon fodder for the serial killer (except for one man), the protagonists rarely show real weakness.
In one scene, Poe listens to a group of female poets and his disdain, while generally considered inappropriate, still seems understandable the way the women writers are portrayed.
There is one inexplicable scene in which Poe figures out something about the killer and there is a maid in that scene for the sole purpose of being stupid so that Poe comes off as clever. We only see her in that one scene and she is extremely and at the same time impressed by Poe’s wit. It’s a truly baffling moment.
But the most screen time for female characters is devoted to Emily (Alice Eve, quite bland but it’s probably hard to beat Cusack’s mannerisms here), Poe’s secret fiancé. While all she cares about is to get married to Poe (against her father’s will who doesn’t like Poe, not unreasonably), but he just jokes about it and his mind is more set on sex anyhow. The filmmakers don’t mind portraying her as a sexy object ready to be unwrapped.
Eventually the real reason for her character becomes clear as the killer kidnaps her and buries her in a coffin. The movie spends an unhealthy amount of time showing her inside the casket, bound, taken down by a man, unable to move, suffering.
At one point she manages to escape (by just punching through the wood, which seems weirdly easy and obvious) but instead of filming it as a moment of power for the character, of overcoming her captor, the movie instead objectifies her by accentuating her cleavage while she struggles to climb out. To make matters worse, after she gets out, she is taken down again right away.
After spending the second half of the movie screaming her name again and again, through tunnels and houses, Poe eventually gets to her, finally saving her from her imprisonment as she was unable to walk up some stairs by herself. Instead, he has to carry her. She can barely speak, again, making you wonder how she managed to get out of the coffin, but one thing she gets out is to ask Poe again to marry her. Because what else could a woman think of on the brink of death. Poe, staying true to his character, avoids an answer. While Eve is only there to motivate him to take some action, becoming another woman in a refrigerator (a coffin comes close), he is still unwilling to commit to her. Instead, he runs away and dies instead, which seems like an easy way out here. But for a movie that only takes the easy road of sexism and misogyny, his decision to rather die than to marry his love seems somewhat consequential.