29 December 2009

Sherlock Holmes...action hero?


It's like reading a menu at a New Jersey diner. So much to choose from, so little time (129 minutes). A little CSI and NCIS. A little The Wrestler. Throw in characters from the original Arthur Conan Doyle. A little Butch Cassidy and Sundance. Mix in Da Vinci Code and Columbo, and you might have the movie Guy Ritchie made of Sherlock Holmes, this time around. And we shouldn't forget Indiana Jones.

Kenneth Turan and Michael Phillips didn't rave, in fact Phillips gave it 1.5 stars. Ouch. The queue at Sydney's Fox Studios yesterday went out the door; those folks don't read Chicago or Los Angeles reviews.

My head was in it, but the real thrill was the action. It was cleverly re-hashed before the hashing. In the opening sequence, Holmes is being chased and has to deduce his escape. "First point of attack, right ear," Downey whispers in voiceover. "Two, throat. Three, cracked ribs. In summary, neutralized." Clever indeed!

Ritchie is not the first to do that, but this one really works.

What doesn't work is the demon-possessed Lord Blackwood who wants to usher in a new world order a la The Illuminati and dark brotherhood. The story is contrived, oh wait, all stories are. But this one seems a little too neat and puerile. The guns go blazing, although Holmes insists that guns won't work on him. Even so, Holmes trusts his own fists to do battle in due course with the 'resurrected' villain. Not consistent.

Did I get it wrong or did the casting folks? Mark Strong looked more like Sherlock Holmes in the Conan Doyle version than did Downey, but that's a small point.


I liked the imagery of the Tower Bridge. It was in construction at the fixed time of the movie. The current website of the Bridge carries the history. It took 8 years, 5 major contractors and the relentless labour of 432 construction workers to build Tower Bridge. When it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever completed ("bascule" comes from the French for "see-saw"). These bascules were operated by hydraulics, using steam to power the enormous pumping engines.

Bridges are designed to take someone from one side of a river to the other. But this movie left us all on the same side. I wanted to get to the plot, that is, the single plot, but it was so busy with subplots and subthemes and the diner menu. Still it was an entertaining side of the river to remain on, to be sure.

What works for me is the Beowulf story of evil pitted against the good, and a hero who saves the day. I doubt I'm giving away anything to those people who have yet to see the movie, by saying that there is at least one sequel waiting in the wings.

No matter what else Hollywood dispenses for us in 2010 and beyond, the drama is made good by the hope that we all have, in the theatre and beyond, for a saviour. A hero. A person or group or organization or company or ...someone to knock back the evil and bring in an era of peace and good will. Even an antihero is acceptable as long as the good comes to be and thrive in the new world order. Or so Hollywood says.

And we want a hero to believe in. We want good to come. None of us is as smart as Holmes or Watson. His powers to deduce were so google-speed that it made him a bit too much. I like the speed of Columbo which I think was more 1890 and Conan Doyle, but I'll adjust. After all this is Holmes 2.0 and I can't look backwards anymore. They even upgraded Irene Adler from her mental (only) powers over Holmes to an easy-on-the-eyes seductress.

So we can all use an upgrade. We can all use a bridge to help us cross to the other side. We can all use a hero to save us. Ritchie and Hollywood have that right.

Is Sherlock Holmes an action hero? That's a bit much for me. I'll take Rocky as Rocky. And Falk as Columbo.

But if you want a real action hero who really can help you cross a bridge and get to the other side; if you want a saviour who can overcome the dark brotherhood of Satan, the enemy of all things godly, then trust in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, the real Saviour of the planet. He needed no bullets, but by his actions demonstrated God's powerful love for all people. He taught and healed and walked on water. He embodied all God wanted for humanity and had wisdom beyond Holmes 2.0. And yet, and here's the rub, he died for us. Willingly. Without sophistication. Without trickery. With one purpose in mind... to redeem us to God and get us back into relationship with Him. Awesome.

No Hollywood trickery in that. Simple. Robust. Real. And it really works. All we have to do is believe.

The sequel is in your life. What will you do with Jesus?

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