Just Look Away

Posted on March 25, 2011

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Sherlock Holmes

This 2010 steampunk monster detective movie has no rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, it looks like it does, but the movie art is for the Robert Downey, Jr. movie, as are the reviews.

Why Bother?

I’ll give you three reasons why you might be tempted by this blight on the Holmesian canon.

First, because you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan. In fact, that’s the exact reason why you should not watch this. Seriously, one Holmesian to another: Stay away from this heresy against the Great Detective.

Second, because you’re a fan of Torchwood. Gareth David-Lloyd, who plays Ianto Jones in the TV series, plays Dr. Watson in this film. If you’re following the careers of the Torchwood cast, you might watch this.

Third, because it’s from The Asylum, a motion picture company most commonly recognized for its SyFy Originals. Those Saturday night films are a bit hit-and-miss. They’re always low budget, but some of them have a rollicking sense of fun. Some find original ways to be genuinely scary. So they’re a mixed bag, and that might be enough for you to take a chance on this movie.

I watched it

A British ship carrying tax revenues back to England gets attacked by a giant squid. A horrible monster is stalking and killing people in the parks and surrounding woods of Victorian London. Inspector Lestrade is in the newspapers, but he hasn’t come to Holmes for help. Holmes gets involved in a peripheral matter and then finds himself embroiled with clockwork exoskeletons, rubber monsters, a bomb-delivering robot, and someone that the Netflix cover copy insists is Spring-heeled Jack, although I have no idea why and don’t recall him being addressed as that in the film (and he’s not listed that way in the credits, either).

The Verdict

Everyone in the film is doing a fine job with what they have. It’s not their fault that the budget is so low, or that Ben Snyder was miscast as the Great Detective. That said, while I consider myself only a minor Holmesian, I consider this film an insult to the memory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Asylum is lucky that Holmesian fundamentalists are too devoted to rationality to pick up torches and pitchforks and go looking for the production offices.

Gareth David-Lloyd does a fine job as Dr. Watson, and is a good physical match for the part.

Dominic Keating, who plays the villain, is a better actor than this and deserves better material. He was terrific as Lt. Malcolm Reed on Enterprise, and I wish he would get more and better offers. He chews the scenery well, here, but he’s not enjoying himself.

When you’re doing Victoriana, you need to use practical effects. There is very little substitute for the weightiness and verisimilitude that real props bring. CGI effects are just too high-tech, unless you can afford top-of-the-line. Just don’t do it.

Elementary

This movie isn’t one of those so-bad-it’s-fun films. It’s just painful to watch, even if you’re not a Holmesian. Just look away, I beg you. Tell the world about your favorite Sherlock Holmes portrayal in the comments.

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Posted in: Movies