Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES

Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous literary creation, Victorian era consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, has probably been the most-filmed fictional subject in the history of motion pictures. Beginning with a long run of silents in the 1900s and 1920s and continuing up through this winter's big budget Robert Downey Jr. vehicle, the immortal Holmes and his companion, Doctor John Watson, have been adapted, imitated, parodied and re-interpreted endlessly on film and television by a wide variety of filmmakers, from Thomas Edison to Billy Wilder to Guy Ritchie.

Now it's The Asylum's turn, with their own SHERLOCK HOLMES.

Or, more specifically, it's director Rachel Lee Goldenberg's turn, who helms this decidedly different, low budget take on the Great Detective. In true Asylum style, this isn't just a traditional Holmes mystery - no, this one includes such studio staples as computer generated fire-breathing dragons, tentacled sea monsters, and dinosaurs. Needless to say, while I don't consider myself a "Sherlockian," I am a fan of the character, so I dropped this disc into the Sony with more than a little trepidation.

Imagine my surprise. I actually enjoyed it.

A ship carrying Jamaican gold is sunk in the English Channel by a squid-like kraken. Soon after, a dinosaur is reported in London's East End. Needless to say, these odd occurrences attract the attention of England's famed investigator (Ben Syder) and his physician friend (Gareth David-Lloyd, TORCHWOOD), who set out to unravel the mystery behind the appearance of the strange creatures.

While the screenplay takes some audacious liberties with the Homes canon, it still fundamentally respects the character. The science fiction aspects of the story do carry it into comic book territory (not necessarily a bad thing), and there are a couple of head-scratching moments, but Holmes and Watson are still portrayed as heroic champions of logic, reason, and English fortitude.

Production values are actually fairly decent, with carefully chosen and shot Welsh locations, fine period costuming, and a solid cast of Welsh character actors. The extensive CGI is about on par for the studio. As usual, The Asylum's secret weapon, composer Chris Ridenhour, supplies an excellent and atmospheric musical score. David-Lloyd portrays a fine, competent Watson, and ENTERPRISE's Dominic Keating makes a formidable steampunk villain. Unfortunately, I was less impressed with Syder's Holmes, who lacks the neurotic energy, charisma, maturity and screen presence one generally expects from the character. He's not a bad actor, necessarily, just, in my opinion, miscast.

The Asylum's DVD presents SHERLOCK HOLMES in a nice, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Surround sound. Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes documentary, bloopers, and a selection of trailers for other Asylum releases.

So... all things considered, SHERLOCK HOLMES is an ambitious and entertaining movie that may not be a great Holmes adventure, but it's far from the worst.

BUY: Sherlock Holmes