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 simple smile SR Debate: Avatar vs. Sherlock Holmes

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  1. I'm confused … Kofi was sounding differently about Avatar last night on the live feed. Did I miss something?

  2. As far as what I think? SH is the better movie in my opinion by the fact that I enjoyed it far more. It was more entertaining and engaging than Avatar.

  3. Ok. I have seen both films twice.

    For all I wanted to hate Avatar, I cant. It is a good movie, one of the most immersive and impressive cinematic experiences of my adult life. But the story didnt offer anything new or original.

    And Holmes. I loved that movie so much. And like Avatar it hardly had the most original story, but there is a clear distintion between the two. The acting in Holmes was top notch, really excellent from everyone involved, whereas Avatar, the acting really let it down.

    So for me, Holmes was superior.

    But Star Trek was better than both.

  4. “[Avatar] It is a good movie, one of the most immersive and impressive cinematic experiences of my adult life. But the story didnt offer anything new or original.

    And Holmes. I loved that movie so much. And like Avatar it hardly had the most original story, but there is a clear distintion between the two. The acting in Holmes was top notch, really excellent from everyone involved, whereas Avatar, the acting really let it down.

    So for me, Holmes was superior.”

    Lifted from DrSamBeckett and is exactly how I feel. And also VIc's point about knowing what is going to happen in Avatar just waiting for it to happen and what it will look like is spot on for me as well.

    BTW I thought the slow-down effect of Holmes figuring out his next move and then showing it in real-time was awesome! Would've loved to have seen more of it. And, I guess we will possibly next year. :)

  5. I completely agree with Vic. Also, James Cameron made himself out to be a completely pompous scumbag yesterday at the Golden Globes. I love how hardly anyone even claps for him, and Jeff Bridges gets a standing ovation.

  6. I think the only reason I enjoyed Avatar was for seeing things I hadn't seen before (and not just the effects) but giant blue people and neon surroundings. (Maybe I would feel different if I had ever visited Vegas). I was entertained MORE by Sherlock Holmes however. Even though I had read some SH books as a kid and generally like RDJ as an actor, I still entered the theatre with a “This better be good. (and) “I wonder how they'll tackle it” opinion. I am not a fan of Guy Ritchie since his crap far outweighs his good. The characters in the film version of SH were more engaging/entertaining. I like it when in the heat of the moment, necessity becomes the mother of invention for a character. I'll take an archaic cattle prod that over a blaster of any kind any day. As for obsessive fans? Sherlock's have pre-dated Avaturd by a century. Some believe to this day he was an actual person. Still I appreciated the subtlety of SH's special/visual effects more than the wow-factor of Ava…, you know what it's called. My biggest disappointment with SH? Rachel McAdams.

  7. INK,

    I loved the preview slo-mo as well… I thought it gave great insight to Holmes' thought processes and how intricately he thought things through.


  8. BAH! No help from the readers! :-)

    SH was nothing new at all. It was a classic Sherlock Holmes story: Everybody thinks one thing is happening (supernatural powers!) Holmes proves it's all explainable and logical by focusing on the right details. This might've been new in the 19th century, but in the age of DNA profiling, it's hardly revolutionary.

    In terms of viewing the film: Vic said “I hoped the villain didn't have supernatural powers” – well the only reason he (and any viewer) would even have a question about that fact is that the film uses cheap cinematic tricks to make you wonder! Lord Blackwood has no supernatural powers – but oh, wait, we'll film a scene where he just “appears” by the bathtub, or one in the slaughterhouse where he moves like a wraith evading Holmes and Watson – except he can't really do any of that. So why are we being shown those kinds of effects?

    Does nobody else consider that a cheat to help pull off a poorly conceived plot? Or am I alone on this?

  9. I wont see Avatar (looks dumb to me and no one I know has said it has a good plot, only special effects) and I should have walked out of Sherlock Holmes. To me I thought Sherlock Holmes was the worst I saw this year possibly. I just couldn't get into it.

  10. Avatar was far from new either. Visuals are the only thing that stands out about it, imo. But there's so much more to a good movie than visuals alone. Sherlock Holmes brought more to the table (acting, dialog, setting, musical score) – which says a lot about how far removed Avatar was from being a total package.

  11. Cameron has fallen so far from the excellence that was Terminator 2.

  12. I would love to see it in the sequel but not to the point like in “Dead Man's Chest” where all we heard was Captain Jack Sparrow's twisted talking. We get it. Once or twice would be funny… four or five is a headache and annoying.

