SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

Published 4 years ago by

Sherlock Holmes (Vic’s Pick)

sherlock holmes 8 SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

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.

jude law sherlock holmes SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

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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  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 http://kallistipress.com/2009-12-22/how-to-like… 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 .