I recently finished reading both "The Raven" by Hannah Shakespeare and Ben Livingston, and the 2003 draft of "Poe" by Sylvester Stallone. The takes on Poe by both scripts have some similarities, I mean, it is the haunted, inebriated, and gifted Poe in both versions. The major difference is in the likability of the character of Poe, the story that surrounds him, and the world the writers have created. This is where some problems arise.
I have never read anything by Sylvester Stallone before, and based on the quality of writing in this draft, I hope to never delve into his work again. It read like a student screenplay, and never engaged me, the reader, in any way. I didn't like his Poe from the beginning, and the story never really went anywhere. There was never any spark. Poe just kind of miserably waltzed through life dealing with a string of disappointments, and the death after death of his loved ones. The entire time Poe knew that he would die soon as well(Thank you heavy handed recurring symbol of death that appears several times in the script), until Stallone finally put him (and me) out of his misery. The most likable character in the whole thing was Virginia, and she just seemed to be placed in the story to encourage Poe to continue writing. She appeared in the story and left, not really changing Poe in any real way, except to make him more depressed once she died. There really wasn't any character arc, and no real story. Nothing really happened. It just trudged along like the big sloppy mess that it is.
In contrast, I found "The Raven" to be an interesting and engaging script. This script does not stick to the historical Poe, which is a big benefit, since they have created such a rich and interesting alternate history. Yes, Poe is still Poe, haunted, inebriated, you get the idea, but in this script, Poe has hope, in the form of his love interest Emily. He also has something to prove. Someone is using his stories as a basis for a murder spree. This killer, abducts Emily, and challenges Poe to match wits with him, which (hurray) invests our character with a goal. Solve the murder spree before the killer murders Emily. This Poe has an arc, he also has a hell of an exciting labyrinth to wend his way through, but most importantly, he is likable. The stakes are high, and unlike Stallones version, it does not seem to be phoned in. It is well thought out and has some great twists. I actually think that John Cusack could pull off a hell of a Poe, and look forward to seeing him in this.
I would love to hear what anyone else thinks about either of these scripts.