Rachel Lee Goldenberg | 89 mins | DVD | 12 / PG-13
From the company that brought you such pinnacles of cinematic excellence as AVH: Alien vs. Hunter, Snakes on a Train and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus comes the latest in a long line of cheaply-produced blockbuster cash-ins, this time tied to… well, I think you know. (While I’m at it, I encourage you to look at their website — the sheer volume of these ‘mockbusters’ they’ve produced now is almost impressive.)
You wait decades for a new Sherlock Holmes film and then two come along at once. One is the Guy Ritchie-directed Robert Downey Jr-starring genuine blockbuster moneymaker. The other is thankfully not the rumoured Sacha Baron Cohen/Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow/other faintly irritating people (I forget who was involved) comedy vehicle, but instead a direct-to-DVD cash-in from mockbuster kings The Asylum. Yes, I’d rather this version, thanks.
I’ve not seen an Asylum film before, but I hear this is one of their best. It’s not exactly “good” by any reasonable definition, but as “cable TV movie” quality goes I’d say it trumps the dull Case of Evil. And dull this certainly isn’t — sea monsters! dinosaurs! dragons! air battles! If you thought Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes looked disrespectfully blockbusterised, it seems positively Brettian by comparison.
But, in The Asylum’s favour, their Sherlock Holmes doesn’t hide what it is. Yes, it’s called simply Sherlock Holmes rather than Sherlock Holmes and the Implausible CGI Monsters, but at least said monsters are plastered all over the DVD cover (both US and UK). If you see that and still expect something faithful to Conan Doyle, more fool you. That said, at times it’s surprisingly faithful to Doyle’s spirit. There’s some decent-ish investigation and deduction, the story structured like a mystery rather than an action-adventure.
But you can’t escape the dinosaurs, sea monsters and dragons, or the various steampunk elements introduced towards the climax. And so your enjoyment probably depends on your expectations. Some of the acting’s poor — not least Ben Syder’s camp short-arse Holmes, sadly — and the CGI’s weak, looking like a ’90s syndicated TV series. The direction occasionally lacks competence and a couple of action sequences are pointlessly repetitive.
Anachronisms abound, the best being the first: the film opens in London, 1940, the middle of the Blitz, and the opening shot foregrounds the Millennium Bridge. I don’t think you have to be too familiar with London to know when that was built. Elsewhere we get intercoms on houses, incongruous light switches and period inaccurate telephones, just to mention a couple. It’s shoddy, yes, but almost part of the fun.
But, for all the faults, there are positives. It’s still not “good”, but it is often “quite fun”. Thoroughly daft, certainly, but — provided you don’t demand too much — quite entertaining because of it.
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ modern-day re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock, starts at 9pm tomorrow on BBC One.
Tomorrow night, my review of the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes.