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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: Sherlock Holmes

It was my mother's idea to watch this movie. I had previously had no desire to watch the film, but after I realized that my sisters and mother had gone so far as to move up its sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows to the number one position in our Netlflix queue, I felt the need to watch it to see what good they saw in this film. After watching it, I still don't understand why my dear mother found it so appealing.

I've mentioned before that I haven't read any original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories, mainly stemming from apathy crossbred with laziness. This movie did little to stir my interest in the stories, and if anything, it gave me reason to harbor discontent towards them. To cut to the chase, I felt that this movie blew like a bomb.

This sub-par excuse for a film chronicles the adventures of the long running partners Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) as they fight against Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), an occultist leader who uses apparent supernatural abilities in an attempt to take over England, and eventually, the world. At first, they have him captured, and then executed after trial, but he miraculously seems to rise from the grave. Holmes and Watson must track down Lord Blackwood and find out what his real plan is, with a little help from Irene Alder (Rachel McAdams), an old flame of Holmes'.

For all its faults, Sherlock Holmes does get some things right. Namely, it quickly shows from the start that Sherlock Holmes is awesome... and funny. He pulls of ridiculous stunts with frightening regularity, and is, of course, a genius detective. In addition, he's a formidable fighter, and the way he does his fight scenes is very detailed, planning his moves with surgical precision, predicting his opponent's moves and how long it will take them to recover from a beating. That said, the said fight scenes are slightly lackluster, in that they lack that special snap to them that makes them really go.

Also of note is the acting. And really, when you've got some solid stars like Downey, Law, and Strong in the lead roles, you can't get much better. As much as I disliked Green Lantern, I loved Strong as Sinestro in it, and I was hoping that his woefully underused talent would be put on display here. Sadly, it wasn't, but more on that later. Likewise, I like Downey as Sherlock Holmes, and he's got a good dynamic going with Law as Watson. They bounce off each other like rubber balls on the ground, and it's pretty good to watch, with most of the film's already solid comedy coming from their interactions.

However, I'm afraid that there are many flaws with this movie. For starters, Lord Blackwood isn't a particularly strong villain. We know that he wants to take over the world and all, but we don't go into his motivation very deeply. He's just so... I thing Jeremy Jahns put it best... generic. Blackwood is just a run-of-the-mill movie bad guy with run-of-the-mill goals.

Speaking of ill-defined characters, most of the others here aren't give a terrible lot of attention. Irene Adler is an interesting and likeable supporting character, but not a whole lot is done with her. She's sort of just there. True, she has a more or less well plotted out motivation, but she's still just not given a whole lot to do other than flirt with Holmes. Most of the other characters have the same problem, from the ill-defined but potentially complex character of Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) to Watson's fiancee Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly) to Mrs. Hudson (Geraldine James). It's a shame really, especially about Lestrade, a tragically underexploited character in my opinion.

I'd also like to make clear that there is just too much stuff blowing up and too much action. Sherlock Holmes is meant to be a very cerebral character, with most of the conflict in the story rooted in suspense and mystery. There's a little mystery in here, but not a whole lot of suspense. BBC's Sherlock got that part right, focusing on the characters and the mystery rather than ludicrously over the top action sequences.

Finally, the actual mystery solving is largely kept hidden from viewers until the climax of the film, where Holmes reveals that he's worked everything out. In Sherlock, the audience is let in on the clues and things, allowing us to be kept "in the know." There's none of that here. Granted, when there is actual mystery solving, it's pretty cool, but there's just not a whole lot of it. There was also some clunky expository dialogue that rakes on the ears. The rest of the dialogue wasn't anything special.

In the end, I declare that Sherlock Holmes is the most mediocre film that I've ever reviewed, and I hope to never see it again. I will be reviewing it's sequel in a week or two, and I might eventually have to do a post on Sherlock, just so you all can get a taste of a Sherlock Holmes adaptation that is actually good. At least this film had the decency to not include the blasted dear stalker hat.

RATING: 6.5/10

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