DVD Review: ‘The Raven’ Never Takes Flight

Sarah Jakubowski October 12, 2012 1
  • Character Development
  • Original Plot
  • Mystery/ Plot twists
  • Makeup and costume
Director: James McTeigue
Producers: Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy, Aaron Ryder
Writers: Ben Livingston, Hannah Shakespeare
Actors: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Luke Evans
Music: Lucas Vidal
Editor: Niven Howie
Cinematographer: Danny Ruhlmann



I rented this movie figuring that a film with a title like The Raven could go either way — it might be an amazingly clever mystery/horror flick, or it might be a laughable overly-dramatic flop. It was neither. The Raven was very mediocre with unfulfilled potential and average acting. Here’s the rundown of where it soared and where it fell short:

The Premise

It’s Baltimore, Maryland in the 19th century and the police are investigating a series of murders. Murders that seem very… familiar. In fact, they’re real-life reenactments of stories written by the town drunk, a little-known author named Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack).

Originally a suspect, Poe is declared innocent of the murders and is recruited by inspector Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) to help solve the crimes. Things get personal when the murderer kidnaps Poe’s beloved Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve). Can Poe and Inspector Fields discover her whereabouts before it’s too late?

The Good

The Intention

The premise, what the movie’s supposed to be and wants to be so bad, is intriguing enough to carry the audience to the finish line. A grisly mystery based on equally grisly stories? Count me in! Although it doesn’t quite live up to expectations, kudos for the creative idea. Execution was lacking, but the backbone of the story was strong. 

The Costumes

The beards, the hair, the swooping cloaks! The costume and makeup department put some seriously good work into The Raven. Every pre-kidnapping scene with Emily made me think, “I SO wish I had her hair.”  She was rocking some totally Goldilocks tresses all wrapped up in pretty knots and braids or cascading down her back. Beautiful!

Poe and Emily’s father having a beard-off.

The Bad

Character Development

We never really got a feel for any of the characters. Poe came off as very depressed and angry but doesn’t have the charisma to make him likable. We never get to see his relationship with Emily develop. There’s also a lot that could’ve been explored with Emily’s father (Brendan Gleeson), who severely disapproves of Poe in general. It’s not an uncommon flaw in mysteries and usually it’s overlooked because the most important thing is the events of the crime, not so much the characters it involves. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to compensate for the dull characters, which brings me to my next point.

The Mystery

You can tell they mean business, just look at all those buttons.

I enjoy a good mystery that’s got an audience-participation vibe. While the detectives onscreen are searching for clues and trying to figure out who did the deed, those watching are trying to make conclusions of their own. For instance, the TV detective show Monk did a good job of putting in a good mix of clues, some that were super-obvious, some that only the most observant viewer could catch, and some that only Monk himself would be able to put together. The Raven completely fails in this regard.

Basically, it’s told with a trail of clues left by a mocking villain. One clue leads to the next, all eventually leading to Emily. But there’s never any “Aha!” moment, no grande coming-together of evidence, and not enough hints for the audience.

Overall Rating: 2.5 Stars

Buy it, Rent it, or Skip it?

Definitely skip The Raven.  It’s no good buying or renting a movie that you’ll just forget about a day later and this movie doesn’t have any staying power. At first glance, The Raven’s intriguing and it does have some beautiful costumes, but that’s not enough to redeem an otherwise rather dull film.

‘The Raven’ Movie Trailer


    • William Wallace

      John Cusack is one of my favorite actors and I just happen
      to like Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry as well which made me think that this movie
      would be perfect for me. I saw the previews and I was really curious about it
      but never got the chance to see it in theaters. I do find it
      interesting that the score for the movie is not period appropriate. I’m not
      sure how I fell about it as of yet so I guess all I can do is wait and see. You mentioned showing the ladies being shown as normal and not all
      starlets which I do appreciate. There have been a variety of movies that have
      completely thrown the idea of being authentic in that sense right out the
      window. The cinematography seems to be one of the nicer things about this film
      and from what I’ve seen there are some really wonderful shots. It’s sad that
      there isn’t much character development in this film. From what I’ve heard there
      were plenty of chances to make this movie something special.