Director: James McTeigue
I used to be one of John Cusack’s biggest fans. My friends loved him too, which is why, in college, we had a Cusack-a-thon (or two, I can’t remember how many times this occurred). We would watch movies like (my personal favorite) Better Off Dead and recite the lines aloud. My favorite is when the two tree trimmers see Cusack in the back of a dump truck and one says to the other, “Man, that’s a real shame when folks be throwin’ away a perfectly good white boy like that.” How they got through that line with straight faces I’ll never know.
Time passed and my love for him waned. These things happen. Like every actor he’s had some career highs and lows but I was hopeful with The Raven. Actually, that’s not true. When I first saw footage at Comic Con last summer I was skeptical. It seemed to be riding on the coattails of Sherlock Holmes and that's just lazy. But after seeing the trailer I thought I’d give it a chance. There was potential for a dark, gritty thriller. Plus I really like Luke Evans and think he’s on the brink of big things.
It wasn’t great. The script, specifically the dialogue, was a mess. Plus it seemed like the actors, save for Mr. Evans, seemed to have trouble delivering their lines. It was terribly unnatural coming out of their mouths. The story was so-so and the plot moved along but there was just something about the actors' line delivery that threw me. It got to be uncomfortable to watch. Cusack, bless him, tried really hard. Too hard, in fact. My friend, Jenna, and I thought that it seemed like he was attempting a version of Snape. Then we excitedly agreed that Alan Rickman would have been great in this movie. Now there's a guy who can handle any kind dialogue with ease. Evans was just barely able to rise above the material. The female lead, Alice Eve, was fine but she didn’t have a lot to do.
The direction, by James McTeigue, was meh. There were some cool camera shots but it felt over-wrought. Really I just couldn’t get past the script. Poe would have been horrified.
Oh so I need to find one good thing, right? Well...my beloved Mr. Bates was in it but it was just one scene. A woman behind me gleefully whispered to her husband, "It's Mr. Bates!" and that made me smile. I love that he's recognizable to people now. Of course that will make our (imaginary) marriage difficult when middle-aged women are throwing themselves at him all the time. But we'll laugh it off because everyone knows how loyal he is.