  13. As films, I walked out of Holmes feeling more satisfied than I did with Avatar. I get the impression most of the maintained buzz surrounding Avatar is in response to how immersed people get, which I think is a legitimate achievement for the film. However, I wasn't so concerned with losing myself as much as whether all those factors could go together to tell a substantive story. Archetypal though it may be, I feel like it does the archetypes a disservice if you can forget them the moment you leave the theater. Remember the experience, yes, but not been left with anything GREATER than a desire to continue to dwell on Pandora.

    While Holmes didn't leave anything PROFOUND afterwards, it told a better, quirkier story. Concerning redundancies, it didn't have nearly the amount of redundant elements that could just as well be leveled against Avatar. Holmes was the greatest film I'd ever seen, but it made me want to revisit the film FOR THE STORY'S SAKE, not because I wanted to experience Pandora.

    I'd be disappointed (though not surprised) if Avatar won Oscars for anything beyond technical work and musical score, and only really expect Holmes to get recognition for Downey (though he won't win) and Hans Zimmer's score.

  14. There wasn't a whole lot I liked about “Avatar.” Yes, the CGI was amazing, but I thought that the prawns in “District 9″ looked more believable. The story was oh-so predictable and since there was so much to look at in every scene, I didn't get the chance to notice a lot of particulars.

    Plus, I can't imagine that people are literally that heartless at this time in our history. After all the wars and genocides and terrorists we have experienced as the human race, are there still people out there who can't empathize with others?

    In “Sherlock Holmes” I made a point to try and figure out the mystery. I knew it wasn't supernatural because that's not how Sherlock rolls. So in every scene I paid close attention to whatever Robert Downey, Jr. was doing, because I knew a flashback would come at the end to prove how everything was scientific.

    The acting in “Sherlock Holmes” far surpassed that of “Avatar.” This is my favorite Robert Downey, Jr. character next to Harry Lockhart in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” Chaplin, and Tony Stark. Jude Law was surprising as Dr. Watson. He brought intelligence and action to the character.

    In the case of villains, Mark Strong's character is more believable than Stephen Lang's Colonel. Strong's villain has a past and a plausible sequence of events that lead him to where we meet him in “Sherlock Holmes.” I have no idea why Colonel Quaritch is against the Na'vi. Is it simply a case of money? Is he simply a xenophobic? It's not just enough to be bad anymore. You need to have a reason. Even if the explination is bad, as the “Star Wars” prequels showed us.

  15. Jessie, I sure hope you're a lady, otherwise I have some confused feelings I have to work out. Eloquent & accurate. (Says me.)

  16. I second your article. It is absolutely spot on…exactly what I had on mind

  17. I watched SH with a huge grin on my face. I've been a fan of the character Sherlock Holmes for over 20 years and this is the best version I've seen. There were lots of individual scenes that I simply loved and I will definately buy it when it is released on DVD. That is not to say there weren't any problems with the movie. I found the villain to be… well, not a match for Holmes in the end, and the female lead was really dull. If they make a second movie I hope they'll skip her. Though I'll watch it either way.

    Avatar managed to suck me in to its world like a fairytale come to life. The visual effects were near perfection and I quickly forgot about the fact that the blue aliens were CGI and not real actors. The story was very predictable however, which will make watching it again a bit teadious. Unlike SH I didn't even have individual scenes that I want to go back to. It was an amazing experience, and I'll certainly buy the tickets for any sequels, but I doubt I'll be buying the DVD. My tv just won't do it justice.

    I guess I'm still waiting for a movie that can beat Iron Man for me. Perhaps Iron Man 2?

  18. Comparing these two movies are apples to oranges. Both quite great movies both NOT absolutely AWESOME movies. Two different genres we are dealing with here. Both movies have pro's and cons here. Avatar quite predictable but a visually fun movie and has a great moral message. Sherlock Holmes was much more a “dark and brooding mystery” movie more inclined to make you bring your mind. I like Sherlock Holmes because of such of the mindless movies circulating the screens these days. Both movies are thought provokers. But again, to different style movies. I wouldn't really compare them. They're even MORE FURTHER apart in genre or style from TDK vs. Iron Man or Biggie vs Tupac.

  19. My wife and I had HUGE grins on our faces after the movie. We both smiled, giggled and cried during the movie. We talked about seeing it again, but didn't. A friend of ours hadn't seen it, so 3 weeks later, we watched it again with the friend. OMG. I was just as amazed the 2nd time around as the first, and our friend kept throwing two thumbs up in the air throughout the film! Afterwards, the wife and I got in the car and exclaimed “this is the best movie out in a looong time.”

