Sherlock Holmes (Vic’s Pick)

First off, I’d like to clarify by stating I never said that Sherlock Holmes was a better movie, I said I thought it was a more entertaining movie. Technically, yes, Avatar is incredible – I stated in my review that it was the most visually impressive film I’ve ever seen. Then we have the box office argument… it made a lot of money so it MUST be great, right? Well I’m sorry to say that there’s another couple of films that share impressive visuals and monster box office that are not exactly cinematic masterpieces: The Transformers movies. I guess fantastic Sci-Fi films that came out in 2009 but didn’t make much money like District 9 and Moon must be real stinkers, eh?

I didn’t really have any expectations when I went in to see Sherlock Holmes beyond the fact that I like Robert Downey Jr. as an actor. Not a huge Guy Ritchie nor Jude Law fan. What won me over in the film was the beat and tempo of it (enhanced by the excellent Hans Zimmer score), the insights into Holmes’ mind and character and the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Watson is usually portrayed as a bit of a bumbler on screen – and I’ve always thought “why would a brilliant man like Sherlock Holmes ally himself with someone like that?” In this version Watson is more of a counterbalance to Holmes’ extreme personality  – Watson helps keep Holmes on an even keel and enjoys sharing in the adventures.

There was a mystery to solve, and frankly it keep me interested – I was hoping that the villain would not have supernatural powers but that there would be a logical explanation for everything. Downey’s performance was spot on as a man who is so brilliant and pays so much attention to detail that it almost becomes a handicap in day to day life and interactions with others. Sure the female character started out strong and turned into a cliche by the end of the film, but that was a minor nit.

But the topper in the film was Robert Downey Jr’s performance. I’ll go on the record and say that I think in this film we have probably the most unique and interesting film character since Brad Pitt played Tyler Durden in Fight Club. RDJ’s performance carries a LOT of weight in this film and gets the lion’s share of the props. Downey was recognized for his performance at the Golden Globes, however it was for best performance in a musical or comedy (huh?).

As to Avatar: You can argue archetypes all day long, but when I can tell how a movie is going to play out 10 minutes in pretty much beat for beat, I’m sorry, but that’s weak. When you can (rightfully) compare a movie to Ferngully, The Battle for Terra, and Pocahontas almost plot point for plot point – well, please don’t get come to me with talk of a great story. Sure a known story arc CAN make for a great movie (look at another movie Avatar imitates: Dances with Wolves – very similar yet that was a powerful, moving film), but sometime re-using a story is just re-using a story. Now I’m not saying Avatar was awful, far from it, but it wasn’t the be-all, end-all people are making it out to be. Avatar is bowling people over because it’s and EVENT, the movie equivalent of a Disney ride. A basic story wrapped up with the pretty bow of phenomenal CGI and impressive 3D.

And as to the Golden Globes wins – Best Drama for Avatar? Really? With it going up against The Hurt Locker, Precious and Up in the Air? So much for any meaning in that awards show. Spectacle wins out over drama in the drama category, it seems.

I’m a HUGE Sci-Fi fan and James Cameron’s The Abyss, Terminator 2 and Aliens are among my all time favorite films. Now some of you may argue that you could tell what was going to happen 10 minutes into any of those – but I certainly didn’t. Each of those kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, wanting and waiting to see what would come next. In Avatar, the only anticipation of what would come next is what the CGI animation would look like in the next scene.

Everything was so incredibly telegraphed in the film that it just a case of waiting to see what every scene that you knew was coming would look like. What will the plants do in this scene? What other kind of funky six-legged animal with we see next? And of course you had the cloying enviro message and (ex)soldiers portrayed as bloodthirsty evil bad guys, complete with the toppling of the Great Tree reminiscent of the Twin Towers on 9/11, except this time with Americans as the ones pulling the trigger. Nice.

When I walked out of Avatar I sat down and asked myself “Did I like that or love it?” And after some thought, the best I could do was “liked it.” Heck, I even gave it a second viewing, this time in IMAX. No change. However when I walked out of Sherlock Holmes, I had a huge grin on my face that lasted pretty much for the entire drive home.

THAT is what a movie like Avatar or Sherlock Holmes is supposed to do to you when it’s over.

So we’ve had our say – what do YOU think about these two movies as compared to one another?

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