SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

Published 5 years ago by

avatar vs sherlock holmes SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

Welcome to our first ever Screen Rant debate forum!

Movies are a topic that fall into a category alongside politics, religion and pizza toppings as THE most disagreed upon subjects in the universe. And while politics, religion and pizza toppings are powder keg issues, only movies seem to split people on such individualistic levels; no matter how great of friends you are with someone, your cinematic opinions are going to fork down different roads at some point.


Case in point: Yours truly and Screen Rant head honcho, Vic Holtreman. Over the holiday season Vic and I both saw Avatar and Sherlock Holmes (as did most of you reading this). While neither of us hated either film, there has been a serious debate raging behind the scenes as to which was the BETTER film. I say Avatar, Vic is dead set on Sherlock Holmes.

Out of respect for the name of our site, we thought we’d each take a moment to rant about our respective choices, why we made that choice, and why you, the readers, should agree.

It’s old-school town hall debating by two movie experts. Let’s get to it:

AVATAR (Kofi’s Pick)

avatar box office numbers SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

At this point it’s almost funny that I even have to argue this: James Cameron’s Avatar is an epic success, not only recouping its massive production and marketing costs (upwards of $500 million), but making hand-over-fist profits that are tallied at $1 billion worldwide and counting. Most recently, Golden Gobe wins for Best Picture (Drama) and a Best Director award for James Cameron. You didn’t think Avatar would live up to the hype? Tell me now how that humble pie is tasting…

Oh, but wait, that’s right – “Box office totals mean nothing in terms of a movie’s quality.” Suuurrrrreeee guy – not even when the box office profits are so huge that it’s clear people are returning to the theater – sometimes two or three times – to watch the movie again? Ok, whatever, box office numbers mean nothing… How about the Golden Globe Awards, where Avatar took Best Picture and Best Director for the win?

So let’s talk about what does matter. I keep hearing this same ridiculous claim being made: “Avatar looked phenomenal, but man did the script/story suck! Totally predictable, not at all original!”

First rule of creative writing: all the great stories have already been told. “New” and “original” stories? They get built on the backs of the great stories that came before them. You can call that a cop out if you want, but for every “original” movie you claim to have seen, I’ll show you where they borrowed their idea(s) from. As I said, the great stories have already been told – the trick is dressing old stories up in fashionable new outfits (read: interpretations) every so often.

avatar post cgi SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

And Cameron certainly did that with Avatar. You might want to call it Pocahontas in space, but brother, Pocahontas never looked this spectacular and was never this big of a cultural phenomenon. As for the actual script? Guys, it’s an archetypal story! If you don’t know what that means, then for the love of god take a look at a list of the primary archetypal stories HERE. See if you can pick out the one that Avatar was drawn from.

In an archetypal story, characters aren’t meant to be fully developed individuals – they’re meant to be symbols of larger concepts or ideas. The point of an archetypal story is to relate those concepts and ideas in a way that is both familiar and not too heady, so that everybody – from the very young, to the very old, to the very stupid – can understand and extract the message. Cameron said upfront he was going for wide appeal with Avatar – not some smarter-than-thou niche film that only appealed to movie snobs aficionados.  Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but wide appeal often requires a more simplistic approach to storytelling. Blame public schools  and your own false expectations for that fact – not the guy who told you upfront what you would be getting.

avatar one SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

In my opinion, Cameron did a good job of reaching and affecting the worldwide audience – so much so that there is actually a faction of people who are now suffering Avatar-related depression because this “gray Earth” we live on is nowhere near as beautiful as the luminescent jungles of Pandora. People are learning to speak Na’vi (skowng!), painting themselves blue, starting up ‘make Earth like Pandora’ environmental movements – Avatar is more than a film: it’s a cultural phenomenon. Is anybody, anywhere, even close to being THAT enamored with  Sherlock Holmes???

As for Holmes, I’ll quickly tell you why I didn’t enjoy it as much as Avatar:

  • Redundant plot – Holmes solves the case in the first 1/3 of the movie! Ritchie then uses cheap cinematic tricks to conjure a “supernatural mystery.”
  • Redundant characterization – WE GET IT! Sherlock Holmes is good at observing and interpreting small details! How many “analytical flashbacks” do we need to see?
  • Redundant dialogue – There are two conversations in this film: 1) “You have to pay attention to details.”  2) “Watson, you and I are like brothers.” Discuss for two hours.
  • Redundant action – It’s great stuff to see…the first time. No so great when you have to watch the same fights over and over (Holmes visualizing combat techniques or battling that giant guy).
  • Redundant themes – What kind of arc was there in this film? Holmes starts off as an eccentric genius who is lonely – he ends an eccentric genius who is lonely. Time wasted.

