Sherlock Holmes (or…No Shit, Sherlock!)

January 2, 2010 at 3:09 am (Movies and TV)

Until today I had never seen a Guy Ritchie movie I actually liked.  My easiest and most comfortable manner of reviewing Sherlock Holmes is to compare and contrast it to Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, which as many of you know is an all-time favorite of mine.

Both Sherlock and Pirates have plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. Both films have bromances and at least one ballsy, gun-toting chick. Both are developed from pre-existing material (Sherlock, faithfully developed from the Arthur Conan Doyle novels and Pirates from the Disney theme park ride) and are period pieces to the detail. Both scores are awesome and stick with you afterward, but then both were written by Hans Zimmer, go figure. Both heroes have substance abuse issues and a cute “straight man” to curb their antics; both heroes also use quick thinking and humor (with a few guns, blades and explosives) to get themselves out of various conundrums. Both films shamelessly set up a sequel, and in both cases, I didn’t mind, largely because both movies boast favorite actors of mine (Downey and Depp, natch) in delicious states of dress and undress, sometimes wet, and with awesome hair. And both were the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a really long time.

While I don’t think Holmes will be a serious contender for any acting awards, I do believe it may play into some technical awards (though in many cases will lose to Avatar). That it will be nominated for a costumes Oscar, and possibly art direction,  I do not doubt.

On to the differences. Besides Sherlock having a bulldog and Pirates having a monkey, there are a few. While both films do have one villain clearly defined and one in the periphery, allowing the opportunity for further episodes, only Sherlock Holmes resolves things with any finality. In fact, one of my pet peeves about action/adventure movies happens when the bad guy has an unsatisfying come-uppance at the end, an unfitting death or something unFaustian. The ending of Lord Blackwood was so well done I believe I actually said “Awesome!” out loud, before realizing I’d done it out loud and sank back into my seat. Also, Holmes goes a lot further than the first of the Pirates films did to create a sense of period with more than costumes and vehicles. The smoky days of London in the Industrial Revolution are tangible and palpable, and I half expected Sweeney Todd to pop out of a doorway. While both films’ plots toy with elements of the supernatural, only Holmes finally dispels myths using science.

Pirates was superior in that Captain Jack Sparrow was a truly unique movie character we hadn’t seen before, and because he was so over-the-top, we can’t think of Downey’s interpretation as occupying the same space, even though technically speaking, it should.  I can see more kids going to see Pirates and then wanting to dress up as a pirate than I can imagine those same kids seeing Sherlock Holmes and then coming home, donning a deerstalker tweed hat, and creeping around with a magnifying glass (though, to be fair, not even Downey does that).

Sherlock Holmes is a new take on an old theme, and a fun one at that…but I fear that the excitement of following clues and solving mysteries with logic may no longer be its own thrill in a world of fight scenes and special effects. I look forward to seeing where the franchise goes.

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