Comic-Con 2011: First Impressions of 'The Raven' with John Cusack
by Ethan Anderton
July 22, 2011
Earlier this week one hell of a splatter appeared in the form of a new poster for the forthcoming period thriller The Raven with John Cusack playing iconic writer Edgar Allen Poe. This week Relativity Media brought the first trailer for to Hall H at Comic-Con 2011 with James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin) in tow to talk about the film. Taking cues from Sherlock Holmes, the filmmaker is attempting to craft a suspenseful murder mystery in the form of a fictional story taking place in the last five days of Poe's life, but it seems like a half-hearted copycat narrative that just didn't impress me upon first inspection.
Alice Eve comes along for the ride as our damsel in distress and Luke Evans is basically Poe's Watson-esque sidekick, but he's proactive as the real detective investigating a brutal murder that mirrors the grisly deaths in Poe's published stories. While the concept itself seems like an interesting idea, its execution just feels too much like Guy Ritchie's take on Sherlock Holmes, but lacking any humor, fun or genuine suspense. While the film at least looks good aesthetically, the suspense and the thrills McTeigue is trying to ignite just don't seem to come through, mainly because it's hard to accept Cusack as Poe.
Don't get me wrong, I love John Cusack, and he certainly looks like part, but he still walks, talks and acts like John Cusack who simply seems to be dressing up for some kind of high school play. That sounds harsh, but just within the trailer that was shown, I found it extremely difficult to get invested in the mystery of the grim murders copycatting Poe's stories. Don't get me wrong, in hearing Cusack talk about Poe as a person and illustrating just how much he knows about the writer, it's clear he's immersed himself in the part, but his performance doesn't really reflect that.
If this is a taste of things to come with more historical figures getting caught up in action, adventure, mystery and suspense (remember there's a Leonardo Da Vinci led action adventure on the way, not to mention Anonymous which involves William Shakespeare), then I'm hoping this trend dies down soon. Unless another trailer comes along and changes my mind, I'm not sure that this film will help McTeigue recover from the disaster that was Ninja Assassin. In addition, I think this will probably have Cusack going back to witty romantic comedies for his next film, though I'd really like to see him find a golden script like Grace is Gone again. But for now, I will watch The Raven, nevermore.