The Raven [Blu-Ray] James McTeigue

The Raven [Blu-Ray] James McTeigue
Though the actual cause and events surrounding the death of American romantic poet and author Edgar Allan Poe (played here by John Cusack) are fuzzy and inconclusive, the fact that he was found in great distress, dishevelled and in need of assistance in the streets of Baltimore shouting "Reynolds" remains (mostly) undisputed. As such, fictional mystery-thriller The Raven ― a genre Poe is known as the father of ― weaves a detective story out of the final days of his life, positing a serial killer using the stories of Poe to create elaborate murder scenes with a series of clues intended for the author. To ensure investment and to milk a bit more creative writing from Poe, the killer kidnaps his fiancée, Emily (Alice Eve), and gives her The Vanishing treatment, literally stealing the entire climax of the superior Dutch movie and rehashing it with less dramatic effect. Unfortunately, this isn't the only aspect of James McTeigue's historical melding of fact and fiction that reads as stale and familiar. For all of the cleverness in integrating factoids and themes from Poe's library of work, the end result and amalgamation feel mostly like an interesting idea not fully realized. In part, this is because Poe is written tenuously, with hints of ego and drunken ridiculousness mixed with sweet romanticism. There's nothing larger than life about him, nor does he come across as particularly insightful. This is exacerbated by the Bone Collector murder mystery that goes full Mamma Mia in an effort to tie together deaths from an abundance of different stories. More interesting than the actual plot is the implication of a writer as a public entity external to their physical self. As Poe lashes out at his editor for not publishing his criticism of another writer, the concept that the value of a creative work is created by the dominant media voice lingers beneath the surface. This is heightened by a secondary plotline where Poe is forced to write the darker tales he is known for ― something he has long strayed from, becoming an ersatz hack ― by the serial killer, which invigorates newspaper sales, defining his success and value externally by social indicators. But, alas, this is only a secondary idea lingering on the periphery that isn't even discussed to much extent on the commentary track, "Making of" or interview segments included with the Blu-Ray. There are, however, an abundance of deleted scenes and historical context pieces, giving us a better idea of who the famed writer was than the actual film. (VVS)