Winner: The whole world is saying it by now:  AVATAR (has anyone even mentioned Sherlock Holmes since Christmas???).

Continue reading for Vic’s love affair with Sherlock Holmes icon smile SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

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  1. I don't see it as a man vs noble savage movie. Obviously we don't view ourselves as being the aliens, but that's clearly what we were in the movie. If another species came to our planet would we not view them as ETs? If you reversed the roles and the Navi came to Earth from Pandora and attempted to take all our oil by force, I'm pretty sure we'd label them 'aliens', not noble savages.

  2. I enjoyed Avatar a great deal, and was able to overlook some of the more obvious anti-American and pro-Leftist themes. After all, this is a Hollywood film so that stuff is a given and I have to deal. Now, I've read a recent article that suggest Avatar is not your typical Magic White Boy story, and I agree on some level with that. As the article's author noted, “…by giving them their arboreal internet, green SkyNet, and happy animal friends, the movie erases the disparity of power that would have made the humans real oppressors.” (go… for the whole scoop – good stuff!)

    That said, I just enjoyed Avatar and was wowed by the pretty pictures. With Holmes I was downright thrilled. I had a ton of fun, enjoyed the interpretations, and hell I even loved that Ritchie left a gun on the mantelpiece. Tell me where the silencer went to. Heh. Any lesser director would've made that thing a central plot element.

    Final vote:

    Holmes is the better movie

    Avatar is the prettier picture

  3. Ahhh, the “You're old” comment by the young whippersnappers to try and put people who aren't 12 in their place. I never said I didn't like Avatar, I did, but if you think that Avatar is going to have the same impact on society that Star Wars did, you need to open a history book. Star Wars was a cultural phenomenon that revolutionized the film industry AND pop culture. It set box office records that stood for decades when the price of a movie didn't cost $15. In the long run, Avatar may hold the box office record, but Star Wars is going to be remembered ALOT longer. While Avatar may be a revolution in the WAY films are made, Star Wars revolutionized the type of films that were made. James Cameron has made a visually stunning film, even moreso in 3-D, but the story itself is kind of pedestrian. That is what made me enjoy Sherlock Holmes more. However, I do think it's kind of like comparing apples and oranges. One is an epic sci-fi visual stunner and the other is a good, old-fashioned who dunnit. I enjoyed both, but to me, Sherlock Holmes was the better comprehensive film. That said, I look forward to BOTH sequels, but I hope that Holmes stays the course and that Cameron adds some more depth to his characters.

  4. “It set box office records that stood for decades when the price of a movie didn't cost $15. In the long run, Avatar may hold the box office record, but Star Wars is going to be remembered ALOT longer.”

    The thing is, based on the number of tickets sold, I don't think Avatar will end up on top. Money-wise it might, simply because tickets are far more expensive than they were 30+ years ago, and 3D is even MORE expensive than that. Despite Avatar's visual prettiness, it doesn't come CLOSE to Star Wars in appeal factor.

  5. Cyn, I do believe that's what Andy is referring to in the whole comment he made.

  6. Im with you Kofi. It isnt even debatable imo.

  7. Here's your help from the readers. Avatar by a long shot!

  8. I don't consider it a cheat if the character(s) you're following in a scene are surprised by it. The old guy in the tub didn't see Blackwood come in, why should we as an audience? Sherlock and Watson didn't know where he was in the slaughterhouse… why should we?

    I cry foul on cinematic cheats all the time, but these felt like perspective moments to me.

  9. Sherlock Holmes was a better film without question.

  10. This seems like a random debate guys, it seems like one that would be more fitting, especially to the one of 2008's The Dark Knight vs Iron Man, would be Avatar vs Star Trek.

  11. I know what you mean Ken J. But I think that anything Robert Downey, Jr. says is witty. It's a problem and I'm working on it. But can we at least agree that its not really a comedy? “The Hangover” is a comedy. “Tootsie” is a comedy. Not so much “Shelock Holmes.”

