Sherlock Holmes (2009)

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*. Another big-budget blockbuster that’s diverting enough while it’s playing, but that you can scarcely remember any of after it’s over.
*. It’s really just another instalment of MarvelCrap. There’s lots of great looking CGI and effects (especially the epic cityscapes), some A-list leads who play off well against each other, and in the starring role a caped superhero. Sherlock’s braininess, it seems, is just another form of Marvel mutant power, as is his “Holmesavision” technique of choreographing a fight before it occurs.
*. In an attempt to keep things really simple, Holmes’s nemesis, Lord Blackwood, is a Nazi dressed in an anachronistic-looking black leather trench coat and dreaming of a thousand year Reich. He’s another pure comic book creation, and even comes complete with a plot for world domination and a fantastic Rube Goldberg terrorist device.
*. In fairness, Holmes had fought Nazis before (starting with Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror). That didn’t make historical sense either, but it was wartime.

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*. Am I just being grumpy wanting a movie like this to be a bit more . . . intellectual? My only problem with presenting Holmes this way isn’t that it misrepresents Holmes but that it makes him just like every other action hero. Stripped to the waist at the local London fight club even! Why Guy Ritchie and the producers thought this was taking Holmes back to the original (as they claim on the Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented featurette) is anybody’s guess. Methinks they were playing defense on a touchy point.
*. Meanwhile the basic plot here twitches along without a breath of originality or twist in sight. It’s all formula right up to the big fight at the end on the top of London Bridge, complete with a damsel in distress and the bad guy plummeting to this death.

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*. It seems to me to be a movie too interested in mechanical details. The steps in the different chemical reactions that much of the villainy depends on, the different martial arts moves that are broken down in slow motion, the complex device concealed in the basement of parliament, and even all the pulleys and cranes on Tower Bridge. This is the kind of movie an engineer makes, or a software developer designs. It’s meticulous and unreal.
*. I could go on about how this is our dominant contemporary film aesthetic — product of the imaginations of a generation of computer engineers — but perhaps I’ll leave that discussion for another day, and another film. In any event, you know what I mean.

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*. The music by Hans Zimmer fits the mood perfectly: thrilling but not quite serious.
*. Downey and Law are a good combination, but homoerotic? Oh, I grow weary of such charges. Watson is getting married and Holmes has an eye for Rachel McAdams. They’re a pair of young bachelors. I don’t see why A. O. Scott has to refer to Irene Adler as Holmes’s “beard,” as he does in his New York Times review. When did the presentation of two male buddies necessarily become a gay thing? With the dawn of the bromance? There were plenty of buddy action pictures in the 1980s and ’90s and I don’t remember a gay subtext being read into all of them.
*. In short, it’s a movie that refuses to take chances, instead appealing to the widest base audience. It made a lot of money by giving people what they had come to expect from such an enterprise. That’s entertainment.

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