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Though Guy Ritchie (SNATCH) is best known for directing modern crime films set in England, he turns back the clock more than a century for this mystery inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's classic characters. SHERLOCK HOLMES is based on a comic book by Lionel … see full wiki
Lord Blackwood, serial killer and black occultist, has finally been brought to justice. Returning from the grave only gives more weight to his already potent reputation, as well as his ominous predictions of what is to yet to come. Yet, Sherlock Holmes seems too preoccupied with the imminent loss of his life-long bachelor friend and valued assistant, Dr. Watson, to act effectively against Blackwood's schemes.
Love seems to be the only thing to truly confound and successfully elude Holmes in life. Therefore, he seems determined to save his best friend and compatriot, Watson, from his own impending marriage at any cost. The reappearance of Irene Adler, Holmes' own romantic muse, only adds fuel to this fire while further distracting him from the convoluted plots of Blackwood and his various underlings.
Will the call of the hunt cost Watson his domestic happiness? Has the infamously eccentric sleuth finally gone over the edge of reason for good? Can Holmes come to terms with the distressing changes in his vital relationship with Watson before Blackwood pulls off his latest plans for domination? The game is afoot, but it seems our favorite players may be dangerously disconcerted!
Irene: "Why are you always so suspicious?"
Sherlock: "Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?"
I ask myself three things after watching any film. 1. Was I entertained? 2. Was I given something entirely new, or thought provoking to enjoy? and 3. Did the film live up to its potential? That last is perhaps the trickiest bit, and I do allow a fair bit of leeway when considering that topic, especially when the film is based on a favorite book or fictional character. Boredom, impatience with pacing or character elements, too many loose ends, or requiring too many leaps of faith are all signs of unfulfilled potential. In the case of Sherlock Holmes, I was entertained on a variety of levels, and walked away from the film with the same satisfied contentment one finds at the end of a good meal.
The action and fight sequences here were highly entertaining, fairly complex, and delivered in a unique manner that highlights the quirky personality of the infamous Sherlock Holmes. This film does a very good job of displaying Holmes' accelerated multi-tasking style of thought, his less constructive addictions, and his social ineptitude. These are not popular aspects of this hero, but they are most certainly an integral part of his make-up and help to make him fallibly human.
Holmes' is most often depicted as a thoroughly competent and self-assured figure. Here, audiences can see a Holmes that is uncertain, ambivalent, childishly petty, manipulative and selfish in his perceived loss of Watson, his only trusted companion. His arrogance here actually helps to humanize him, and provides several comedic moments rather than fashioning a cold and distant Holmes. In this film, we can see why Holmes relies so much upon Watson; not just for the commonplace support of trusted back up in difficult situations, but as his only successful link to Humanity at large.
Throughout this personal struggle, further complicated by the reappearance of his own disastrous love interest, we are given trademark Holmes deductive reasoning that is certain to unravel the convoluted plots of our villain eventually. The fun is watching how it all plays out! Usually we are shown only the positive side of this character with perhaps glimpses of his melancholy or general eccentricity.
I enjoyed this focus on his imperfections, especially his social ineptitude. There is so much to admire in the character of Sherlock Holmes that it seems easy to overlook his failings. The reference to his drug use is a rather quiet reminder from Watson that what he is drinking is meant for use during delicate eye surgeries, not recreational consumption. The good Doctor is not at all shy about putting Holmes in his place though, when the situation calls for it! Watson is presented in an interesting fashion where we can see not only his unfailing admiration of Holmes' brilliance, but also his impatience with Holmes' manipulations and his brotherly devotion that allows him an easy comradery as well as admonitions, ribbings, and the occasional pummeling.
So often we are presented with a Watson that is simple, slavishly devoted, ineptly amusing, or downright unattractive in his own right. This more forceful Watson is far more believable as Holmes' trusted associate, especially during this difficult transition period from bachelor to husband. A difficult time for Watson, Holmes and Mary, Watson's beloved, I was also impressed with how well Mary (Kelly Reilly) establishes her own strength of character amidst the dominant egos of Watson and Holmes in the time given.
I feel we were given a nice balance between action and thought throughout the story. Supporting cast is seamless. Settings and costuming are solid and wonderfully supportive. Certain cliche Holmes icons, like his deerstalker or "Elementary, Dear Watson", have been deliberately avoided, but we are given an excellent mix between artistic license and tradition.
For example, Holmes' excellent but seldom needed fighting ability is displayed well. Although the fighting style used does not match that of Arthur Conan Doyle's character (Holmes' Baritsu vs. Downey's Wing-Chun Kung Fu), they also give viewers a clear understanding of how Holme's vast intellect also figures into his fighting success. The character of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) appears only once in the written works without any great detail, but her expansion here makes sense and supports both story and main characters well. Her relationship with Holmes brings new light to the character.
We are given a date of Friday, November 19, 1891 as a reference point. Holmes' aficionados will know that these events would therefore be taking place during a period where he was presumed dead and not publicly active in the written works. In my opinion, the excellent cast, director Guy Ritchie, writers Michael Robert Jordan, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, and Lionel Wigram, and the extended crew made excellent use of the film's 128 minute run time.
I appreciated the many subtle references to Doyle's much beloved written works while enjoying the fresh approaches the film takes in presenting these enduringly admired characters. There is a lively humor and underlying passion injected that brings a new life and dimension to both Holmes and Watson. The "mystery" aspect is not the focus here, and you'll be disappointed if that is what you are looking for, as we the viewers can see quite well where things are going to go. This is an action/adventure tale paying homage to the immortal Sherlock Holmes.
I look forward to the as yet untitled sequel due out around December of 2011 which will introduce both Mycroft, Sherlock's brother (Stephen Fry), and arnemisis, Moriarty (Jared Harris). With proper development, a focused attention to detail, and greater attention paid to delivering a more challenging storyline, this could become a wonderful beginning to a great trilogy.
"Depend upon it, there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge, you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones." ~ Arthur Conan Doyle
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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