Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In-Class Movie: Young Sherlock Holmes (Barry Levinson, 1985)

“It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.” 
--Sherlock Holmes, “The Naval Treaty”

Austin: Well, I can easily say I didn't expect that. All I knew going into this movie was that Steven Spielberg helped develop it and the sequence with the knight was one of the first breakthrough uses of CGI in film and was even created by the team that would become Pixar.

Looking at the poster for this and seeing who is involved, I imagined it was going to be a lot like the opening scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where through one awesome adventure, Indy started his life towards becoming a great hero. Young Sherlock Holmes is a bit like that but it wasn't as subtle as young Indy falling into a cart of snakes. 


This has Sherlock wearing the hat and getting the pipe and solving his first case, but it always felt more like a Star Wars prequel. Where the movie is constantly poking the audience in the ribs, "Look, look! See that? It's C3PO! Isn’t that wild!" instead of being an organic story. Whenever they make a reference to the mythology of Sherlock Holmes, momentum fades away from what already is a very uneven story. In this movie, Sherlock befriends Watson but I don't know why he would aside from knowing that they are friends in the future. 

So as an origin story, I felt this was too convoluted without ever earning its moments. As just a simple adventure.....this was goofy. I won't say anymore in case you peak at this email before watching it yourself, but how did the special-effects heavy first scene set the tone for you for the rest of this movie?

Leigh: As I sat through the opening credits and looked at all the names I recognized like Amblin Entertainment or Henry Winkler or Chris Columbus, I instantly thought, "If all these big names are on this movie, how come I've never heard of it?" 

Then I watched the movie and found out why.

The positives. I loved the special effects. They didn't seem too dated for me and I was even surprised to find out that it was made in 1985. I was expecting a later release with how great that stained glass knight was. 

You can tell from the design of the bloody sword that these animators could go on to create some of the greatest family films of all time.

And I think that's the end of my positives for that movie. Like you said, there were issues with the plot. The 11-year-old me loved Watson giving Holmes the pipe and Holmes getting the goofy hat even if none of it makes sense. It did feel a lot like the Star Wars prequels, especially Phantom Menace but my 11-year-old self really liked that movie so that's why I enjoyed it on some level. The Holmesian side of me hated it. By the end of the movie I was rolling my eyes so hard I was afraid they'd fly out of my skull. I think the thing that did it was Holmes' teenage love dying. 

I could tell it was a kids movie. There were lots of things that made it out to be a kids adventure film and I'm assuming that's why the girl was added. And the crazy old professor. And the dog. And the ridiculous mystery. 

Speaking of the mystery, whut? I think that was my biggest problem. Holmes' year of birth is 1854 which would put him at 16 in 1870. The real fascination with Egypt didn't really start until the 1880s. So why is this Egyptian religious cult running around London? Yes, there were explorers in Egypt as early as 1798, but the Victorians didn't really pick up on it until England was actually occupying Egypt in the 1880s. Up to that point, they were still fascinated by India. Am I looking too much into something that was a screenwriter's mistake? Am I hating on Chris Columbus because he ruined the first two Harry Potter movies? What's your opinion on this adventure?

Austin: There is a really weird part of the movie where at the beginning and end there a title card that says very explicitly that these are not based on any Doyle story, in fact this goes against a lot of the continuity. I'm guessing that the filmmakers can easily point to those frames and say "Oh in OUR England, people cared about Egypt earlier."

There lies a major problem with what the movie is trying to accomplish. They have freed themselves from Doyle's continuity but then doesn't do anything cool with it. They have an open field to play with and instead they make a very problematic origin story. I don't know if you caught this, but the villain said roughly two and a half billion times that Sherlock lets his emotions get the best of him. They're trying so desperately to transform him into the colder man we know that it's ridiculous.

"I'm going to live forever!"

I hated the girl in this because she was only a symbol. She's in love with Sherlock and he's in love with her. I'm sure they are going to live happily ever after because nothing bad can come from this. By doing this, this eliminates the need for Watson because Sherlock seriously doesn't need two sidekicks. Watson is so poorly developed that if his name wasn't Watson he could have been cut from the whole film. 

The movie never seemed interested in character or to provide an intelligent movie. They really just wanted the adventure set-pieces which are so goofy that they always felt like they were from a different movie. It always clashed with Sherlock and the school's super serious attitude and often they didn't look that great. When Sherlock and Watson fly up into the air that should be a magical moment to witness....but it's done against a black sky with no stars so it looks really fake and lame. 

I really wanted to like this more because I actually thought the kid playing Sherlock did a great job. He deserved a better script. It's clear from the post-credits scene that they were hoping this was going to inspire a sequel but just barely making its money back wasn't going to cut it. 

Did you like the actor playing Sherlock? What were the movies most ridiculous moments for you? Also what did you think of that goofy post-credits scene? What if all Marvel movies also had people looking at the camera in those scenes silent saying "Look what we just did!"?

Leigh: I think you hit the nail on the head. If they had changed the Watson character's name and made it some other kid that Holmes was palling around with, then I think the movie would've been improved. It could have been an interesting insight into Holmes' childhood and they could've done more since they did go off canon. It could've been really neat and interesting and opened up for more Young Sherlock Holmes movies but they shot themselves in the foot trying to shoehorn in Watson and Holmes' high school sweetheart.

Somehow these scenes still didn't discourage Steven Spielberg from making Hook.

I think the most ridiculous moment for me was the flying machine part. I often talk to movies or TV shows, especially when I'm annoyed by them (or drunk) and this one I was audibly arguing with (and I wasn't drunk.) Why didn't they find another horse or carriage? Why did they have to use this ridiculous flying machine that now magically works? How much time did they lose running back to the school and to the attic where it was stored? Oh no, I take it back, the most ridiculous part for me was when the bad guy fell in the ice and "died." That was the most unconvincing character death ever. He just stopped moving and reached up his hand and then fell under water. *eye roll* And then the teaser at the end of the credits. Really? Really?! *Even bigger eye roll*

The actor who played the chemistry teacher seemed like he was trying to be Peter Cook and failed and I think that really set the tone for that whole aspect of the movie. If they could've got Peter Cook to play that role or even the role of the wack-a-doo uncle, it would've added a bit more humor that this movie needed. It really needs either more humor (good humor) or more mystery. There were points when the Older Watson narrator actually says what Holmes figures out. Why not have Holmes do it? We need to see that Holmes was a genius even as a teenager so why steal that thunder from him by having a jarring and out of place narrator pop up? 

Despite this movie being 28 years old, Nicholas Rowe is also still in the running for the Twelfth Doctor.

I really enjoyed the actor who played Young Sherlock Holmes. He did a FANTASTIC job especially with the crap script he got. I am not a fan of Chris Columbus. He tends to write and direct for more kid oriented movies and then sucks at depicting how kids actually act. Even Goonies was more like little adults than young teenagers and would've been pretty much the same movie if you made all the kids 25. This could also be because I'm still bitter about him directing Harry Potter 1 and 2 and making them crap. Talk about potential ruined. 

Next time, we go to Switzerland! And Sherlock Holmes dies. But Switzerland!

And now Austin with the final words:

Austin: Wait, Sherlock Holmes dies?

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