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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Blockbuster Review: Sherlock Holmes - 2009

I've decided to try my best to review mainstream films every now and then. So here is my review of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes - 2009.
Despite the impression you may get from the review, I didn't hate it so much, certainly not as much as The Expendables for example, but I was not at all impressed. 

Before I begin, I may as well state that I'm a massive Sherlock Holmes fan. I've read every single one of the stories involving him and he had become something of an idol for me.

But I am not a complete snob when it comes to Holmes and have enjoyed many films based on the books before, even if they were somewhat loosely based upon them.
However, Guy Ricthie's film was by far the worst I'd seen, of any cinematic adaptation.

I will start by giving credit were it is due, for example the sets were fantastic and the whole recreation of London was spot on. Definitely one of the highlights of the film, as was the general lighting and atmosphere brought also brought about by Hans Zimmer's music, which was particularly good as well.
Also Jude Law was a suitable choice for Watson, not particularly inspiring casting but he pulled of the role well enough.

However Robert Downey is another matter entirely. Why he was cast as Sherlock Holmes I cannot begin to imagine, but it was an incredibly poor choice. His general aura of smug cockiness did not fit well with Holmes supremely honest and passionate nature. It was basically one of the worst examples of casting a star in a role he is completely unsuited for mostly because they happen to be a big name at the time.
They did get the character right is some respects, but honestly it felt far to much like an attempt to bring a new, realistic and gritty Holmes to the screen. One for modern audiences, naturally they would have to do this de to the fact that modern audiences simply wouldn't be interested in seeing a classic portrayal of Holmes. But this not mean I can't criticise the film.
While it is true that Holmes was proficient in hand to hand combat, along with other methods of combat, he rarely used these skills. He was not an action hero and seeing him represented as one was quite ridiculous.
Furthermore, the whole romantic side to the story, the character of Irene Adler was completely out of place and not in keeping with Holmes nature, of course he did greatly admire Irene Adler as she was one of the very few people to ever outsmart him. But he was entirely asexual and a generally misanthrope, he didn't actually like anyone except Watson, the idea that he would have kind of fallen in love is quite preposterous.

Now I know it is pretty pointless to point out all the things the film got wrong, but nonetheless I cannot understand why they felt the need to create an entirely new story. Of course they include a few references to the original stories such as the presence of Moriarty etc.. but the main plot-line and villain are completely ridiculous. It is obvious they are written to please modern audiences, but the idea of Sherlock Holmes saving the House of Parliament and ultimately the world from a gas attack was hilarious and yet saddening at the same time. I also find it quite insulting to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's memory, that they had to create an entirely new story as if none of the multitude of excellent stories he wrote were suitable to be adapted.
Basically ,they just used Sherlock Holmes name for a film that is only linked to the original Holmes stories by some pretty thin threads.

I'm sure if the film had been called something else, and had just been about some random detective in London thwarting some kind of world domination plan I would have much less negative things to say. However as it is, the film is a failure in many ways.
Guy Ritchie was a terrible choice to direct. He has never actually made a great film to date and if he continues with this Sherlock Holmes series as he seems to be doing (the 2nd will be released sometime this year) I doubt he ever will.
His directional style is more suited for idiotic action films such as RockNrolla, for here he brings an unwelcome amount of slow motion, explosions, rapidly cut fight scenes, chase scenes, and fails to make the dramatic scenes seem like anything more than filler in between the action.
And unfortunately the action is quite ridiculous. In fact much of the film is ridiculous, with results in it being very jarring as a whole seeing as the main story and many scenes are handled with utmost seriousness even though they are ridiculous, whereas others are clearly just added for laughs. Notably the recurring gigantic character who proceeds to beat up Holmes every time he meets him, this humour through violence is typical of Ritchie's work and rapidly becomes annoying.

What annoyed me even further was the fact that the plot had much potential to start with, despite the fact that it wasn't based of any of the original stories. I thought the whole supernatural theme was suited to the Holmes stories, but as it went on it went from disappointment to disappointment while managing to hit pretty much every cliché imaginable on the way down.
Vaguely Chinese character who happens knows Kung Fu and is somehow under the Houses of Parliament ? "Thrilling" scene involving someone slowing edging towards some lethal object or another and being saved at the last minute ? Horrible attempts at witty dialogue misplaced throughout the film ? An aristocratic villain who overthrows his father and takes over with plans of world domination ? This same aristocratic (and psychotic) villain somehow has a strange Cockney accent ? Fights that take place in public and cause much damage but nobody seems to mind ? The list goes on and only gets more unoriginal....

But ultimately the film wasn't entirely unenjoyable, in fact it could have been a pretty good film without the half hearted attempt to make it a Sherlock Holmes film. I certainly wasn't bored when watching it, but neither was I impressed. So it served it's purpose which was to entertain me, but I do think it's a severely flawed film that was certainly not deserving of such good reviews.
Some critics did not appreciate it much either, one even went as far as to compare this film to the infamously bad Wild Wild West. Now I think that's going a bit far, but I can see the similarities in a way. however I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sherlock Holmes could have been a great film, a brilliant film. He is a character that's crying out for an interesting, dark, psychological thriller with a deliberate pace, some better casting and an original Conan Doyle story. However I think there will be little room for another Holmes film now that it seem Ricthie is well on his way to making a franchise.

I do realise though that not all of you will agree with me on this one, as it was rather well received with a 70% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.5 User Rating on IMDb. However as a hardcore Holmes fan, I was saddened to see a character I admire so much put into such a dumbed down plot that is little more than a standard action film directed by a talentless director and portrayed by an unlikeable actor.

Please excuse the poor quality of this review, I just felt like writing something and decided it would be this. However I have completed a different review with is far better, but that will only be posted ion the 19th as part of the Roger Corman Blogathon!

So what were your thoughts on this film? I assume you liked it more than I did, so feel free to set me right!

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