Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes hasn’t seen many big budget movie adaptations in recent years, and when I heard that Guy Ritchie (of all people) was making a Sherlock Holmes movie, I was particularly intrigued. It came out in theaters here in India on 8th January, and I managed to catch a show yesterday. To put it in 140 characters: Conan Doyle’s Holmes it ain’t, but thank you Guy Ritchie for giving us a new action franchise 🙂

The movie opens with Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) stopping a black magician called Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). Blackwood is put behind bars and sentenced to death. Meanwhile, Holmes is in a bit of a rut, with no new cases and long time pal Watson getting ready to move out of 221B and into the marital home. Blackwood is executed and he shortly rises from the death and begins his reign of death and terror, leaving Holmes with one big mystery to solve. In the middle of this, enters Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) who wants Holmes to track down a man for her mysterious employer. What follows is a roller coaster ride of pure action with Holmes displaying the customary use of “ze little grey cells”.

A lot has been said about Guy Ritchie’s take on Holmes. In general, I agree with’s assessment that to a large degree Ritchie’s Holmes is the kind of character that Doyle imagined. A lot of people were miffed that Holmes wasn’t shown wearing his deerstalker hat and smoking his gooseneck pipe. While it does seem weird to see Holmes on screen without his trademark garb, one must remember that the image of Holmes today is largely due early illustrations of the stories in the Strand magazine and the way that Holmes was portrayed in early theatre and film adaptations. That being said, a lot of Holmes’s characteristics such as his skill in the boxing ring are drawn directly from references in the Conan Doyle tales. Guy Ritchie does skirt around Holmes fondness for cocaine, but he does hint at a possible penchant for substance abuse in a few scenes.

In the end, I think the performances are more to blame than the story or the interpretation for how the film has been received so far. While Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law show excellent “chemistry” on screen, Downey Jr’s performance as Holmes leaves a bit to be desired. He actually looks like he walked into this movie straight from the sets of Iron Man 2 (coming this summer by the way). He employs a lot of the same mannerisms that he uses in his portrayal of Tony Stark. In fact I was half expecting him to don some Victorian Era steam-punk version of the Iron Man suit for the final fight sequence.

And it’s not just Robert Downey Jr. who looks out of place.  Mark Strong, who plays Lord Blackwood, looks like he walked straight into the movie from the sets of Stardust. Mark Strong played Prince Septimus in Stardust, and I think that character bears a very strong physical resemblance (in the manner of dress etc.) to Lord Blackwood (minus the longish hair). Strong, who otherwise was very good in movies like RocknRolla and Body of Lies, seems wasted here.

Still the movie does have its moments. I particularly liked the explanation that Holmes gave for the supernatural events in the movie. I think it had a nice steam-punk feel to it, a lot like the ultra-silent air gun in “The Adventure of the Empty House”. Besides this Ritchie does a marvelous job of recreating the London that Holmes must have lived in.

If you are a Holmes fan, go watch it, I’m sure you will be entertained. It’s definitely worth a watch. And for those who watched it and loved it, I’m sure you must have seen the big hint at the end. There is a sequel coming and it’s starring Professor Moriarty. I can’t wait enough for that.

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