Let me say straight away I can’t blame Jaime Mahoney of Better Holmes & Gardens for my watching the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie not starring Robert Downey Jr. or Jude Law. She did not recommend it. All she did is mention the film in an amusing article on her blog where she advocated not taking Sherlock Holmes too seriously.
In fact, I already knew of this movie but I had no intention of watching it because it looked like a cheap rush to market movie that might trick someone looking to buy the Guy Ritchie-directed Sherlock Holmes starring Downey and Law. But Ms. Mahoney’s lighthearted article prompted me to watch it instantly on Netflix. And for a few minutes at the beginning of the film, I thought it might not be too awful, with an aged John Watson relating (to a Miss Hudson) during what might have been the Battle of Britain one last adventure with his friend Sherlock Holmes.
But it goes quickly downhill. The movie stars unknown Ben Syder as Holmes and Gareth David-Lloyd (you may know him as Ianto Jones from Torchwood) as Watson. It’s odd casting; you know you’re in trouble when Holmes is shorter than Watson, although I’ll give Syder credit for trying to do his best as Holmes. He’s actually fairly entertaining while he diagnoses that a man has died from mercury poisoning, a curiously modern diagnosis, after a lifetime of eating seafood. And at times the back and forth between Holmes and Watson has a little spark, especially after Watson nearly falls to his death after climbing down a cliff to inspect the wreckage of a ship supposedly destroyed by a sea monster. It’s also fun to notice the coarse hemp rope being played out at the top of the cliff and the modern climbing rope that’s securing Watson seen in shots on the cliff face.
In addition to the sea monster, a dinosaur (it looks like a small T-rex) is ravaging Whitechapel, although the dinosaur’s actual intent seems to be the theft of technology, include a fountain pump and copper. How the T-rex can carry anything with those small arms is a mystery. With Inspector Lestrade, who seems curiously unfamiliar with Dr. Watson, they attempt to unravel the mystery of the thefts, the death of Holmes’ brother (who is not Mycroft), the wreckage of the ship (the shipboard scenes were oddly played by the recreation of the HMS Pickle, the first ship to deliver the news of the death of Lord Nelson), the dinosaur attacks, a robot and a cyborg and a fire-breathing dragon.
Oh, and the costumes are ill fitting and the hairstyles unflattering and the sound is murky. The animation is not that bad, being a little bit better than a Saturday night Syfy movie. I especially enjoyed the dragon setting fire to Parliament. But in general the sets, the pacing (to borrow from MST3K: rock climbing!) and the acting are pretty awful. It’s made even more awful by the attempts to copy the slow-motion Holmes’ vision from the Guy Ritchie film.
Of course I had no reason to expect better. The Asylum, the producers of this film, has a long string of “mockbusters” to its credits, include The Day the Earth Stopped and Transmorphers and Snakes on a Train and … wait a minute, maybe Jaime Mahoney had it right. I’ve had a lot of fun writing this review and laughing at The Asylum’s funny titles and the helicopter/balloon in the movie was a hoot. Maybe I shouldn’t take things so seriously? Naw, just kidding, it was a bad, bad movie. But if you’ve got some fellow Holmesians and enough alcohol and enough MST3K sensibilities, it might be worth the 85 minutes to watch it. Now I just have to figure out how to get my revenge on Jaime.