I had the chance yesterday to get out and see the newest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes with my wife and son. We were packed into the theater with a host of strangers at 4pm (I guess New Year's Day is an especially big day for movie houses) with popcorn, cokes, and nachos at the ready.
The character of Sherlock Holmes is an old and cherished one, and I've heard some apprehension in the ranks over the amount of action depicted in the film. Trust me when I say that Holmes' wit and deductive powers have never been keener. However, the 21st century version of the famous sleuth relies not only on his cerebral cortex to get him out of sticky situations, but also on his bare knuckles. That's right, Sherlock Holmes is a brawler. He's a drinker. And he's a bit of an eccentric. This generation's Holmes is as complicated as they come.
Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes is not the dapper, forever brow-furrowed fellow we're used to. In fact, he's almost manic depressive, but the audience never loses the sense of who he is. And we never lose faith in his abilities. Downey is brilliant and effects a near flawless English accent. So flawless that it is, in fact, difficult to follow at times. When his character is in the throes of deductive bliss, he prattles off lines of English jibber jabber so fast to be nearly incomprehensible. It doesn't matter most of the time. He's figured out an answer to some small riddle, and you get the point.
Jude Law is great as the dedicated Dr. Watson, and the two really light up the screen together. You get the sense that they've been at this for years, and not just because that's what the script calls for. The chemistry is remarkable and well played by the casting director. Law's Watson is a bit more inclined towards physical confrontation as well, and he never plays second fiddle to Holmes. This new Watson is an ex military man and he is very capable of taking care of himself.
The film's bad guy, Lord Blackwood (great name!), is played by Englishman Mark Strong, and he is very calculatingly cold and... evil. The only bit of casting that I felt was ill made is that of Jude Law's love interest Mary Marston, played by Kelley Reilly. I don't know much about this actress, but she brings very little to the table in this movie, coming across as washed out and translucent in comparison with the film's other larger than life cast of characters. And perhaps I just didn't like her character at all either.
The film's plot deals a lot with magic, secret societies, and conspiracies, which is all great fun to me. These elements are made that much more creepy and believable when set against the gritty, overcast-gray, Victorian streets of London. My biggest complaint about this movie is the climax, when it is revealed to the audience what the bad guy's motives for his misdeeds are. And for all of the elements of nefariousness and mysterious hints at the supernatural, it comes down to one thing; one man's desire to rule the world. Yep. That's what I said. Kinda lame, huh?
Well, besides that one terribly cliched bit, the film is a breath of fresh air. Yes, there is action. Yes, there is fighting. And yes, there are explosions. But it is all done with careful consideration. The slow motion, stop frame style of director Guy Ritchie captures moments of action, allowing the viewer to examine the artistry and craft that went into the making of these scenes. Landed punches and fiery explosions are felt rather than just seen and heard. These camera tricks serve a higher purpose than just showing off to the audience. These techniques draw the viewer into Holmes' and Watson's world. And those moments spent in the movie by the viewer are carried away as a vivid memory rather than left in a dark theater and forgotten.
Sherlock Holmes is in theaters now.
Have you seen the film? What did you think of it? And if you haven't seen it, will you? Have the trailers and marketing put you off or turned you on? I'd like to hear about it.