Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mission Impossible vs. Sherlock Holmes

Instead of taking a sleigh to grandma’s house or making snowmen or handing out candy canes I went to action movies. Saw both SHERLOCK HOLMES and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. Happy to say I liked them both. They each had their strengths and weaknesses. So as a public service I thought I would compare them. Don’t worry. No spoiler alert necessary. I won’t go into the specifics of the plots. I have too much respect for my readers, and I still have no idea what was happening in either movie.

That’s the big problem with most action flicks. Explanations go by so fast that eventually you just stop listening for them and assume whatever it is the hero is trying to achieve it’s important. They need the ___________’s, they need to stop _____________ from ____________ and must do it before __________. Usually at a grand formal ball. There are always codes to be broken, explosions, and gunfire. The number of direct hits vs. misses: Good guys 50-51, bad guys 0-50,000.

So to compare:

DIRECTOR: Both Brad Bird (MI) and Guy Richie (SHERLOCK) know how to stage an action sequence. Richie employs more technical trickery – slow motion and the like, but Brad gives you more “jump out of your seat” moments. Number of times you’ll say “How did they do that?”: Richie 15, Bird 7. But number of times you’ll say “Why did they do that?” Richie 15, Bird 6.

SCRIPT: The Sherlock screenplay by Michele Mulrooney & Kieran Mulroney is half really clever and half confusing mess. And I’m a little biased because the new TV version of Sherlock Holmes written by Steven Moffat is far more clever and ingenious and doesn’t require $100 million in special effects to pull it off. The MI screenplay by Josh Appelbaum & Andre Nemec is fast-paced and fun, and mostly followable. The suspension of disbelief comes when you see all the high tech gadgets that just seem to pop out of Felix the Cat’s magic bag whenever needed. MI held my interest more but SHERLOCK had a great battle of wits between hero and villain. Note to action directors: sometimes the best scenes are those between two characters just playing chess.

HEROES: Tom Cruise vs. Robert Downey Jr. Downey gets the edge for cool. He’s much more insouciant than Cruise. Tom’s sphincter is clenched the entire movie. But when it comes to actual stunts, I gotta give the nod to Tom. He scales skyscrapers and drives things off of cliffs. I get the feeling Robert (as Sherlock) would just figure a clever way to get the key.

VILLAINS – SHERLOCK has the big edge here. Jared Harris as Moriarity was a hoot. The perfect champagne villain. Hard to believe he’s the same guy who plays mousey Lane Pryce on MAD MEN. Don Draper better watch his ass. The MI villain wore nice suits.

SIDEKICKS: Jude Law as Watson was fun, although it bothered me that sometimes he walked with a limp, but when someone was shooting at him he could outrun Carl Lewis. Jeremy Renner was equally effective. You get the feeling he’s just waiting to star in his own action vehicle.

THE HOT GIRL: I’m in love with MI’s Paula Patton. Newcomer Noomi Rapace was okay in SHERLOCK but I have no idea why she was there. And I missed Rachael McAdams who had a much larger role in the first SHERLOCK.

COMIC RELIEF – Simon Pegg got every laugh in MI, but Stephen Fry in SHERLOCK was hilarious. Advantage: Fry.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4 was a pleasant surprise because some of its predecessors were uh… well, they sucked. SHERLOCK 2 was about the same as SHERLOCK 1. Neither is going to win many Academy Awards but they both had their moments and I didn’t have to wear funny glasses to see them.

What did you guys think?

38 comments:

Carol said...

I'm ridiculously happy that you mentioned Moffat's Sherlock, as it is such a brilliant show. I liked the first Sherlock movie, but I think the televison show blows it out of the water. I personally think Benedict Cumberbatch is a better Sherlock than Robert Downey Jr, even though I like Downey's version well enough.

Friday question(s) - if you got the green light to do some kind of show like Sherlock, what would you do? And is there a type of script you've never done, but would like to try - like a Sci-fi type show or something? If you had the chance to write for Doctor Who, for example, would you take it?

Jenny said...

I enjoyed both movies, but I thought "Mission: Impossible" was extremely good. It felt like an old-school action movie. I liked "Sherlock Holmes," but you're right that Moffat's "Sherlock" is SO much better. It's one of the best things I watched all year. Still, I found "Sherlock Holmes" (the movie) to be silly fun. And you're right that the two movies not being in 3-D was a plus! :)

Johnny Walker said...

I think you hit the nail on the head several times. I remember thinking while I was watching Holmes, "So why are they going to x again? Where's y supposed to be? Wasn't there a z in the last scene I was supposed to care about?", and yet I still sort of followed it. I do wonder, though, that if I paused the movie after every scene, and gave my mind time to catch up, if it would actually make any real sense.

One illogical moment that leapt out to me immediately: Holmes couldn't have doodled a "fish" pun. Moriarty was soundly beating him while he was going on about being a fisherman, which was also the scene where they switched Maguffins.

