And so I went…
…to see Sherlock Holmes (refer to previous posting “Holmes is that you” about my misgivings). There are plenty of spoilers below so don’t read if you haven’t seen.
The film is long. I could have eliminated about a a fourth of the movie with little or no effect to the characters, plot or overall cinematic power of the film. Prolonged slow motion explosions, drawn out scenes of boxing, fighting, and general mayhem could have been cut in half (or more). What did work wonderfully and the biggest strength of the film is Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Jude Law’s Watson and those characters’ relationship to each other. They added depth to Holmes and Watson, fleshing them out into more human characters. Holmes’ almost narcissistic need of Watson and Watson’s need to move into a more conventional life and inability to completely break himself from the excitement that Holmes represents is what makes this film enjoyable. RDJ’s portrayal of Holmes was not disappointing – the intellect was still there underneath the muscles and sweat and the grime.
The plot I thought was a bit too weak to sustain the weight and distraction of all the “action” sequences. While at first I balked at the whole dark magic, occult tone of it, I reminded myself that this is just the kind of thing that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have been drawn right into. The story dragged mainly because it was side-tracked so often by steampunky labs in all their gory details, large men being pummeled, pigs being sliced and destruction that did very little other than to show off RDJ’s athleticism and timing (which is fine – but we’ll be able to see that in Ironman 2). The villain (Mark Strong) was menacing and stylish. I was slightly distracted by the look they gave him – he looked like the love child of Dracula and Juan Peron. I half expected to see Evita join him while he was proclaiming himself to the House of Lords. The end reveal and Holmes’ explanation of all that had gone on before kept to the Holmesian storytelling tradition.
As for the look of the film – well, what’s with this blue cast, underlit, high contrast style that seems to have invaded every film I go see. Yes, I get it, turn of the century London was grey, smoggy and soot-covered and sapping the color out of scenes was perhaps meant to give it a Victorian pallor but all it did was make me crave warm colors which apparently only existed in Irene Adler’s costumes and make-up. I believe this is the first Guy Ritchie film I have seen as his style and my sensibilities are not in general compatible. I admire the depth he brought to the characters. I also couldn’t help thinking while waiting for the pummeling to stop that there was something in this film that rather reminded me of Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (maybe it was all that underlit, high contrast blue tones).
And Mr. Ritchie did surprise me by the reveal of Moriarty’s presence in the film. I had assumed the mysterious man menacing Ms. Adler was Blackwood. Since I will more than likely be in line, with cash in hand when the sequel is released, may I make a suggestion as to the casting of Moriarty? The role requires someone who can match the intelligence that Robert Downey Jr. projects on film, someone who can be menancing while still being engaging. I’ve read some horrid rumors of Brad Pitt being offered the role. No, no, please no! Brad Pitt is a fine actor but not for this part. Wouldn’t Viggo Mortensen make an excellent Moriarty? No? Well, if you want to stay with a British actor, perhaps Gary Oldham would be a better choice than Mr. Pitt – he might even make a better Moriarty than Mortensen now that I think about it a bit.
And a final note on the state of the cinema in general: Violence for the sake of violence is just not my cup of tea. Frankly I was rattled by the amount of sheer carnage paraded in front of us during the previews for Sherlock Holmes. The same heart racing over the top music pounded over explosions, fireballs and bodies hurling towards the viewer to the point that I’m not even sure what movies I saw previews for with one exception – Date Night ( that one I placed on my list of films to see). I know, I know – I am not the target audience for any of these movies so my opinion matters little compared with that of teenaged boys… eh, c’est la vie.
Oh and one more thing, while I love Tony Stark, I wish that Mr. Downey did a little less comic book hero movies and perhaps a few more smaller films that showcase his enormous acting talents. I am curious as to what the ultimate outcome of “Poe” will be. Take a look here for the background info: Stallone’s Poe ….
(Note to self – find a copy of Chaplin).