  12. Didn't get a chance to pour over the comments, but I will say (for me) movies are all about storytelling. And for me, storytelling can be made/broken by 2 things: an original, compelling plotline; or original, engaging character performances.

    I liken Avatar to Star Wars: it will probably go down in history as a “game changer”, but not because of the story. I loved Star Wars as a kid, because it was an “Event” as Vic says. A milestone in my movie-viewing career. In retrospect, its an archetypal story with some bland character performances. (Cameron: the new Lucas? :/)

    For me, Holmes had some of the essentials for good storytelling: plot line was original enough (although not completely unpredictable) but the CHARACTERS were played AND portrayed in a compelling and original fashion that carried the film. Overtly archetypal stories don't work for me anymore as an adult.

    And the argument that box office $$ is a cheap Lemming argument–ala Vic's Transformers 2 example.

  13. I'm going with the apples & oranges answer here. I do like both!

    Sherlock Holmes is one of the most portrayed characters in theatre, probably second only to Count Dracula. His popularity has lasted for over 100 years! I grew up on the Basil Rathbone / Nigel Bruce pair. Most kids have dressed up like him or immitated him at least once in their childhood. (Even if only to peer through a magnifying glass and mutter, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”) I liked this version because it didn't have to clear the Hayes Office, nor was the man drugged out the entire way.
    Now, as a bit of background on myself – I think the original Star Trek was one of the funniest shows on tv. (… ever…) The inter-personal relationships on the bridge of that ship had me rolling in the aisles (ROTF-LMAO) Spock & McCoy were 2 intellects with totally differing points of view. We get the same thing here W/ Holmes & Watson.
    I am a dialogue junkie – I walk out of plays & Movies with a few lines that just tickle me. Watson: “He had no pulse!” – I love running gags! They work for me :)
    The banter between them was funny! (I don't usually like Comedies – to me, SH is a funny movie.)

    Next: On a Fern Gully note – The kids I took to see that, in the theatre, are now 30-something… But the only line I remember from that (and still quote often) is Robin Williams: “Gravity Works…..” :) But – YEAH!!! Now that you mention it –Avitar is a *lot* like Fern Gully!!! (There might have been an episode of “Captain Planet & the Planeteers” that went along these same lines here – Instead of Ewah, they had Gaia — one of Whoopie Goldberg's better roles…. )

    Fav line in Avatar “Ewah heard you!!!!” (duh, of COURSE she did. All us Earthers knew she would. “It was worth a try…”)
    Agree, it was GOOD animation! The characters looked real.
    Story was okay – visuals were awesome – characters were likeable (Tracy Chacon totally rocked — my fav role for her, yet!) crisis resolution okay…

    BUT, I liked SH as a package, better than Avatar, now that I'm actually thinking about it.
    If you're going strictly by numbers ST episode one did good at the box office but totally BOMBED in my mind as being “a good movie” (I guess I'm just an episode 4 fan…)
    100,000,000 people went to see Avatar – but it is an event – it's a cool event – it's orange juice – and I like oranges okay…
    now, could you pass me that apple, please, – I want more.

  14. Avatar is a junky script! Sure you can repackage stories (and you always will be) but this was like they actually took a template and changed the names. Then you've got things like “science is observation” dialogue and a mineral called Un-obtain-ium! What?! The natives are called “Navie”. The world is called “Pandorum”. I will see the film again because of the visuals and the way shots are composed and the masterful use of the added depth of field here. But the screenplay itself was terrible.
    Sherlock on the other hand was a wonderful screenplay. There wasn't that new of a plot and Sherlock never does change – he is an antagonist we route for, it's what makes him so fun.

  15. I guess, but it's kind of an action/comedy, like along the lines of True Lies action/comedy, except True Lies was like 40 billion times better, but anyway… What category should that be in??

  16. I guess, but it's kind of an action/comedy, like along the lines of True Lies action/comedy, except True Lies was like 40 billion times better, but anyway… What category should that be in??

  17. there is no comparison

    of course AVATAR

    AVATAR is much better than SHERLOCK HOLMES

  18. sherlock holmes is a good movie
    but when sherlock holmes stand beside avatar sherlock holmes looks disgusting

    avatar is much much much much much better than saherlock holmes

    avatar one of the greatest movie ever made

  19. of course AVATAR is better

  20. Avatar is one of the greatest movie ever , while sherlock holmes is an entertainingop movie and we will forget it .