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April 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s as if the makers of The Raven were begging for trouble. After all, they’ve made the victim of a serial killer who recreates Edgar Allan Poe’s lethal pendulum — a critic! So now it’s time for the critics to strike a blow for one of their own — by slicing and dicing, not to mention rapping and tapping, this fanciful movie starring John Cusack as Poe. “It is a grievous death,” Roger Ebert remarks in the Chicago Sun-Times about the pendulum scene, while noting that in general, the plot is purloined from “any number of serial-killer movies, in which we’re expected to believe that a madman goes to astonishing trouble while killing a lot of people simply to devise an elegant puzzle for the hero to solve.” What it all boils down to, writes Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail, is a “serial-killer flick with literary pretensions.” But in creating such a concoction, John DeFore remarks in the Washington Post, the script writers make “little attempt to capture Poe’s idiom. … Like the recent Sherlock Holmes films, The Raven seems content to steal a famous figure’s name and leave any stabs at authenticity to the set and costume designers.” And indeed the sets and costumes are being singled out by several critics for much praise. Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times calls the film’s overall look “both ambitious and grand” and says that star John Cusack’s clothes “have a kind of drama as Poe rushes from one crime scene to another.” And a scene at a costume ball “is so wonderfully and darkly over the top it is almost worth the price of admission, almost.” But several critics suggest that it might be best to put literature and history aside and enter the theater with restrained expectations. On that basis, it’s all “good pulpy fun,” writes Lou Lumenick in the New York Post or as Claudia Puig describes it in USA Today, “a moderately entertaining yarn.” And Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel goes further. The Raven, he writes, is “a fanciful, witty and suspenseful revision of Poe’s last days that is more entertaining than it has any right to be.”