    Avatar will be on the minds of people for years to come. Sherlock Holmes will only be faintly remembered as that movie that RDJ acted really good in as in “What was that movie that RDJ play in, no not Iron Man, …Yea SH! He did good in that.”

    SH is just a movie. Avatar is an EXPERIENCE just like Titanic was. Cameron is onto something. You can argue subjectives like which movie had better acting, story, etc. But you can't argue away the phenomena of an epic movie like LOTR, Titanic, Star Wars, and now Avatar.

  20. I forgot, you guys are right about the acting, Faaaar more superior in Sherlock Holmes though.,

  21. A little off topic but Colonel Quartich just SCREAMS CABLE to me. I think he'd be the right guy to cast as Cable in a future X-Men movie(before he gets TOO old).

  22. EngraverKev – – rest assured in your feelings. I am in fact a lady. Thank you for your compliments.

    Ulik – – I hadn't even thouhgt of Stephen Lang as Cable, but he is a dead ringer! Good call!

  23. So, I saw both movies. I was really looking forward to Avatar as Cameron usually puts out great stuff. And I really did enjoy Avatar, and thought it was a fantastic movie and very well done. The CGI was great, the acting was decent, and I liked some plot elements. However, the acting was not absolutely amazing, and I could predict what was going to happen about 10 to 20 minutes into the movie. I know that certain good plots have already been used, and that it is hard to find anything original. But for Cameron to have been working so hard on Avatar for such a long time, I would have hoped for something more originial. Also, practically all the plot elements were unoriginal. The only original stuff was Pandora, the avatars, and … not much else. The movie was far too predictable. For instance, as soon as Jake and Neytiri were attacked by that one bird, and she told him the story about it, I knew, Yep, he's going to catch it and master it. In the end, I enjoyed the movie, but didn't feel the desire at all to go see it again. Sherlock Holmes I left the theatre absolutely grinning. The acting was incredible, the story kept me entertained, the chemistry between Watson and Holmes was perfect, the music was amazing…I also especially loved the parts where you saw Holmes plan his attack in advance. I have read some Holmes books, but this movie kept me pleasantly surprised and entertained. This as not the best movie ever, but it was thoroughly entertaining and I loved it. I saw it again, and liked it even more. I wouldn't mind seeing it several more times, and buying it on DVD.

  24. I enjoyed both films very much, undoubtedly two of my favorites from 2009. But for me, Avatar takes the top spot!

    I thought Avatar's storyline DID offer a refreshing concept. Now, given I haven't seen every movie in the world, or even every movie from 2009, but I thought Avatar was unique in a certain respect. Instead of the usual premise of a “technologically advanced race of aliens” coming to Earth to 1) invade us, or 2) re-fuel (district 9), the plot was switched up so that WE were those aliens. That's one of the problems many people have with the film: “humans as the 'bad guys'”. Perhaps it has been done before and I just don't know about it, but it was new to me!
    Also, the world is so rich in detail from the plants and forests to the unique wildlife. A very vivid imagination brought to life like no other. In that regard, it truly is the first of it's kind.

    As Vic clearly points out, Sherlock Holmes was entertaining as well. It definitely has replay value for me and I'm glad they're jumping into production for the sequel so soon!


  25. I really liked both movies. Avatar was a visual spectacle that really hasn't been seen on the screen since the original Star Wars came out. The WOW! factor is comparable. The box office argument, though, is weak. Yes, it's making a killing, but when you figure in that the digital 3-D and IMAX screenings cost as much as 50% more to see than the regular 2-D version, then that takes some of the luster away from it. I immensely enjoyed being immersed into the world of Pandora, but Avatar doesn't inspire my imagination the way Star Wars did 30+ years ago.

    As for Holmes, I really REALLY liked that movie. RDJ and Jude Law were phenomenal in their roles and the movie held me from beginning to end. IF I had to choose to see on again in the theater, it would be Holmes.

  26. I watched both movies, and enjoyed both movies, but for me Avatar was a lot like cotton candy. You try it, it's a pleasant experience, but there's nothing after it. In terms of “depth” the Matrix (the original, not the sequels which sucked like a very sucky thing sucking on a vacuum cleaner) offered more.

