I saw the new movie Sherlock Holmes over the weekend. Short review: I liked it far more than I expected to, though it is a bit silly in places. Longer review, with a few spoilers, below the fold.
A number of years ago there was an atrocity of a movie called Young Sherlock Holmes. Though it made a few gestures in the direction of the original Conan Doyle stories early in the film, it ultimately came down to young Holmes battling a bunch of Satan worshippers, or some such nonsense.
The opening scene of the present film features Holmes stopping someone named Lord Blackwood from carrying out a similar such ceremony. At that moment I was certain that my worst fears were about to be realized. I take my Holmes very seriously, you see, and there is a limit to how much straying from the Conan Doyle canon I am willing to tolerate.
Happily, my fears were unfounded. Lord Blackwood is subsequently tried and hanged for his various crimes. Dr. Watson himself is the presiding physician, on the scene to pronounce Lord Blackwood dead. Blackwood does not remain long in that condition however, and is quickly resurrected. Mayhem ensues.
The Holmes and Watson of this film are probably closer to what Conan Doyle intended than in a lot of other film adaptations of his stories. The super human Holmes and bumbling Dr. Watson of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films was always a bit of an exaggeration. Robert Downey’s Holmes is a smug, socially awkward genius who does a variety of drugs and participates in cage fights. Pretty close to the way he is portrayed in the stories. Though Holmes does not fight for money in the original stories, it is clear he is quite the bruiser and well able to take care of himself.
Incidentally, that scene of Holmes fighting that you see in all of the movie advertisements is actually one of the funniest scenes I have seen in a film in some time.
Jude Law’s Dr. Watson is maybe a bit too competent. He is a decorated military man and a doctor, so he obviously has some chops. But here he seems positively unimpressed with many of Holmes’ deductions and very impatient with Holmes, which defnitely is not how he is portrayed in the stories.
At any rate, the film played into one of my favorite genres of detective fiction: a sequence of events that seems to be explicable only by hypothesizing the supernatural ultimately yields to a natural explanation. In fairness, though, a supernatural explanation might have been more plausible in this case.
The movie does descend into silliness in a few places, but that it OK. It was far more enjoyable than I anticipated. They pretty clearly set up a sequel, so I will be looking forward to that. Robert Downey is currently the go-to guy for smug, eccentric genius types. Between Tony Stark and now Holmes, he is pretty much cornering the market. (Speaking of which, I saw an Iron Man 2 trailer before the film. It looks AWESOME!)
Oh, good music too!
Go see it.