McMurdo’s Camp

Movie Review – Sherlock Holmes (Asylum) I

Movie Review – Sherlock Holmes. This is a new Holmes movie, interestingly titled “Sherlock Holmes”, but it is not the recently-released highly-hyped version starring Robert Downey as Holmes. This one is a product of Asylum Productions, and stars Ben Syder as Holmes. The new movie is available on DVD, and is not in theaters.

Overall, it is a kind of Wild Wild West hi-tech science fiction job set in Victorian London instead of in cowboy country. No steam-powered giant tarantula in this one; instead we have a mechanical flying fire-breathing dragon and a C3PO-like Darth Vader look-alike mechanical suit of armor, plus a non-skyscraper scale T. Rex gratuitously chasing down hookers and their tricks in London’s East End.

Sound wildly improbable? To an extent, yes of course. But strangely, the movie does have some redeeming qualities. The technical stretches are no less improbable than those in Avatar, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, to name a few. The improbable machines are very low-budget compared to the modern computerized images, but who’s fooling who? Holmes chases the mechanical flying dragon, piloting a machine that looks capable of flying around the world in 80 days or more.

We give them decent marks for the portrayal of Holmes, which we rate as “good as any, better than some”. Only one shortcoming; the actor portraying Holmes was short, and Doyle’s Holmes was tall. Watson was lots taller than Holmes in this movie, and in fact looked as if he was growing out of his clothes. But overall, the relationship between Holmes and Watson was well-done compared to many portrayals. It’s interesting that this movie as well as the recent Downey version portray the Holmes-Watson relationship well, but have a non-tall Holmes.

In the opening scene, a very old Dr. Watson is being cared for during the London 1940 bombings by an attractive nurse, Miss Hudson (!) to whom he relates Holmes’ greatest accomplishment, a story which had never been told. In the end, Miss Hudson completes the transcript, among interesting retrospections. The fundamentals of the plot, as we could understand it, was that Holmes’ brother, Thorpe, had been Lestrade’s partner and was seriously crippled in the line of duty. Thorpe Holmes used his superb intellect, which was a family trait, to devise mechanical enhancements for his body and for those of various other creatures or contrivances to make robo-beasts for purposes that were not perfectly clear to us. Some of the creatures were pretty ugly and scary, and one was not ugly at all.

Should you spend your hard-earned cash on this DVD? Up to you. If you are a collector of Holmes artifacts and devices, you need to have one. If you just have to be on top of every new movie, certainly get one. You can compare the highly-improbable scenes in this movie to those in the Downey version and decide the winner. If you subscribe to the idea that movies are supposed to be demonstration vehicles for for computer-graphics geeks, this one comes in second. Otherwise, maybe not.

Review by Matilda, of the entertainment and cultural staff at McMurdo’s Camp, in the lumber camps of Michigan, January 2010.

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