Deductive Enjoyment: Sherlock Holmes

Not being too familiar with Sherlock Holmes (I did own a Holmes novella in my youth – the Five Orange Pips, don’t remember what it was about though), I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this movie. But the previews promised me a shirtless Robert Downey Jr, action, and snappy one-liners; so I tried to go into this one with an open mind and not expect too much.

This review contains minor spoilers; nothing hugely plot-relevant, but some things are given away. Please proceed with caution.

I did have some gripes with this movie. It is very unusual for me to come away from a movie feeling that if it had been just a little different, I would have enjoyed myself that much more, perhaps I am getting (even more) cynical in my old age. Notably, late into this movie there is a (supposedly) hugely dramatic explosion. The music turns to what must have been intended to be tense and epic: big and bold notes with little or no harmony. However, I was drawn right out of my immersion – at a deeply emotional moment, mind you, and we all know how overactive my emotional sympathies are – because the music sounded like it had been ripped right out of an Asian martial arts movie. Don’t believe me? Go listen to the scene in Hero where Nameless fights Lone Sky, and compare. It wasn’t until the credits were rolling and Long Road out of Dublin was playing that I realized it was supposed to sound Irish in influence.

And while I’m normally very forgiving when it comes to pushing my suspension of disbelief, although Watson was supposedly severely injured in the aforementioned scene, he is seen hauling Holmes on a rope and then up into the boat with nary a wince or even favouring his injured side. Granted, we don’t know exactly how much has passed, but I feel confident in saying not long enough.

The movie did have its moments, though most of them were at the beginning. The portrayal of Holmes intellect and analytical skills are well showcased (though I would have been happy to see it used even more), even if the restaurant scene would have benefitted from a little refinement.

Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as the intellectually bored-to-tears detective. He portrayed Holmes as a master of drunken boxing beautifully, playing the fool and never revealing his true strength to an opponent. Indeed, the fight scenes illustrate Holmes ability to use his brain to even better effect than his build; and his wiry and entirely UNsculpted bare torso is not just convincing (for why would a man like Holmes be ripped?), but also entirely UNdisappointing (mmm, yeah). He is eccentric, selfish, clever, childish, witty, prideful, analytical, and thoroughly entertaining.

Jude Law almost steals the show as Dr Watson, an intellectual powerhouse in his own right. They bounce off each other well, their deep and long relationship very evident. Flawed in his own ways, Watson is strong and reliable, like the responsible babysitter to Holmes; while still being vulnerable and sympathetic, and never coming across as pompous or above their shared misadventures.

The first half of the movie has an almost slapstick air about it, cracking along at a rampant pace filled with action and laughs. Had it kept up that pace, it would have been one of the greatest movies I’ve seen. Unfortunately, the movie loses some momentum as the story rolls towards climax and the movie starts to take itself a little more seriously.

The theme is sorcery and alchemy; and Holmes is delightful as he examines the evidence trail, showing off not just his remarkable intellect, but the massive repository of information stored in his amazing brain. At the end of the movie, Holmes has his before I kill you, Mr Bond moment, revealing all the masterful moments of science and skill that looked like magic. The exposition is clunky and awkward, but I had been looking forward to that moment, and was glad that it was there.

Overall, the movie plays out more like a pilot of a new TV show rather than a blockbuster movie; not actually ending with a solid conclusion, but rather the closing of a chapter and an obvious set-up for a sequel. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you see this one in the cinema, but it has all the makings of an excellent party move to share with mates.

I personally look forward to Sherlock Holmes 2.

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~ by ghostwolfe on January 14, 2010.

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