Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sherlock Holmes: Steampunk Pugilist?

The new Sherlock Holmes movie is rollicking, steampunkish, and artfully dark and bleak in its cinematographic depiction of Victorian London. The fast-moving plot calls to mind old-time, Saturday-at-the-movies serials. The gothic darkness reminds me of the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton.

This production goes over the top with its amount (rather than severity) of cartoonish fisticuffs and James Bond-like physical predicaments. Not the about-to-be-caught-with-Miss Moneypenny, sexy-fun kind of predicaments but the about-to-be-sawn-in-half, always-in-peril kind of predicaments. The Holmes-Watson relationship in the film has been much discussed, but it's really only suggested rather than explicit. The critics may have it otherwise, but this is no Brokeback Baker Street.

The dialogue is quick, mumbling, and often hard to hear with a loud, action-movie soundtrack behind it. For that reason alone, those with reduced hearing capability will find the movie's wit and subtleties -- and there are plenty of both -- difficult to follow.

Robert Downey Jr. chews the scenery, of course, and Jude Law's version of Dr. Watson shows deeper depth than some other Watson depictions. This Irene Adler is a fetching but shallow character, as is Watson's fiancee, Mary. The dark-caped villain Lord Blackwell, an antagonist of evil intent, calls to mind the dark Don Giovanni figure in Amadeus, or even Darth Vader. Have I mentioned that the movie is dark?

Appropriately, we saw Sherlock Holmes at a holiday week matinee. We enjoyed it but were glad for the early show discount. I hope these facts provide you with enough clues to deduce our summary rating.

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