    Sherlock Holmes was more relatable and a little more deep (neither of course are competing with The Consolation of Philosophy). Robert Downy Jnr is a fantastic actor of course and comparing him with Sam Worthington demonstrates why Sam couldn't play Captain America alongside Robert's Tony Stark. Sam would lack the presence to keep from being overshadowed.

    @Bane. It's not an aliens movie, it's a civilized man versus the noble savage movie. Those are a dime a dozen and always play out the same way. Never mind that in the real world the savages were often grateful for the assistance and material increase that missionaries and settlers provided. That said of course there were conflicts, and the settlers were by no means models of loving brotherhood either. In a real world situation there would have been negotiation and exchange on both sides, particularly with our knowledge of some of the disastrous ways in which people were exploited over the past few hundred years. Instead Cameron created a mythical race who are in need of nothing. In other words it's not an exchange between real people but an exchange between mythical industrialized brutes, and mythical noble natives. It's just Cameron's hatred of humanity in play. I wish he'd just join the voluntary human extinction group and be done with it.

    My vote, Sherlock Holmes.

  27. Hm, Sherlock Holmes. A movie where a guy uses technology to try to fool people into thinking he has supernatural skills so he can take control of them. Sounds like every episode of Scooby Doo, lol.

    Alright, alright, seriously though, the points Kofi brought up about how redundant the plot is, in my opinion, is somehow both the weak and the strong part of the movie. It is true that he more or less solved the case from within the first half of the movie, but then just pretends to not know any better for the rest of the movie just to have that typical cool “all secrets revealed” ending that we've seen in so many movies already.

    So that's kind of a weak point, but at the same time, it is entertaining to see the first time around. But that's the thing, once you know, it's not worth watching again. I'll definitely not be buying it on DVD. There's really nothing to motivate me to watch it again even though I thought it was semi-entertaining the first time around. That's why I think that's both a weak point and a strong point, because it was an interesting moment, but at the same time, it's something that has been done many times before and it doesn't lend to repeated viewings.

    I think that's why Avatar is slaughtering Sherlock Holmes in the box office, because whether or not you like the story, the visuals itself is a motivation to watch it over. Personally, I enjoyed the movie. I wasn't sitting there thinking about what other movie had a similar plot. If I did that, I wouldn't enjoy ANY movie, because almost all movie plots are similar to something that has been done already. So why bother? I'm not at all a Guy Ritchie fan, but I still tried to enjoy it (and did, to an extent) while I was watching it even though I'm a bit sick of the whole witty banter bit that seems so popular now…

  28. Oh, and I'm sorry, I know I'm in a minority here, but I thought District 9 wasn't that good. I mean, seriously, if they get their “fuel” from their own technology, then why didn't they do that from within the ship? Why this round-about way of coming down to earth, doing all this stuff, then finding all of their own technology that was from the ship to begin with, to get the fuel to get going?? Doesn't make any sense at all…

    Also, how does their fuel turn some completely different species, like humans from earth, into one of them? I mean, besides landing on him, I'm sure some of that fuel might has splashed onto some insect crawling on the ground, how come that insect didn't grow into one of them? I mean, was it specifically formulated to have an affect on humans? Would our gasoline turn one of them into a human??? I'm sorry, but that premise was “original” only because it's so retarded that nobody else would have been able to write that into a script with a straight face… When I saw the trailers and I see that he was being turned into an alien, I thought it had to be intentional, like they made something that specifically could transform a human into one of them. But for it to just be a coincidental side effect from contact with their fuel is simply stupid. And for them to have the means to change him back, I mean, does this happen a lot? Do they have a “revert transformed humans back into humans” kit laying around in their ship???

    I thought the beginning of the movie was fairly interesting. But it all fell apart in the last half of the movie in my opinion.

    With Avatar, my biggest bone to pick with that movie is just how ALL of the mercenaries just followed orders blindly like they were droids. I think there would have been more dissenters than just Michelle Rodriguez… And she sucked anyway… The political messages in the movie was kind of annoying, but we all know why they won those awards, Hollywood is obsessed with this whole hippy green movement crap that Avatar promoted, so obviously they have to show their “appreciation” for promoting this message. The key to winning awards has nothing to do with making good movies, but promoting messages you think the “academy” (I know this was the Globes, not Oscars, but you get my point) will want to reward. Last year, it was gay rights (Milk), this year I think it will be the green movement with Avatar.

    Although personally, I haven't really seen any other dramas to compare it to last year, so I guess for me, Avatar was the best drama I've seen in 2009 too, lol.