US Release Date: 12-25-2009
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
- Robert Downey Jr., as
- Sherlock Holmes
- Jude Law, as
- Dr. John Watson
- Rachel McAdams, as
- Irene Adler
- Mark Strong, as
- Lord Blackwood
- Eddie Marsan, as
- Inspector Lestrade
- Robert Maillet, as
- Geraldine James, as
- Mrs. Hudson
- Kelly Reilly as
- Mary Morstan
The game is afoot once more for Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.
As a fan of Conan-Doyle's stories I was a little bit worried about what Guy Ritchie would do to his immortal detective. The previews made it look entertaining enough so I decided the best way to approach it was to pretend that it had nothing to do with the original stories and was something brand new. Imagine my surprise then that while it changed a great many things, it still retained the spirit and a great many of Conan-Doyle's original ideas and details.
The biggest change to the character of Holmes is that he shares some sexual chemistry with a woman. While it's true that the written Holmes referred to Irene Adler as "the woman", it was more of an intellectual admiration than a sexual one. Also, the character of Irene as played by Rachel McAdams bears only a passing resemblance to the Irene of the stories. The other major changes are that the Holmes here is more unkempt and much more physical than originally written. It's true that while Doyle gave Holmes boxing ability, he was never shown to be a common street brawler. At his heart though you can clearly see that this Holmes is the same Holmes that we've been so familiar with.
Watson, as played by Jude Law, is, for almost the first time since the original stories, portrayed as closer to Holmes equal. He doesn't possess Holmes great intellect, but he's not the bumbling idiot that he has so often been depicted. For once he is shown as a worthy partner to Holmes and you can actually see why Sherlock would want to work with him. It's their chemistry that is the heart of the film and their moments together are the best in the movie.
Although you might wonder why a British actor couldn't be found to play one of the most iconic British characters of all time, you do have to admit that Downey Jr. does a great job capturing the essence of Holmes. Holmes is an eccentric character whose personality ranged from robotic when analyzing clues to wildly erratic when bored and without a case to pursue and Downey hits all the right notes with him. He is also allowed to reveal more of a human side of Holmes, particularly with his feelings towards Watson and Irene.
The weakest part of the movie is the villain, Lord Blackwood and his evil plot. With his goal of global dominance he seems to have stepped out of a Bond film rather than a Sherlock Holmes story. Not to mention that his goal of making Britain the world's greatest power is ridiculous when you think that during the Victorian era, when Holmes was alive, the British Empire was the largest empire the world had ever seen. Although obviously Holmes needs a case to solve, it's almost the least important part of the story.
With Holmes' arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty seen to be lurking in the wings throughout the story, clearly the filmmaker's are setting up a sequel. Far from worrying over the prospect as I was about this film, it now seems elementary that they make one.
The secret to a buddy film is elementary.
As a fan of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels I have been eager to see if Guy Ritchie could make another film that held my interest. With Sherlock Holmes he has more than succeeded. He will no longer be remembered as that one hit wonder who was once married to Madonna.
As with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Ritchie is best when showcasing the relationships between men. Although this movie mystery has adventure, humor and action, it is the relationship between Holmes and Watson that makes it complete. They can seem almost gay around each other. They bicker like an old married couple. "You've never complained about my methods before." Holmes says to Watson, who responds, "I've never complained! When have I ever complained about you practicing the violin at three in the morning, or your mess? Your general lack of hygiene or the fact that you steal my clothes?"
As Scott wrote, their moments together are the best in the movie. They can predict how the other will react to any given situation. Watson had some trepidations about introducing his fiance to Holmes. The meeting goes as bad as Watson knew it would. They have a dog together that, to Watson’s dismay, Holmes keeps testing experimental drugs on. One of the films biggest laughs is when Watson finds a seemingly drunk Holmes, and says to him, "You do know what your are drinking is meant for eye surgery?"
The secret to any film franchise is to create entertaining lead characters. Once you have that, the rest is just gravy. As long as Ritchie, Downey Jr and Law reprise their jobs, I will want to visit with these guys for a long time to come, irregardless of what the mystery is they are trying to solve.
Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr. and Rachel McAdams as Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.
As a fan of good old fashioned movie making I didn’t expect to like this newfangled interpretation of the classic character. As it turns out my brothers are spot on. Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law all combine to make a highly entertaining and truly memorable Sherlock Holmes movie. I even enjoyed Rachel McAdams, of whom I am not normally a fan, as Irene Adler.
Ritchie concocts a nearly flawless mixture of action and dialogue. Holmes and Watson good naturedly bicker in between fantastic action sequences.
Scott, you mention that this Holmes is different from the Conan Doyle stories in that he has sexual chemistry with a woman and is more unkempt and physically active. I haven’t read any of Doyle’s stories with the exception of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” which I read way back in my 11th grade British Literature class. The only things my novice eye noticed that Ritchie didn’t use are probably the two most famous Sherlock Holmes’ clichés of them all. The line “Elementary my dear Watson” and the detective’s iconic deerstalker hat are nowhere to be heard or seen. Neither detail is missed however.
As unfamiliar as I was with this legendary character I decided to do a bit of reading on him. I discovered that in the original stories Sherlock Holmes allegedly had a cocaine habit. Eric, this adds new meaning to the line you liked about the eye surgery ointment. Apparently cocaine was then in usage as a topical anesthetic during eye surgeries.
Scott I agree with your point about the villain’s plot being a bit convoluted and James Bondish. But it doesn’t seriously mar what it otherwise a very good movie. The acting, the script, the cinematography and the special effects are all nicely done. Bring on the sequel.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (2009)