Posted on June 25, 2010
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Reviewed by Mister Critic
So director Guy Richie brings us a new Sherlock Holmes. Not the lanky, nerdy Holmes from those boring books with words and stuff. No, a Holmes that is ripped, kicks butt and solves crimes. He is an expert fighter, throwing punches in slow-mo, breaking bones, blowing stuff up, and shootin’ thangs. Don’t worry, he’s still really smart, but that is just icing on our action movie cake.
We meet up with Holmes, played by Robert Downey, Jr., as he is wrapping up a multiple murder case. He is assisted by his faithful sidekick, Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law. The movie begins as the case ends with Holmes taking down an evil villain practiced in the dark arts. The villain is captured, executed and everything is wrapped up nicely. Or is it? It appears this bad guy may have returned from the dead and people start dying mysteriously, so Holmes is back on the case.
My understanding is that those that made this movie were attempting a reboot similar to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of making a gritty, bloody, dark, sorta true life crime drama featuring Sherlock Holmes. I would have loved to see a mix of Holmes with something like Seven. In fact, this could have easily been done by focusing on the murder case that the duo is wrapping up in the beginning. But that wasn’t this movie. Instead, we get an action movie that changes the character of Sherlock Holmes, and the plot starts after all the good stuff already happened so what we are left with what could have been summed up in a third act.
Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor, and gives a good performance. But not as the character Sherlock. He plays it mores as a British version of billionaire playboy, Tony Stark/Iron Man. There were great scenes were he was doing the old deduction tricks that I thought he played very well and no one does eccentric like Downey. But other than the fact he lives at 221 Bakers Street and shares the same name, you would be hard pressed to guess he was actually portraying Sherlock Holmes if you weren’t told right away. I mean, come on, they have Holmes doing fight club stuff, and there are these strange moments where he plans out the fight in his head. So you see it once in slow motion, and then all over again in real time. I’m fine with watching graphic violence just one time, thank you very much. The strange part is that this slow-mo thing happens a couple times in the first half of the movie but was not carried out through the end. In the second half, they seemed to switch to Holmes using his brain to figure out ways to use his surroundings to win a fight rather than using his might, which I thought worked much better. That seemed more true to the character of Sherlock Holmes.
Jude Law was a waste as Dr. Watson. He was about as bland as you could make that character without just having a cardboard cutout. His character was getting married and wanted out of the partnership, which I figured was good riddance for Holmes. I did not care about the deterioration of the relationship between him and Holmes because they spent no time supporting it. Can’t you see Holmes? He was just riding your coattails the whole time.
Racheal McAdams played the love/hate interest for Holmes, and for similar reasons, I just did not feel any chemistry between the two. The development of any love between the characters is implied to have happened in the past, and therefore had to be assumed. Again, that development maybe would have made for an interesting movie if we got to see it. Instead, we were supposed to want them to be couple without any set up for it. So, with what I was given, I just didn’t buy that Holmes would fall for that this woman. In fact, had they stayed true to the original character, I wouldn’t think the real Holmes would be interested in women at all. He always seemed like more of the asexual type to me.
(Spoiler alert) I appreciated that the end solutions were based on rational explanations rather than saying, “it was all magic!” or “magic does exist.” I was afraid for a moment that they were going down that road. So in that respect, the movie was comparable to the original Holmes stories.
The overall plot of the movie was not bad per se and there were some entertaining and funny moments. Had it been made sans the “Sherlock Holmes” name, it may have worked perfectly fine as a stand alone movie. Perhaps then I would not have been as critical and given it higher marks.
It comes down to this for me: why does everything need to be re-imagined or re-booted? Why does everything from literature or my childhood need to be remade, and then in the process, possibly destroyed? I know that we ran out of original ideas long ago and a handful of plot lines are consistently recycled, but at least pretend to create something we haven’t seen before. Bring something new to the discussion that, for the love of God, doesn’t ruin the original. This was my complaint of the recent remake of Alice in Wonderland and here we go again.
My concern, as with other remakes or reboots, is that these movies instead attach themselves to great characters that have already been developed in a certain way that makes them great. And ya, they have Holmes playing the violin, the same instrument he played in the books, and he smokes a pipe, and apparently they have some quotes from the stories scattered through the movie. All of that is fine, but then the movie makers go and distort certain things (that he’s some sort of street fighter) about the character critical to the very heart of the character. So with that they loose me because I spend most of the time pointing out the things Holmes is forced to do in the movie that are completely out of character. How about this, I know it sounds crazy, but how about you know your material and stick with the things that make a character great. Then you can make a great reboot, like Batman Begins. It’s elementary.
Instead, you get an average 3 out of 5 movie.