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Feb 15, 2010

Fletch's Film Review: Avatar and Sherlock Holmes

These are the last remaining movies that I have yet to review from 2009. They also just so happen to be (in case you forgot) the biggest box office hit of the year and the #12 entry on that list (soon to be #10, no doubt). In other words, you might have heard of them.

Since I'm more than a month removed from viewing either, and since I more or less drained my supply of Avatar thoughts in LAMBcast #9, I'll spare myself the exercise in giving it a proper review and spare you the need to read too much more about the most written-about movie of the new millennium, no doubt. Holmes, meanwhile, will just be the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, so to speak, though really, it's not all that deep of a film, so any thorough analysis seems like a waste of time anyway. Instead, some good and some bad about each and my ratings for them.

Avatar
Good:
* The most visually interesting film yet created, I dare say. I'm envious of the folks that got to create a world from scratch - they probably didn't realize it at the time, but I'd imagine they had more fun making it than anyone did watching it, and that's saying something.

* Stephen Lang makes a hell of a villain, even if said villain is paper thin.

* The USB connectivity between the natives and their world. This felt to me like the only original element added to this story, though I'm sure someone will come along and tell me that it, too, was swiped from another piece of pop culture (FernGully, perhaps? Haven't seen that, so I wouldn't know all of the minutiae).

Bad:
* All the talk of Avatar being this generation's Star Wars is bullsh*t; for all that people might like to trash Lucas (myself included), at the very least, that film had characters that were memorable beyond three days of seeing the film. I can scarcely name three characters from Avatar.

* Unobtainium. It comes off as a joke either way you interpret it, but it's equally bad no matter what. They should have just called it MacGuffin and got it over with.

* Its place on top of the (fake) box office list and granting of a Best Picture nomination. I won't go so far as to trash the movie, but things like that really, really, make we want to. I wasn't exactly thrilled with Titanic's spot on top of the b.o. list, either, but it sat better with me for some reason.

Fletch's Film Rating:
"Darn tootin!"
Shaky Cam Rating (details):LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie BlogsLarge Association of Movie Blogs

Sherlock Holmes
Good:

* The banter between Downey, Jr. and Law is what makes the film. Without it, my early dreaded Wild Wild West feeling from the film seems pretty accurate. The period, the emphasis on new technology in the mid-19th century, the silent giant, the nobody-cares love interest - it's all there. But Holmes and Watson have one of the best buddy non-romances we've seen in an action flick since Top Gun, and Guy Ritchie's tough guy charm was a great way to un-stuff the place.

* Speaking of Ritchie, I enjoyed his touches (the slo-mo stuff) and the overall mood he brought to the table. An excellent match of source material and director.

* Eddie Marsan - the excellent character actor and future FF-UN has a mostly unmemorable role, but is always a welcome addition to any cast.

Bad
* The Scooby Doo ending. It's understandable that a film like this needs to have an element of Scoobyness, but this one left a bad taste in my mouth. We all know that Holmes is a genius and all that, but having a series of clues that might only be guessed by a brilliant chemist (and even then, probably not) takes the fun out of a mystery movie, if you ask me.

* Along the same lines, the script was written in such a way that the characters - all of them - were too comfortable with whatever situation they were in, regardless of the situation. Everyone was always multiple steps ahead of the audience, and were somehow steps ahead of each other, even when they weren't. We get it - they're all light years ahead of the rest of the peons that were inhabiting their world.

* Rachel McAdams. I felt bad for her more than anything. Just a pointless role, or a badly written one. Maybe they should've gotten Salma Hayek to reprise her Wild Wild West role.

Fletch's Film Rating:
"Darn tootin!"
Shaky Cam Rating (details):LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie BlogsLarge Association of Movie Blogs


12 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Avatar and Sherlock Holmes"

Fitz said...

Granted I'm not old enough to have seen Star Wars when it first came out, but it is fair to say the comparison is apt. And Star Wars was far from original so let's not get bent out of shape.

Avatar had some memorable characters even if you didn't like the film.

Nick said...