I also wondered why Rachael McAdams was replaced. It added very little to the story (Holmes was slightly more miffed as a result... Hardly worth doing as the audience didn't feel that emotion). I would have guessed it was clash of personality (a la Linda Fiorentino in Men in Black), but they still hired her, so it seems they honestly believed her part added something to the story.

Anyways, nice write up. I'll probably get around to watching Mission Impossible 4: This Time It's REALLY Impossible - We Mean It soon.

moot said...

Thanks much for the reviews! I agree that the last few MIs were a bore. #2 was mostly an excuse for somebody to show off martial arts moves in slo-mo. Nifty device, slow motion, but it was waaaaay overdone there. So I was set to dislike #3 from the get go and was not pleasantly surprised. Glad to hear that #4 might pull that franchise back from the brink.

Sherlock Holmes - well, yeah, of course the new tv version has it all over the Downey movies. Which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the first one. I did. But you have to let go of the pre-conceived Holmesian world and just go with the steam-punk fantasy version. It's not part of the canon, but more of an outtake, like fanfic. It's just fun and can be enjoyed for itself.

The new tv version, however, is more true to the canon while also moving into the 21st century. You come away thinking, well yeah, if Sir ACD were writing it today it might go something like that.

An said...

Thanks for putting words to the experience of deliberately spacing on complicated plot details. I thought I was uniquely lazy in making a conscious choice to just assume whatever is happening is of utmost importance rather than actually trying to understand it.

Friday Question: Have you ever felt that a studio audience has completely changed the intended tone of a scene? For example, I recently watched the Cheers episode "Knights of the Scimitar" in which the audience is laughing at some fairly intense moments when Diane has tears in her eyes, and I have to wonder how something like that goes over with the writers and actors.

Michael said...

I have seen neither and will echo Carol: the Sherlock series is great, a different approach that works. I have trouble envisioning Sherlock as a Victorian-era action hero, but I certainly can see him as the same type of person we know from Conan Doyle in the early 21st century.

Sebastian said...

First off I'm pretty certain it's suspension of DISbelief. I still can't wrap my mind around that saying, first ran into it about 10 years ago and can't get it into my head. But I know how it's spelled :-)

Haven't seen either of the two - haven't seen the first Sherlock Holmes to be honest either but saw the BBC's "Sherlock" so I am on the fence if I should watch the movie. The second "Iron Man" was bad enough so I don't really want to ruin Robert's mojo any more before "Avengers" and I think I'm not going to like the Hollywood Sherlock.

And obviously you know why I won't watch the movie with the Thetan. MI is to me what "The Beaver" was to you.

Tony said...

Regarding Jeremy Renner waiting to star in his own action flick: he's staring in the new Borne sequel, Bourne Legacy.

TT in Tacoma said...

Saw Sherlock last night with my family. Really enjoyed the first one, the second one was fun. The TV show is also very good, but I would not go to the movies to see it, they are just two different animals.
My oldest son was miffed because he likes "Snatch" and "Rock and Rolla" better and kept telling me that "Guy Richie sold out". My youngest son figured out half way through the Sherlock movie that the preview we saw for the movie "Battleship" was literally a movie of the board game "Battleship". They actually shot five pegs at the battleship and sunk it. Lord, the rest of the movie I had to hear the board games HE would make into movies... Chutes and Ladders, Risk, Operation, Solitaire, (a James Bond film), Parcheesi, Yahtzee. Next time, I am just going to the movies with my wife.

Friday question. Should I have this mole looked at?

Anonymous said...

They both showed "The Dark Knight Rises" beforehand and neither lived up to that trailer

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen either of Richie's Sherlock movies, but the recent PBS movies were indeed great.

"Ghost Protocol" was a very entertaining action movie, but I still hold the first M:I movie to be the best. But the scene in M:I4 where Hunt steps out from the window in the Burj Khalifa is just awesome. That whole sequence was the most cringe-inducing (in a good way) action sequence I've seen in a long, long time. Just an amazing piece of action cinema.

For what it's worth though, I thought "The adventures of Tintin" was a better action movie than M:I4. If you haven't checked it out, please do - and it's not really a kids' movie, just a movie that can be enjoyed by kids!

Anonymous said...

Didn't see MI but was extremely disappointed in Sherlock. The first one was far superior and the guy who played Moriarity ( and the way the character was woven into the plot) sucked. The face of Mark Strong from the original still haunts me to this day. That guy, hopefully, will one day get the big roles he deserves.

blinkytoo said...

So in Mission Impossible they had to MagLev float the Hurt Locker guy into a server room because...it had no floor? Was that the same server room they used in 2001: A Space Odyssey to pull Hals brains out?

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, they had to levitate him in there because with the fan turned off, the surface got so hot you couldn't touch it.

Of course, as mentioned, all you need to know is "IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT THAT HE LEVITATES IN THERE!"...

te said...

Am I nuts, or has anybody else detected an homage to Pepe Le Pew in M:I-4? And the scene in the parking structure was pure slapstick -- Brad Bird may become the Frank Tashlin of action movies.

As a real fan of the original Holmes, I found the first Downey picture to be downright offensive in the liberties it took (same as Young Sherlock Holmes; why can't they stick to character and intelligence, as Moffat did?); though, dumb as it was, I found myself enjoying Cruise and company very much.

MBunge said...

"And I missed Rachael McAdams who had a much larger role in the first SHERLOCK."


Proving once again that there's no accounting for taste. I thought what happened to Irene Adler was the most publicly implicit acknowledgement of and apology for bad casting I've ever seen. You can't tell me that if McAdams, who is an otherwise beautiful and talented actress, had looked more like Downey's equal in the first film and less like his neice, her character would have suffered the same fate in the sequel.

Mike

Anonymous said...

Mike is spot on with this one. McAdams, youth aside, did not have the acting chops to be on the same sound stage as Downey and talented company. Rather than waste the entire opening of the the second Sherlock Holmes on servicing the sequel clause in McAdams contract, they should have paid her off and put Holmes face to face with a truly ominous Moriarity and started the flick with a a bang, like they did the prior film, with the evil Lord Blackwood. That McAdams bad decision set the tone for the whole mess that followed.

Tim Susman said...

I haven't seen MI but am glad you enjoyed it--reinforces my desire to see it. I agree on SH2 vs 1--they both felt about the same, and I mean that in a positive way; I didn't feel the second was a letdown.

@Johnny Walker--I thought Holmes made a fish reference at his first meeting with Moriarty, the line in German about a fish you can't catch, which would have given him time for the fish doodle.

@Mike/Anonymous--We were discussing the McAdams arc in this movie and felt it did a good job setting up both a more personal stake and a real sense of danger for Holmes that makes his desperation to save Watson much more believable. Agree though that I preferred Rapace (who, I'm told, was the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the Swedish film) playing opposite Holmes for the limited time she was allowed to do so.

And the TV Sherlock, what I've seen, is quite good but different. It has different goals, I think, and as a treatment of Holmes is smarter and better written but no less valid.

Brian said...

I didn't even know there was an MI4. I have seen TV commercials for Sherlock.

HogsAteMySister said...

Thanks, Ken, for the reviews. We're looking forward to seeing Sherlock. We don't contribute to cults so won't be seeing Mr. Cruise. Tragic there isn't another Bourne out this year.

Phillip B said...

Busy pulling one "Thin Man" movie a day off the DVD for the holidays. Up to 1939....

DJ said...

For the modern Sherlock, credit must also be given to Moffat's co-producer Mark Gatiss (who writes more of the scripts than Moffat does), and Martin Freeman, an excellent Watson whose fame will grow as he plays Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit movies.

Cumberbatch is so excellent as Holmes because he can convey the action that is at the heart of a classic, great Holmes production -- the action going on between Holmes's ears.

Ref said...

Do see the Swedish "Girl" movies with Noomi Rapace. They're wonderful. She's wonderful.

Lou H. said...

The commercials for A Game of Shadows looked like outtakes from Wild, Wild West. Who thought it was a good idea to turn Sherlock Holmes into an action movie?

What's next? Will we see Perry Mason turn nighttime avenger as soon as the copyright runs out? Maybe Schwarzenegger can chase down bad guys (while avoiding cracks in the sidewalk) in a reboot of Monk?

VP81955 said...

As a real fan of the original Holmes, I found the first Downey picture to be downright offensive in the liberties it took (same as Young Sherlock Holmes; why can't they stick to character and intelligence, as Moffat did?)

Because movie audiences these days are largely comprised of adolescents and young adults, for whom character and intelligence are irrelevant -- give them action and CGI "blow 'em up real good," to borrow that old SCTV phrase. I can only imagine what would happen if Nick and Nora Charles were brought back to film...Nick would be the best gunfighter this side of Marshal Dillon, Nora would do karate and judo a la Emma Peel, and Asta would be a pit bull with attitude.

wv: "lanco" -- some firm, somewhere, that's sponsoring late-night infomercials for something (your guess is as good as mine), keeping some spieler somewhere in business.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Thanks, Ken. That's exactly what a movie review should be: a useful heads up without telling me anything I don't want to know.

jbryant said...

VP81955: You many not have to imagine an updated THIN MAN much longer -- isn't there a remake in development with Johnny Depp to star and Rob Marshall to direct?

Re Rachel McAdams' age: She is 33, Downey is 46. This doesn't strike me as being a May/December kinda thing.

Re the recent BBC Sherlock update: I enjoyed it, but, frankly, bringing the characters into the 21st century felt a bit too cutesy at times. Watson's a blogger and Holmes has an iPhone or something. Lots of opportunities for Holmes fans to pat themselves on the back for getting all the references though.

jbryant said...

Correction to first sentence of my post above: "You MAY not have to imagine..."

MBunge said...

"Re Rachel McAdams' age: She is 33, Downey is 46. This doesn't strike me as being a May/December kinda thing."


But McAdams is a modern Hollywood 33, which means she can pass for early 20s. Downey, on the other hand, is a classic Hollywood 46, which means he looks damn good but no one's going to confuse him with a 30 year old. The fact that Downey was deliberately grubbed up in the film while McAdams was pristine only emphasized the disparity in visual maturity.

Mike

Johnny Walker said...

Well I watched Mission Impossible 4: Even Impossibler and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Brad Bird shows he is a much better director than Ritchie, which is no shock given their previous films (I still get teary thinking about the ending of Iron Giant). The tall building lemon was expertly squeezed, with many an audible gasp from the small audience I saw it with.

On the whole, I'd say I enjoyed them about the same, but for different reasons. Very much the reasons you break down, actually.

Thanks for the reviews.

D. McEwan said...

"VP81955 said...
Because movie audiences these days are largely comprised of adolescents and young adults, for whom character and intelligence are irrelevant -- give them action and CGI 'blow 'em up real good,' to borrow that old SCTV phrase."


Sorry, doesn't wash. It's not the audience's fault that Guy Ritchie keeps flushing his toilet onto the movie screen instead of into a septic tank. You've given Ritchie's lame EXCUSE as a "reason" why it is necessary, when, as well over 100 years of screen & page immortality show, it is NOT necessary! Just because kids prefer candy to steak is no reason to serve candy for dinner.

I came out of Ritchie's execrable first Holmes film wanting everyone involved in the making of it to be shot. I no longer want them all shot. Too quick. Too merciful. They should all be tortured to death VEEERRRRY slooooowly (All, even crafts services), so they get lots and lots of agony, in Guy Ritchie slo-mo, for Crimes Against Conan Doyle. Then, their coprses should be shown the further dishonor of having their deaths filmed and directed by Guy Ritchie, so they will be shit, as well as agonising, and his relentless slo-mo will keep their torture lingering longer.

Bless Stephen Moffett, for showing that, you can change the century without ruining it if you keep the characters right, and tell the right stories. (Everything about Moffett's great show demonstrates why Ritchie has no excuse except reflexive-imitiation in place of talent & wit) My only complaint about the Mofett Sherlock series is, it's making us wait until September for a new season of Doctor Who, which is a high price to pay.

"Up what canal should the Guy Ritchie Holmes movies be shoved, Holmes?"

"Alimentary, my dear Watson."

Matt Patton said...

I saw the first SHERLOCK HOLMES film that Guy Ritchie did, and although I agree that some sort of grisly fate should befall him (such as being forced to re-marry Madonna), I'd leave the actors out of it. Downey and Law are both good actors and were pretty good in spite of the stupid script. As for Rachel McAdams, she appeared in a really good thriller a few years back called RED EYE, with a splendidly-creepy Cillian Murphy as the villain. It's almost good enough to make me forgive Wes Craven for the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Almost . . .

ElizabethH said...

Just saw MI, and it was great fun. Run, Tom, run! I thought the first Sherlock was such a hot mess that I really don't have much desire to see another one, although I have a huge RDJr thing. I may even go see him in that Avenger movie after my ears stop bleeding from the previews.

Johnny Walker said...

The Avengers comes from Joss Whedon, so I would allow myself some hope for it being actually quite good. My only concerns are that Whedon seems to do his absolute best work with longform stories, and that he isn't a particularly cinematic director (although he's never really had a cinematic budget before). I think it would be safe to expect an above average action movie, with witty dialogue and strong characters, at the very least.

cadavra said...

I thought McAdams was just fine in both films, but...

MINOR SPOILER ALERT



If you think Adler's dead, I have a bridge to sell you. First, you don't kill off a canonical character lightly. Second, how do we know she's dead? Because Moriarty told Holmes she was? He has every reason to lie about it. Trust me, if McAdams and/or the producers want her back for #3, she'll be there.

Cap'n Bob said...

Since I won't watch a member of the Scientology Organized Crime Family there's no comparison. But really, do you think any of these people did their own stunts?

rekrul said...

Watson's limp is psychosomatic, it's explained in the BBC series as well as the books.

buddy2blogger said...

Nice review of the movies. I saw Mission Impossible - Ghost protocol and liked it immensely.

As for Sherlock Holmes 2, being an avid Sherlockian, I prefer adaptations that are faithful to the canon. The Downey Jr movies and the BBC Sherlock are a little too non-canonical for my tastes :)

Cheers!