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Sherlock Holmes: Early Reviews

by Anne Thompson
December 16, 2009 12:30 AM
21 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

Yet again, a London premiere sparked early London reviews of a big movie, which in turn released the trades and others to post their reviews. While Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the pipe-smoking detective and Jude Law as his sidekick Dr. Watson, won't open stateside until December 25, as of Tuesday, Rotten Tomatoes was counting six reviews at 83%.

The Guardian calls the Guy Ritchie film "high-end hack work," while The Hollywood Reporter says that as ill-fitting an adaptation as the movie is, its pyrotechnics will score at the box office. Variety agrees that this "flagrant makeover of fiction's first modern detective into a man of brawn as much as brain" may please action audiences, especially Iron Man fans. The Independent tracks the changing face of Sir Arthur Canon Doyle's iconic creation.

21 Comments

  • Chatty | December 16, 2009 10:06 AMReply

    Oh, Alan Green, you are deluded if you seriously believe that novels based on a character that was created 132 years ago have not been read by anyone, especially in this day and age! DavidC said it best when he quoted the great Ms. Kael. Critics evaluate films based on a series of criteria relevant to that particular art form. They offer their expert opinion and hopefully encourage us to see films we might otherwise ignore or overlook for lack of knowledge or local availability. I have discovered countless gems on DVD thanks to their "obsolete" opinions, so please speak for your narrow-minded self. A movie based on a literary character is supposed to honor the spirit of such, not dilute it beyond recognition. People will see this movie for many reasons, but please do not assume that most of them have never heard of the famous fictional detective. Sherlock Holmes is iconic and universal, and I hope the movie respects Doyle's masterful creation.

  • Mark | December 16, 2009 9:42 AMReply

    Alan Green is exactly the sort of undemanding moviegoer that has effectively wrecked the blockbuster over the past 10 years.

  • Walter | December 16, 2009 7:32 AMReply

    No one can replace Rathbone.

  • DavidC | December 16, 2009 7:05 AMReply

    "The critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising.” -- Pauline Kael

  • Luke Moses | December 16, 2009 6:55 AMReply

    @ Alan Green

    I can't tell how serious you're being, especially when you say things like asking who knows how to "reed" anymore, but since you typed out an awful lot I'm going to assume you're not joking.

    You clearly have no idea what the role of a critic is. You seem to be assuming that the critics are supposed to be promoting the films they review. They're called critics for a reason, because they analyze and critique films. Trailers, on the other hand, are meant to convince people to see a film. The roles of critics and movie trailers only coincide if a critic chooses to promote a film, based on a positive critique. If you have a beef with the fact that critics don't simply promote films then you are denying that films are worthy of examination and discussion.

    Secondly, it's not incorrect to bring up the source material just because you don't think people have read Sherlock Holmes. The people behind the film chose to make a Sherlock Holmes film. If they didn't want to invite the comparison they wouldn't have made it. Of course, a filmmaker has the right to adapt The Great Gatsby into a film about whales, but people viewing it also have the right to compare it to the source, and it would be highly unlikely that the filmmaker would not expect it unless they are extremely naive.

  • Anne Thompson | December 16, 2009 6:46 AMReply

    To take Alan seriously:

    You are right about the current state of studio moviemaking. Warners knew it could sell an established brand. But there are reasons why Holmes and Watson have survived 132 years, and why each generation does its own reinvention of the characters. This one will play younger than the gang who grew up with Rathbone and Bruce on b/w TV. They will stay home.

    Critics are not obsolete. They are evolving, as they should. And yes, trailers have taken over. But not entirely. Some of us still read. And want to dig a little deeper into debating about movies.

  • John Doe | December 16, 2009 6:19 AMReply

    P.S.- @alan green, I read the source material from Arthur Conan Doyle, fantastic books and stories, you should check them out sometime, I highly recommend them.

  • John Doe | December 16, 2009 6:16 AMReply

    I love Downey Jr., but I just don't like what I see in the trailers, looks like Wild Wild West. Plus, I think this movie may get lost in the Avatar hooplah, especially if audiences like Avatar, and it has a really good 2nd weekend, which is a strong possibility. I'm sure Holmes will open decently, around 40 million or so, but Avatar may trump it.

  • barkingmad59 | December 16, 2009 5:15 AMReply

    Ah, internet trolls...seriously, I don't think I could ever be that bored.

    Sad thing is, a lot of moviegoers think *exactly* what alan green said.
    One reason I don't end up going to movies very often anymore....

  • Brian | December 16, 2009 4:08 AMReply

    If you're gonna have kung fu in SHERLOCK HOLMES, then they should've gotten Jason Statham to play the part. Or Jackie Chan in his prime. THAT's the Sherlock movie I wanted to see. (There's a great Hong Kong action comedy called SHANGHAI EXPRESS, aka MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS, from 1986, where comic actor Richard Ng plays a philanderer on the train who dresses up in full Sherlock Holmes drag, for reasons that are never explained.)

    Oh, and BTW, Alan Green was funnin' ya. And y'all took his bait.

  • jl | December 16, 2009 3:29 AMReply

    Oh come now, a film (should be) art and interpretation. The fact that it distorts, stretches, destroys, imitates, or clarifies can be a beautiful thing ... There will never be an honest director unless they are funding a film by their own pocket without expectation of profit.

