- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English SDH, French
- Subtitles Color: White
- Region: A (Region-Locked)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 111 Mins.
- Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD + Digital Copy )
- Digital Copies: iTunes Compatible Digital Copy/DVD
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Blu-ray Release Date: October 9, 2012
- List Price: $39.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Hollywood’s recent fascination with taking classic literature and historical figures and reshaping them into modern twists, facts be damned, has reached new heights with this latest effort from director James McTeigue (Ninja Assassin; V for Vendetta), starring John Cusack (Serendipity; High Fidelity; Being John Malkovich; Grosse Point Blank) in the lead role as Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven absurdly posits a fictionalized account on the final days of Poe’s life in which he is drawn into a mystery involving his own writings.
Poe, now a washed up alcoholic and opium addict weary of writing the macabre serialized fiction and poetry that has made him famous is now a frustrated literary critic in love with the beautiful and much younger Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve; The Decoy Bride) and she with him, over the objections of her newspaper magnate father (Brendan Gleeson; The Pirates! Band of Misfits; Albert Nobbs; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1). A recent string of murders in the Baltimore area using Poe’s short story’s as their inspiration has steely, determined Detective Fields (Luke Evans; Immortals; The Three Musketeers) on the case, and Poe involved, first as a suspect, and then inexplicably, as a consultant to help find the murderer, even before any reasonable evidence to preclude him from being the one committing them is offered up outside of a couple of character witnesses. Poe soon finds himself even further involved when his beloved Emily is kidnapped from a masquerade ball at her father’s mansion by the killer, a note left behind demanding Poe compose short stories about each subsequent killing, to be published in the papers, in order to be led to clues on how to find Emily.
The Raven couldn’t be further from a story on or about Edgar Allen Poe or more anachronistic than it is. It’s visual aesthetic, being set in the 1800s, is spot on, but as is the usual issue with these films, such as the recent Sherlock Holmes action/thrillers, it is the dialogue and attitudes of the characters that makes them suspect as true Victorians. Meanwhile, the issues with Poe and misuse of his writings are far too numerous to mention, but outside of a few quotes from the famous poem and images of the actual birds every so often, the film owes nothing to the work from which it takes its title. One the whole, The Raven seems more like an opportunity to place the macabre aspects of Edgar Allen Poe’s writings front and center for a contemporary, vicarious setting – a pendulum blade splitting a man in half, and so forth.
The truest strength of The Raven is in the dark setting that McTeigue captures, the film taking place almost entirely in shadow and murk. At times it becomes a little overwhelming, but it sets the mood, despite the dullness of the overall experience of sitting through the film. Lost in all of this is the fantastic cleverness of one of the greatest writers of crime stories and thrillers, the man who arguably created the genre as we no it today. The descriptiveness and command of the language is lost, instead replaced with a run of the mill contemporary crime procedural played in dress up.
The Raven was shot on medium and high speed Fuji Eterna 250T 8553 and Eterna 500T 8573 Super 35 film stocks and its AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement to Blu-ray from Fox maintains the film-like appearance consistent with that grade of film given the continuously dark scenes of the the film. There are pronounced levels of grain, but no real instances of noise and detail is rather strong during close-ups. Textural information is also strong pertaining to clothing and skin. Blacks are very deep, but there are some issues with crush. This however doesn’t damage the overall perception of detail too much as some of the less intensely dark scenes still contain some nuance in their shadow detail.
Stronger still for this release is the quite effective audio mix offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit). From the very opening sequences one gets the sense that this is going to be an atmospheric and dynamic soundscape, and that is what it turns out to be. The score from Lucas Vidal swells all around you just as the subtlest of sounds – the dripping of water here or footsteps down an alleyway there – get your attention from any part of the room. When it needs too, low frequencies are deep and weighty, such as the galloping horseman during the masquerade ball, or when there is a gunshot. Dialogue is also rather clean, full, and realistic.
The most interesting extra included here is the brief 9-minute bio on Poe, which wold have been much better were it expanded to at the very least 30-minutes. Otherwise these are all solid offerings, but nothing extraordinary.
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (2.35:1; 1080p/24):
- Poetry Reading (01:57)
- The Red Mask (00:38)
- Emily’s Recital (00:43)
- Fields Checks on Poe (04:29)
- Poe Brings Carl to Fields Home (01:38)
- Doctor Clements and Fields (01:02)
- The Raven Guts: Bringing Death to Life (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:13:32) – This featurette includes the cast and crew offering their thoughts on bringing the macabre stories of Edgar Allen Poe to life on the big screen.
- The Madness, Misery, and Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:09:50) – A brief bio of Poe.
- Behind the Beauty and Horror (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:18)
- The Raven Presents John Cusack and James McTeigue (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:45) – The actor and director sit down for a brief discussion with one another.
- Music for The Raven: The Team (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:10)
- Audio Commentary by Director James Mc Teigue, Producers Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy and Aaron Ryder
- Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; Dolby Digital 5.1)
- DVD – A standard definition DVD and digital copy combo disc is included.
- Digital Copy – iTunes
The Definitive Word
The bottom line on The Raven is that were it not for John Cusack saving the drab crime thriller as best as he could with even his somewhat uneven performance, it would be completely forgettable as a film. With the great material to draw from, I find it so hard to imagine why it is so difficult to bring a decent film to the screen based on Poe’s work or his life.
Additional Screen Captures