You know Holmes, everybody does, and after fifty-six short stories and four novels (all by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), not to mention stage plays and a couple of hundred movies, TV episodes and other adaptations, everybody had better. From the huge curvy pipe to the hunting cap to the cape to his most famous catch phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson!", it's safe to say, we know our Homey Holmes! Interestingly enough, none of these things are actually canonical to Holmes, nor did they appear in the original fifty-six short stories or four novels. That recognizable pipe was chosen for the stage, so that actors could still speak to the audience while toking up and the cape was hardly believable to be worn all the time (he's not Superman, you know)! Holmes would be no more likely to wear that famous cap around the city than ol' "Spenser: For Hire" would have worn one of those bright orange hunting vests around Bean Town. As for "Elementary, my dear Watson", he no more said that than Captain Kirk ever said "Beam me up, Scotty!"
I point these things out to illustrate the unnecessary fact that the 2009 Sherlock Holmes is not the continuity assassin that the casual viewer might make it out to be. In fact it's original, but not quite literary blasphemy!
Sure, it's directed by the former "Mr. Madonna", Guy Ritchie and sure this is another one of those popcorn action flicks with a classic name and characters with much more CGI style and post-modern flash than substance and sure this is as "based on" as "based on" movies get (the script by Michael Robert Johnson, Lionel Wigram, Simon Kinberg and Anthony Peckham is from an original story, based on no one Conan Doyle work)! Yeah, I know, it looked like a Victorian version of The Matrix... but it does the trick when it comes to being a fun action film with just enough smart mixed in with the cool (and with the silly, truth be told) to manage to become a good enough and entertaining film. In short, I didn't deduce that I would like the film as much as I did.
The story kicks off with a bang (the first of a great many in this explosion-laded Hollywood flick) as good old "No Shit" Sherlock (Robert Downey, Jr., taking on another icon) foils the latest nefarious plans of one decidedly evil Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). This is, of course, with the indispensible help of his best buddy and bromance partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law, hardly a bumbling fat goofball) and a helping hand or three by the local London cops (most commonly represented by Eddie Marsan's Inspector Lestrade)!
Once Ol' Blackwood Lawless (who makes Alistair Crowley look like Fred Rogers) is safely behind bars and on the Scotland Yard equivalent of DEATH ROW, we can get back to more mundane things concerning the real lives of Holmes and his Homey Watson. Of course, it's only then that things start to get truly weird. Weird along the lines of Holmes constantly experimenting on his dog and with his inventions (often not mutually exclusive) to distract him from the fact that his bestest buddy is on the way to the altar with his cute new main squeeze Mary Morstan (the all-too-clothed Kelly Reilly).
The thing is, Lord Blackwoody is far from done and it certainly appears that those dark and satanic powers he was torquing around with have given him puissance even beyond the grave and there's a whole X-Files-like conspiracy reaching up and down all of England's classes which just might put him (or his ghost) in power over the Earth. Or, hell, maybe he's crazier than Dalek Caan, I don't know!
And neither do Sherlock and John-boy at first! This is interesting because, amid all the freeze-frames, explosions, quick cuts and slow-motion takes, Holmes seems to know all about just about everything else (and what he doesn't know, Watson does). Even without Watson's ear to bend, Downey's voiceover gives us the step-by-step cognitive processes that Homes goes through to win every fight (of which there are a whole shell of a lot) and take in every detail of every moment to sleuth out every clue. He's also a skilled master of disguise and an inventive fighter, which comes in handy if you're being bossed around by the director of RocknRolla and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels!
Some of the best fun to be had in Sherlock Holmes is in watching the very things that make our title character just who and what he is. Downey's Holmes approaches everything with that same analytical and inquisitive eye, deducing how to win any fight in seconds and rocketing forward in every mystery to its elementary end. Then again, our Home-Holmes is far from perfect and his science is far from omniscient. Here we find a jealous, eccentric Sherlock Holmes whose quirks threaten to make him a decidedly solitary man, what with the only person who can put up with his rubbish is soon to hop in bed with Kelly Reilly! Too bad Saucy Sherlock doesn't have a love interest of his own, huh?
Enter Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler, the only woman ever to truly win Sherlock Holmes' heart. It's just too bad that in this version, Adler is a criminal mastermind and most assuredly the Catwoman to Sherlocky-lock's Batman! Need I say she's got her own agenda? Need I add, that such a thing goes without saying for Adler... and for just about anybody else in this twisting and turning flick.
At any point Holmes and Watson may be able to count on friends and allies like Hans Matheson's brave Lord Coward, James Fox's bold Sir Thomas, Geraldine James' Mrs. Hudson and William Hope's Ambassador Standish (not to mention each character I've already mentioned) to feed him clues and stand with him against the Evil Forces of Lord Blackwood and his Dark Masters... or any and all of them may die... or flip over to... THE DARK SIDE!
Yeah, it's fun to try and figure out what's going to happen next and, yeah, it's a great film to look at with its impressive moods, CGI-enhanced scenery, killer fight scenes and omnipresent explosions. While fun this is, some of the same elements that make this one so much fun are the very things that tend to push this one past the smart realm and into a layer of pure, buttered popcorn, just right for a Christmas Day opening! While the 2009 Holmes Christmas Show prides itself on its sharp and witty intellect, so often it takes a silly leap forward at the risk of true Holmesian logic. When Cunning turns to Corn, Ritchie distracts the audience with another impossible feat of derring-do, another major explosion, another gravity-defying fight scene or yet another cheese-melting explosion! At times Sherlock Holmes gets so far fetched with its bizarre flashiness that it almost more resembles The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and its Victorian Sci-Fi elements, along with just enough James Bond to keep the intrigue and sexiness going. Still, this film is packed with quite a lot of Hollywood and more than a Revolver-Load of that Ritchie Guy!
Then again, all of that isn't so bad and just as the audience is distracted by spectacle when the film gets a bit dumb, when the film slows down it does manage to, shall we say "get smart" again to sharpen the old brain-bone once or twice. And, to be both fair and honest, even when the film tries to be more than it really is, it never ceases to be the main thing it set out to be... Entertaining.
And so it's safe to say that Sherlock Holmes sleuths out a more than respectable Three and One Half Stars out of Five! Yeah, it's flawed, yeah, it's pop, yeah it's... ah, screw it! It's fun... it's Elementary, but it's Entertaining, dear Watson. Now zark off! See you in the next real reel... next year, true believers!
The first and last time we ever met...
I told you the exact same things:
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Today is the last day of 2009.
2010 must truly be the year we make contact!
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