  • yann | December 16, 2009 3:23 AMReply

    i'm french, so maybe i have a slighly different opinion about what may be a movie. i know since it's basicaly visual that one can assume it doesnt need more than a vague excuse to show bursts and brawl. that's called a scenario. you can even use video games. on the other hand, i guess that people who love books (yeah some read actual..you know paper thingie?) could think : i realy would love to actually see these hobbits, these sand worms or that clever guy with the silly cap. if you want to adapt a book, do it with your own director's perception, but with honesty. if you just need a label, well, it's just unfair. It spoils the work of Doyle, it disapoints his fans and doesn't bring nothing to the ones who don't care if it's based on a brilliant detective story or on a character of cheap comics.

  • Andrew | December 16, 2009 3:19 AMReply

    I believe its a combination of both. Critics tend to analyze a film based on an artistic lense but they should not neglect a modern spin on a treasured tale, nor should they ridicule the director for telling the story in an another genre.

    Art can be expressed in various forms and if this Sherlock Holmes wants to portray the fabled hero in an action genre, critics should analyze it through that lense.

    I am saying all this without having seen the movie ofcourse. So take it with a grain of salt.

  • jl | December 16, 2009 3:03 AMReply

    While I am an ardent Holmes fan (of the book variety), I'm hoping this is going to be one of the most fun films ever

  • paul | December 16, 2009 2:14 AMReply

    as much as I like Downey and Law..this film is a flagrant kick in ass to true Holmseans.

    Jermey Brett owned the role. lets keep our Holmes stories and characters accurate. thank you.

  • Sergio | December 16, 2009 2:11 AMReply

    Well speaking as critic and someone who's actually seen Sherlock Holmes I can tell you that it's surprisingly good and quite entertaining (though after a rousing opening takes a while to really get started) The first Guy Richie film that I've ever liked. Despite the casting choices, which work quite well, and the occasional odd touches like those slo-mo fight sequences, the film is quite faithful to the spirit of Doyle's stories (whch I should tell you I have also read) It's not too dissimilar those Basil Rathbone Universal movies which took real some liberties with Doyle setting them in the 1940's and using either heavily rewritten actual Doyle stories or totally original screenplays and added in more action. At the time they were criticized as being unfaithful to Doyle's stories and destroying Holmes' character, but now are considered something as minor B movie classics with a devoted following and Rathbone as the definitive Holmes. And if Holmes can survive Barry Levinson's Sherlock Holmes and the Temple of Doom... I mean Young Sherlock Holmes (another film that's gotten a better reputation after it was released) it can survive this.

    And oh yeah the Hans Zimmer score is really fantastic!

  • alan green | December 16, 2009 2:09 AMReply

    movie critics have been replaced by trailers

  • alan green | December 16, 2009 2:06 AMReply

    this is why critics have become obsolete.

    it's not about fidelity to doyle's character. it's not about whether guy frikkin ritchie ever read a doyle story. it's about making a cool movie that people will want to see. putting butts in seats. selling those tickets. money. it's about money.

    whether the character (in question) bears any resemblance to the source material is beside the point (at best). (at the very best).

    the source material???? pleeese. who in the fuck read the source material?

    this type of flick is about 'dress up', not acting. it's 'look at how cool it is to be able to beat a big guy in a fight because you're smarter than him' and big explosions and picking locks and pithy one-liners (though that, i have to admit, bears a strong resemblance to doyle's sherlock), not adherence to the source material. it's about delivering what the auds want to see.

    it's not about what doyle wrote. nobody, but nobody (except movie critics) will say: 'hey. this isn't what sir author conan doyle wrote!!! why? cause none of them read his shit.

    okay. look. seriously. check this out. who in the fuck that sees this movie has ever fucking read a fucking sherlock holmes story? come on. what's the percentage? maybe 10%?

    and we wonder why critics are marginalized.

    1) you check out the trailer. 2) you decide whether you're going to see the movie. [PROCESS TAKES RUNTIME OF TRAILER PLUS 2 SECONDS]. you don't hardly ever care what the critics write. honestly, you don't hardly ever reeeeed what in the fuck they write. who even has time to reeeeed? who even knows how to reeeeeed, anymore?

    it's about money. it's about whatever works. it's not ever about fidelity to a literary source. not (almost never) ever

    i'm sorry, but movie critics have been replaced by trailers.

  • Molly | December 16, 2009 1:51 AMReply

    They are doing what they can to bring it to a new, younger audience. That alone should earn them brownie points. RDJ has done his homework and as a fan of him, the movie looks great. I will be there on Christmas Day and will make my OWN call.

  • fairportfan | December 16, 2009 12:58 AMReply

    ya know - I think a lot of people are missing alan green's point here..

  • Cincoflex | December 16, 2009 12:20 AMReply

    Doyle's stories were good, but they don't always adapt to film well, and as for 'flagrant' makeovers, I seem to recall that many of the Rathbone Holmes stories took place in 1940s England rather and 1880s England, so shifting the frame of a Holmes story on film is nothing new.

    This one will be one more variation on a classic character, and given the prinicpals involved, I'm willing to take a look.

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