Have you ever had a movie that you didn’t really respond to but you had a hard time pinpointing why? This is the case with me after watching the 2012 period thriller “The Raven”. This is a movie that intrigued me from the start although I did keep it at an arm’s length. While the components for a unique crime thriller seemed to be there, I still never felt myself drawn to hurry up and see it. So as you can see, my fence straddling with “The Raven” started early. Well now I have seen this widely slammed movie. Is it as bad as the vast majority of critics made it out to be? I don’t think so. But unfortunately it’s missing some major pieces that are vital in making this kind of movie work.
In case you don’t know the story, it’s set in 19th century Baltimore, Maryland. A brutal and grisly double murder puts the police on the trail of a serial killer who patterns his crimes after the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Lead Detective Fields (Luke Evans) at first suspects the eccentric Poe (John Cusack) but eventually calls on him to help in the investigation. It’s a cat and mouse game as the two sift through the clues left at every new and horrible crime scene, each tied in to Poe’s writings.
The stakes are raised for Poe after his fiancé Emily (Alice Eve) is kidnapped and used as a pawn by the killer. Now this is a direction the story takes that should give the movie some emotional kick but that’s not the case at all. Poe and Emily’s relationship is cold and lifeless. They try to throw in some tension with Emily’s father (Brendan Gleeson) who despises Poe, but that does little to liven things up. Emily’s capture does lead to some of the movies most intense moments. But the underplayed romance between her and Poe strips the movie of a genuine and much needed sense of urgency.
I guess that leads into where my real problems lie with “The Raven”. It moves at a sharp pace. It captures the dark and moody tone that it’s going for. The crime scenes are perfectly unsettling. But in the end so much of the story feels manufactured. The relationships feel manufactured. The urgency feels manufactured. Even the ending feels manufactured (and a bit unsatisfying as well). But perhaps the biggest sin this movie commits is its overall lack of suspense. It’s hard to call a thriller a success if it lacks suspense. “The Raven” desperately tries to muster some but I don’t ever remember feeling it at any point in the movie.
I think “The Raven” is a movie that has some good ideas, but it doesn’t do much with them. It’s not a sloppy or lazy picture. But it also fails to step outside the bounds of conventionality, something that the material afforded them the chance to do. Now it’s decent enough to keep you in your seat, but it never does anything to put you on the edge of it. Again, I guess that’s where my biggest problem lies. There’s nothing suspenseful that grabs you and keeps you glued to the screen. That’s what I want from a thriller and I just didn’t get enough of it here.