From what I've heard (from multiple sources), as I haven't read any of them, the Sherlock Holmes books include everything you mentioned in your first 2 "bad" comments. Apparently the books have no real clue setup, and there's no way the reader could figure it out before Holmes gives the answers. Same thing goes for the characters always being steps ahead.

Fletch said...

Fitz - let's just put it this way: I don't think we'll be seeing Avatar worship akin to Star Wars 30 years from less, much less 5. There's something to be said for memorable characters.

Nick - While insightful, I'm afraid those bits of knowledge don't really change my opinion of the movie. It's not like Ritchie didn't change anything else.

knowingviews said...

I think most people are giving Avatar a 'pass' - taken from Hollywood Saloon podcast - whereby you can tell people "if you just try and enjoy the movie and try not to think about it, you'll enjoy it more" - i'm sorry, I WANT to think about it. As stated on my podcast, I have decided to completely stand firm on the 'avatar is shit' soil. No two ways about it. SFX were good, but everything else, shit.

But don't diss Titanic, Titanic is an incredible film.

Hokahey said...

I agree with most of your comments about Avatar - even the negative ones - but I really enjoyed this movie. It was one of the most entertaining movie experiences of the year - and I enjoyed it each of the four times I saw it. But, don't worry, I don't think it's the next Star Wars phenomenon. I like your reference to how the Na'vi connected with critters as "USB connectivity."

As for Sherlock Holmes, the Scooby Doo ending as you call it was silly. Some of these solutions should have been spread throughout the story. That's what Holmes does. He figures stuff out. As it was, he doesn't get to be Holmes enough in that sense.

Castor said...

One also has to remember that Avatar tickets are more expensive than the usual movie tickets because of the 3D overcharge.

As for Sherlock Holmes, I completely agree with all three bad things about the movie. Something to work on for the sequel...

whitney said...

I liked the Guy Ritchie touches to Sherlock Holmes, too, which is why I was bummed that the slo-mo and other stylistic flourishes didn't continue past the beginning of the film. It felt lopsided and it got more and more boring to me.

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Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Avatar: Not half the movie Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back were. If you want to laud Avatar for whatever it has going for it, you've got to start handing out kudos to the prequels. They're about even.

Daniel Getahun said...

Good point about Sherlock Holmes' ending!

And...I just have to say, I think Eddie Marsan has been discussed here enough (or maybe just between you and I) that he can no longer qualify as a FF-UN, but now an FF-KN. ;-P

Fletch said...

Simon - you do realize that stating that Avatar is shit while Titanic is incredible is almost a hypocritical take, right? They're each accused of being the same thing, more or less - big budget effects-laden extravaganzas that tell wildly unoriginal stories with uncompelling characters yet capture the public's interest anyway. If you get right down to it, I'd say that Titanic is a better proper film, but Im having a hard time telling the difference between Stephen Lang and Billy Zane.

Mind you, I enjoyed both movies, and either have or will watched them multiple times. They are not bad, but they are not great, either. Two sides of the same coin.

Hokahey - I'm on board with everything you said, but four times? Really? I kinda wanted to see it a second time, but I think my desire to not add to the film's coffers kept me away. Still, I can't imagine wanting to see it beyond twice (in the theater). Haven't done that since...hmm, I'd have to think about that - what's the last flick I saw 3 or more times in the theater? I think it was Pulp Fiction, which also holds the record - 6 times. (I was 18 and a non-class-attending college freshman - don't judge me! ;)

Whitney - I completely agree. The so-called "Guy Ritchie touches" were what separated this from so many bad action movies, so when they went away, Holmes started to resemble them more and more. That said, I'm game for seeing the 2nd upon its arrival.

Paul - I'll give Avatar the edge over the prequels. Time and technology issues notwithstanding, at least Cameron wants to enhance acting with technology, not the other way around.

Daniel - ah, but the FF-UN feature has never been for people like you and me, per se (or at least me). I know many if not all of these people's names long before I profile them, but I get the feeling that most people out there (even movie geeks) don't, and it's my job to ensure that everyone learns their names. I have a friend that used to constantly mock me just for knowing who Elias Koteas was - knowledge is such a burden. :P

Nick said...

Who doesn't know Elias Koteas? He was Casey freakin' Jones.