This is a guest review by Laura Razniewski.
It is a fact known to any of my friends familiar with my taste in film that I have a weakness for the desperately cheesy and inanely overdramatic. Therefore, it stands to reason that this movie, in particular, should serve as my introduction as guest blogger.
Ever since I was a young girl, I have found myself fascinated with the character of Sherlock Holmes. Add to that my love of Jurassic Park and you can’t get much more exciting for me. Holmes and Watson saving the city of London from dinosaurs—No, wait! Robot dinosaurs! (SPOILER ALERT: At no point do either Sherlock or John punch the aforementioned robot dinosaur in the face. The fact of which, I find deeply disappointing, and I believe it to be an opportunity missed by cast and crew alike.) Naturally, this film looked so terrible that I absolutely had to watch it as soon as possible.
Now, I could ramble on for a few paragraphs about the poor CGI, stiff dialogue with fake accents, or that uncomfortable feeling that the wardrobe department may have actually raided the costumes from your elementary school’s production of Annie. However, I feel that to do this would only be an insult to the reader’s intellect, since no one would actually go into this viewing experience expecting anything else. Instead, I feel it would be more appropriate to give a synopsis and let you decide for yourself whether or not to invest your hour and twenty-nine minutes…So, SPOILERS. You have been warned.
The film opens on the London Blitz with an aged Watson sitting at his window watching the bombs falling outside. I must give kudos on the accurate timeline; Watson would have been roughly eighty-seven years old at the beginning of World War II as the film portrays him. He is being taken care of by a “Miss Hudson” whom I can only assume is the granddaughter of their previous housekeeper by the same surname. Watson asks her if she would be willing to transcribe one last story for him, a story that “he” asked never to be written because the public wasn’t ready for “his greatest and last known accomplishment”. The “he” of course, being the great Sherlock Holmes.
We rewind fifty-eight years earlier to a ship on the English Channel. It is night, the crew spots movement in the water off the starboard bow, and the ship is suddenly overtaken by a dozen giant tentacles. The chaos caused by the surprise kraken attack employs almost enough handheld camera work to distract us from the cluster of modern-day street lighting on the nearby coastline. Screaming, scrambling, and scared the unfortunate scene disappears into the dark waters.
Cut to Dr. Watson cheerfully humming over a corpse that he is about to dissect. Holmes rudely interrupts before John can begin, informs him that the ship was carrying a valuable cargo of gold for the government, and tells him that he must come along to investigate the site of the wreck. Watson’s protestation of having to finish his autopsy is rebutted by Sherlock’s customary five-minute long explanation of the “obvious” cause of death (we should just be grateful that he does not apply his riding crop to the unfortunate fellow!). And “the game’s afoot!”
Their search discovers nothing but empty scraps of the hull and the fantastic ravings of a giant monster from the only surviving crew member. Watson has a harrowing experience while climbing the cliff face above the wreckage when the rope anchoring him snaps. Holmes is the first to spring into action in an effort to save his friend. Once Watson is safe however, Sherlock returns to his typical data collecting state before he’s even caught his breath. Watson follows him back to London on somewhat shakier legs.
Meanwhile, on the back alleys of London’s East End, poor, naïve John Poole is just looking for some action. He spends his last three pounds on a prostitute named Sally only to be attacked in the street by—of all things—a pygmy Tyrannosaurus Rex! The news of this second bizarre attack reaches Holmes and Watson over their morning tea. Watson angrily exclaims that the newspaper is printing “sensationalist claptrap”, but Holmes, ready to consider every possibility before settling his deductions, voices his doubt that these witnesses are completely off their rockers. Watson replies, “The only monsters I believe in look very much like you and I”. Hmmm…foreshadowing?! The doctor’s stance is altered though, when he and Sherlock are attacked on their morning constitutional by the very beast Watson had discredited only hours before.
One thing leads to another. A bit of rubber, a homicidal dinosaur, a missing water pump, a small stone, and a copper factory. What could all these things have in common you ask? Sherlock’s brother, Thorpe Holmes, what else! Yes, I thought his name was Mycroft too; however, since he continuously refers to Sherlock as “Robert”, we can only assume that the scriptwriter took a few liberties. A bullet wound suffered while chasing after some bank robbers with his former partner, none other than Inspector Lestraude of Scotland Yard, left the elder Holmes brother completely paralyzed. So, Thorpe has returned from his seven years of self-imposed exile with a vengeance and a frightening talent for creating life-like robots. That’s right, Thorpe was the one responsible for building a kraken to steal the gold from the ship so he fund his creation of the murderous dino and complete his scheme to attain neuro-regeneration and rewire his central nervous system to a copper suit of armor so he could control his body once again with electrical impulses conducted throughout the copper. He also turns his robotic girlfriend into a literal walking time bomb so she can blow up Buckingham Palace while he terrorizes London with his giant, mechanical, fire-breathing dragon. If you think that was a run-on, you should watch the movie. All this so he could pin the crime on Lestraude since Thorpe is convinced that the inspector was responsible for the bullet that destroyed his own career so many years before. Also, he made a robotic peacock, but it’s not clear why.
Minutes after Thorpe Holmes departs on his mission of revenge, Sherlock discovers another of his brother’s inventions; a hot air balloon, complete with propellers, Gatling gun, and more dashboard buttons than a nuclear submarine. He leaves to catch up to his brother and orders Watson to stop the robotic woman from destroying Buckingham Palace. After an epic battle which causes serious fire damage to some of London’s most historical and iconic buildings, Sherlock ultimately must end his own brother’s depraved life in order to save that of his good friend, Watson. John later comments that it was the only time that he ever saw Holmes use a gun. Inspector Lestraude is saved as well, and Sherlock is quick to tell him that the bullet that paralyzed Thorpe could not have come from his gun since the markings on the bullet indicate that it was shot from a completely different firearm altogether. All is well with the world!
We return to 1940 just as Miss Hudson finishes writing. She asks Watson if such a fantastic story could possibly be true, but when she gets no reply, she looks up to see that he has passed away. So, could the story be true or is it just the dementia of an old man on his deathbed? We may never know, but when Miss Hudson visits the gravesite of her late friend, she glances over to see another woman dressed in Victorian garb with an uncanny resemblance to Dr. Watson’s robotic woman that he allegedly fought so many years earlier. Damn! What kind of batteries does this lady use?
I appreciate and enjoy the various adaptations conceived over the years to continually bring our favorite detective to new life for each generation. Whether it be Basil Rathbone or Wishbone, animated talking mice or box office favorites, the moral of Sherlock and John remains fundamentally the same; the moral is friendship. Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle despised his hero and even succeeded for a time in bringing about his demise, I believe it is that same moral which will always draw audiences. Yes, we love to marvel at the mental prowess of Sherlock Holmes and listen to him spouting off deductions at the speed of light, but what really draws intellectuals and fangirls alike is the relationship between this genius and his doctor. John brings about a human side in Holmes that allows us to see beyond the impassiveness and the hubris. We can see that Watson’s friendship and loyalty, although not always apparent, are reflected ten-fold in his friend, Sherlock. I believe that there is a part in each of us that drives us to want to be somebody’s Sherlock and somebody’s Watson.