Weeping at What John Cusack Did to Poe in "The Raven"
I apparently have to break my Friday night date with John Cusack. And I'm not happy about it.
I mean, what do you do when a long-awaited movie rakes in horrible reviews? At this point all I know to do is wallow in melancholy and longing, mourning my lost love John-Cusack-as-Edgar-Allan-Poe. Or at least my lost Friday Night Movie Date John-Cusack-as-Edgar-Allan-Poe. Nevermore, John, Nevermore.
I was really looking forward to The Raven, which opens this week in the U.S. I was so excited at the thought of a Poe-based thriller that I willfully ignored the poor U.K. reviews -- justifying that I wasn't sure I could trust their dismissive opinions of Poe, one of our most important North American literary treasures. Or opinions about our Middle American date night treasure Lloyd Dobler, for that matter.
My problem is obsessive love that sought no truth or fact. I heard "Poe," "serial killer" and "John Cusack" and fell in love with the beautiful concept, the very idea of it!
Besides, how exactly could Hollywood screw up a thriller based on Poe? Poe defined the Romantic Movement, was a vanguard of the short story and remains a steady influence in mystery, Gothic and science fiction genres, both literary and film. He was the all-knowing master of suspense, the exacting genius who defined haunting tension.
Failing to make a good drama based on the stories of Poe is truly inexcusable. We're talking about the basics here, and Poe left a clear blueprint. The trope of killing off appealing women to heighten the sense of fear and loss, the themes of the cruelty of mortality and the never-healing wound created by beauty lost? They learned that by watching you, Poe, Hollywood learned it by watching you.
What contemporary thriller-maker doesn't owe a huge dept to Poe, who articulated his focus on dead, often violently murdered women, in Philosophy of Composition:
...the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world -- and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.
Poe left behind a carefully crafted, haunting and at times gruesome body of work. Bringing it to life as a dramatic thriller should be relatively easy. And without question should be approached with great respect.
But critics say The Raven filmmakers failed. Even though I was approaching Friday night with no other thought than to love and be loved by John/Poe, the movie holds a 20% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Ugh.
Image: © 2011 Rogue Pictures
So what to do? Suck it up and be true to my original desire, and go to see The Raven out of tenderness for Poe, to see if the scenery of his Baltimore is worth the viewing, to see if any small, redemptive bits shine like a raven's eye? Or to wait, forlornly, for it to be released on DVD because my expectations will be lower by then? Or just entomb the whole thing, weep at the loss, and hope to be able to stumble on with out it?
Oh, John/Poe, this should have been a wonderful thing, and you blew it. I know the blame doesn't rest entirely on your shoulders, but still, I hold you responsible at least for a ruined Friday night, if not for a trashed chance to bring Poe to thrilling life. So I have no choice but to spurn you, and I'm going to leave you standing out there, evermore unrequited, balancing your boombox on your head like a tiny sepulcher. Just stand there, think about the beauty you've lost forever, and don't say anything.