A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 62 – Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – May 1st, 2010

This morning, via Bill Corbett’s twitter, we learned that it is Law Day. And yes! It is! He said it was proper to celebrate all things John Philip Law, but we’ve already watched Barbarella and our other two JPL movies are MST3K episodes. So even though Bill Corbett says it’s strictly forbidden to celebrate Jude Law on Law Day, we decided to flaunt convention and put in Sherlock Holmes, and damn the harsh penalties Corbett warned of!

We’ve seen this movie already, but we saw it in the theater first. And I admit, I went into it a little dubious. I grew up on the written stories – though it’s been so long since I read them that I’m not good enough with details to cite the many references I know this movie has – and the Jeremy Brett Holmes television series. Much as I like Robert Downey Jr. I wasn’t really sure how he’d do Holmes and how the movie would work out. It was being marketed as an action movie, which, given the success of Iron Man probably seemed like a good plan. It’s a pity they went that way, because while there is a good deal of action in the movie, there’s also a good deal of genuine mystery and puzzle solving by Holmes. And I mentioned the references. There are a lot. More than I can pick out on my own, but I’ve read lists made by people with more Holmes knowledge than I’ve got and they were impressive. I really do think the people involved in making this movie loved the source material and truly wanted to make sure they communicated that.

As mysteries go, it’s not the best ever written, but the story of one conveniently named Lord Blackwood and his scheme to destroy not only a secret society that stood in his way but all of Parliament as well works just fine as a big screen Holmes mystery. Irene Adler isn’t the best part of the movie, but her presence and her employer’s both set up a sequel nicely enough. I admit, I was worried about the supernatural aspects of the movie to begin with when I first saw it, but I knew by the end Holmes would explain it all, and I was right.

One of my favorite things about the movie is how it breaks things down. Both Holmes’ fights and the way he figures out the mystery and gets things done. The bit where he follows Irene at the start, and we first see the scene play out normally, then we see how Holmes followed her and disguised himself and how he got to the scene we saw originally. Nicely done, and when it’s done, it doesn’t really slow things down as much as one might think. The fight scenes where we get Holmes’ thought process are also very nice. A little slower than they could be, but it showcases how even mid-action Holmes is observing his surroundings and making deductions and plans based on details most people wouldn’t even know were there. My one complaint about it is that after it’s done a couple of times, it’s abandoned. I understand why – it could get tedious, or it could slow things down more than the movie could stand – but it feels like it should at least have come out one more time near the end. But then the end does have Holmes’ explanation for how Darkwood managed all his feats, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I’ll forgive the fight breakdown absence.

All in all, when we first saw this we came out of the theater smiling and saying to each other “Wow, that was a lot better than I expected!” And it holds up. Even knowing the story and the tricks and the answer to the mystery, I still had a good time watching this tonight and I suspect I’ll watch it a few more times and enjoy it just as much then too. Some of that could be the Holmes and Watson interaction, which is absolutely fantastic, and the dialogue in general. It’s wonderfully written and wonderfully performed and Watson gets to kick ass and be competent! So adding all of that to the gimicks above (and they are gimicks, but nicely done ones) makes for a fun movie.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

May 1, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Apparently May first is “Law Day,” which, according to a tweet by Bill Corbet of MST3K and Rifftrax fame, means we should pay homage to John Phillip Law today. Unfortunately we already reviewed Barbarella, which was the only John Phillip Law movie we own. We need to get an un-misted copy of Danger: Diabolik so that we have a John Phillip Law movie for May first next year. In the mean time we’re watching a Jude Law movie (in direct violation of Bill’s edict of this morning forbidding such a thing.) So we’re watching the 2009 re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes.

I remember seeing the previews for this movie and dreading it. The notion of a big-budget Hollywood film starring Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. and directed by the creator of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels sounded appalling to me. I mean, I devoured the stories of Sherlock Holmes when I was in sixth grade and loved them, but they’re not terribly accessible tales that would be appropriate for a Hollywood action film. However they WERE pulp tales of adventure in their own way, full of the macabre and references to strange peoples and devices from outside the sphere of the average eighteenth century Englishman. (There’s an entire chapter of backstory in A Study in Scarlet for example that takes place in the American wild west and Salt Lake City because the murdered man turns out to be a nefarious Mormon.) I re-read some of the stories after watching this movie and that opinion was reaffirmed in me. In The Sign Of The Four there is reference to Holmes being an accomplished boxer (a doorman recognises him from a bout.) There are numerous conspiracies and exotic poisons and all such things.

In truth this movie works surprisingly well. It’s like the original stories just turned up to eleven. The action is Hollywood stuff, and the romance (both between Holmes and Watson and between Holmes and Adler) is much more direct than the stuff in the books and stories that was only alluded to. But the character of Holmes as a man utterly incapable of living with people and obsessed with his own distinct way of solving all crimes comes directly from the cannon. There are many, many nods and winks to the cannon as well. There’s the examination of a watch which in The Sign of the Four was Watson’s watch inherited from his brother, but in the movie is a watch belonging to a mysterious ginger midget. There’s Watson’s war wound which in the books changes location from his shoulder to his leg, and in the movie translates as a limp that’s only sometimes there. It’s clear that the writers were fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work and used it as a rough foundation for this larger-than-life work.

On the whole, though, it IS a big-budget Hollywood picture with explosions and chase scenes and fights. And it works brilliantly well. Law’s chemistry with Downey Jr. is perfect. The reveal at the end of the movie shows that Holmes pretty much knew what was going on the whole time (as he usually does) and only needed a few facts to bring everything into focus. The action is wonderfully put together, all full of cinematic tricks like speeding up and slowing down time to isolate the hits, somewhat like in The 300. I had a terrific time watching it in the cinema, and a terrific time re-watching it just now on DVD.

Here’s hoping that the inevitable sequel doesn’t completely f*ck it up.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments