I have not set my steps into a movie theatre for quite a while, but when I heard my favourite character in literature, Sherlock Holmes, was being adapted for the big screen, I immediately put it on my movies-to-see list. I have never seen a Guy Richie movie before, but a stellar cast including Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law and Canadian sweetheart Rachel McAdams guarantee a fun ride.
Set in the late 19th century, the most famous detective in the world, Sherlock Holmes was wrapping up a case on the villain Lord Blackwood, who practiced dark arts to terrorize London and seek to take over the world. When they thought everything was nailed in the coffin, news broke that Lord Blackwood had come back to life, just as he had warned Holmes on death row and told him that even Holmes’s unparalleled wits could do nothing to stop it. To add fuel to the fire, the one woman Holmes had ever remotely admired, Irene Adler, came back into the picture as a client for the detective. What she was up to and who was behind it, however, were unclear. With his trustworthy pal Dr. John Watson by his side, Holmes embarked on an action-packed adventure with deceit, secrets, and magic.
This was before the definitive DNA and fancy equipment in C.S.I., the tales of Sherlock Holmes using pure deduction may be dull for the younger generation. But the charm of Holmes was always in his character, smart and almost arrogant, elegant and physical, eccentric but cool. While I had my doubts about the casting initially, the charismatic Downey, Jr. does not disappoint. He, like all other character actors, can turn a mediocre script into something worthwhile and all so much fun to see. His bohemian lifestyle, mischievous ways, and quit-witted exchange with Law’s Dr. Watson like a bickering couple added richness to the character, unlike previous, more buttoned-up versions of the detective.
I was more worried about Jude Law’s performance, as he won me over in some roles (Gattaca, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Closer), but was forgettable in others (Alfie, A.I.). Fortunately, as Dr. Watson, his subtle amusement at Holmes’s intellectual journey and his annoyance at his old pal’s shenanigans were a great fit with Downey, Jr. The great chemistry between the two leads meant half of the success in a film about Sherlock Holmes. McAdams’s Adler was more disappointing, but I could understand why. She was written in to provide a female touch in a testosterone-driven film that’s usually the norm for Guy Richie movies, and to add a love interest for the detective known for his disinterest in the ladies. She was given some action and witty scenes to show that she was a match for Holmes and thus the object of his admiration, but ultimately fell short of the goal. In comparison, even Watson’s fiancé, Mary Morstan (played by Kelly Reilly) was more feisty and interesting than Adler. I was just glad that she did not deliver any cheesy lines, especially at the make-or-break moment toward the end, for me, at least.
As a fairly entertaining movie, Sherlock Holmes had a weak story. The villain Lord Blackwood did not strike any frightening nerve, as the citizens of London were still going about their business as usual. Why, they even had a circus/carnival in town. Holmes’s mortal enemy, Professor Moriarty, was mentioned as a set-up for sequels. The mystery and ruthlessness surrounding him was even more effective than Lord Blackwood’s magic tricks and coward retreat. Perhaps that’s where the problem lies. Since the writers had a franchise in mind, they failed to give a more copious story to this film. Attempts to spice things up to meet Hollywood standard by including comedic action sequences and explosions were dispensable. They pale in comparison to other movies now playing anyways (Let’s face it, who can beat Avatar at that?) Having said that, I’m happy with the deduction and reasoning that solve the apparently supernatural incidents taking place in the movie. Far-fetched at times, but forgivable for a Hollywood blockbuster. At least all the T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted, and sometimes in a humorous manner. And that’s elementary to a Sherlock Holmes movie.
Fun Facts (source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0988045/trivia):
- The last time Sherlock Holmes appeared on the big screen was in a comedy, Without a Clue. Michael Caine played the famous detective in that 1988 movie.
- The set for Sherlock Holmes’s home in this film was previously used as Sirius Black’s home in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).
- This is Guy Ritchie’s first film not to be rated R in the U.S. (Really?! Even Swept Away was rated R?)
Photo © 2009 Warner Bros. Pictures