Upfront disclaimer: I am certainly not what you would call a “Sherlockian.”
Truth be told, most of my experience with Sherlock Holmes came via the many movies based on the character -- though I do recall reading some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes short stories back in college. Like many others I suspect, my idea of what Holmes “is” was defined by all those old films. Just like many folks think of Adam West and the 1960s TV show when they think of Batman.
With that in mind, I’m very sensitive about reviewing films based on comic books, novels, cartoons, toys, video games, or whatever. If I say, like, “The 60s TV show ain’t what Batman was originally intended to be!,” I need to be knowledgeable and respectful of the source material that many hold dear in return.
Regardless, BATMAN RETURNS sucks as a Batman film. Anyway…
Before I went to see this new, modern incarnation of Sherlock Holmes in, well, SHERLOCK HOLMES, I conducted a little Holmes research, if you will. What I discovered was that Sherlock Holmes was -- and is -- essentially a pulp character akin to Zorro, The Shadow, Doc Savage, and even Batman.
I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that SHERLOCK HOLMES is more “loyal” to the Holmes mythos than, say, the Basil Rathbone films of the 1930s and 40s -- I’ll leave that up to those Sherlockians. What I will say is that SHERLOCK HOLMES does for Holmes what CASINO ROYALE and BATMAN BEGINS did for James Bond and The Dark Knight respectively.
I’m not referring to a Holmes reboot here, OK? I’m talking about making the character relevant, fun, and interesting for today’s audience.
And it’s undeniable that there’s a strong pulp feel here as ACD intended -- I think.
The story takes place in 1891 as a series of serial murders are taking place in London. Sherlock Holmes (The great Robert Downey, Jr.) and his trusted partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) seemly take down the killer, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) and save the day. Right before Blackwood is hanged for his crimes, he tells Holmes that not even death can stop him. In fact, his execution is all part of the plan. What’s the plan? Well, to destroy Great Britain of course!
With the case solved and the killer seemingly brought to justice, Watson plans to move out of Holmes’ Baker Street flat and marry his girlfriend Mary (Kelly Reilly) -- an event that Holmes is not looking forward to taking place. However…
When the murders start up again -- apparently at the hands of a risen-from-the-grave Blackwood -- Holmes and Watson are back on the case.
Rachel McAdams plays Irene Adler -- Holmes’ love interest. Actually, this character does serve an important purpose to the plot other than eye candy and the standard female lead that the male lead falls for. For one thing, she seems to be almost as cleaver as Holmes - which makes her even more attractive to him. Also, there’s some stuff going on with this Irene that looks like will be addressed in future films. Smart move by the filmmakers in setting up a franchise here.
Don’t buy into this nonsense that Holmes actually has the hots for Watson and not the good Miss Adler. Holmes and Watson are definitely not gay-- not that there’s anything wrong with that, to borrow a line from SEINFELD. They are, what we’d call today, “bros.” Working on these cases with Watson is what makes him tick. Not being able to do that with his BFF, makes for an unhappy Holmes. Anyone claiming that there’s an underlying sexual subtext at hand is simply full of it.
Speaking of the Holmes/Watson relationship, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law excel in their respective roles. However it’s them together as the team of Holmes and Watson that makes this film work. Great casting, great chemistry, bottom line.
I liked SHERLOCK HOLMES a whole heck of a lot and I think many of you all will too. Director Guy Ritchie has done a tremendous job here with this film. He’s taken a character that most -- quite frankly -- perceive to be outdated and stiff and made him “cool” again. Based on my previously mentioned “Holmes research,” I believe that the director has given us a very loyal adaptation of this literary icon.
But what do I know? I’m a Batmanian, not a Sherlockian.
"Jett" is the founder of BATMAN ON FILM.
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