In 2008, Robert Downey, Jr. gave birth to a new franchise with his charismatic portrayal of a “lesser known” comic book superhero in IRON MAN
. In 2009, he’s done it again for a character many people know only by an iconic name and a handful of catchphrases. When the world gets a chance to see SHERLOCK HOLMES
, opening Christmas Day, they’re going to want to see a lot more of the 19th Century’s “World’s Greatest Detective.”
In SHERLOCK HOLMES, director Guy Ritchie manages to produce the gritty look and feel his films are often known for while never siphoning away the film’s ability to be purely entertaining and fun. Ritchie masterfully places the deductive, logical Sherlock Holmes in a plot that challenges the iconic detective with apparently supernatural occurrences. It’s the kind of story that will make fans of Matt Wagner’s DARK MOON RISING stories start throwing Ritchie’s name in the hat to succeed Christopher Nolan in the Batman franchise. The same goes for writers Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg.
Downey, Jr. brings a charisma and heart to the Sherlock Holmes character that many moviegoers, especially Americans like myself, never knew he had. Being unfamiliar with much of the Holmes mythos, I won’t presume to make a judgment on how faithful (or unfaithful) this portrayal may be, but frankly, what Downey, Jr. turned in was so engaging that I don’t much care. It’s a performance that demonstrates just why he is fast becoming one of the more bankable stars in Hollywood.
Of course, Holmes’ fun and games would never be so enjoyable, if not for Dr. John Watson being there to keep things grounded, which Jude Law certainly does. While Holmes is unapologetically addicted to adventure, Law’s Watson is the wannabe straight man who just can’t stay on the wagon when it means passing up on an opportunity for some excitement alongside his partner. As desperately as Watson thinks he wants to get away from a life of danger and intrigue, he’ll never be able to resist so long as Holmes is there to serve as the ultimate enabler.
The subject of Holmes’ and Watson’s case is the perhaps supernatural Lord Blackwood, played by Mark Strong. Blackwood is seeking to conquer the world with his sorcery and his methods prove challenging for Holmes’ scientific mind. Blackwood effectively pushes Holmes to demonstrate just how great of a detective he really is.
As pure, holiday fun at the movies, SH is a success, but it is also more than that. It is a blockbuster affair that knows just how to ground itself and not spin off into a complete fantasy adventure. It is raw and rough around the edges while remaining fit for popcorn-munching, thrill-seeking moviegoers everywhere. It leaves the audience unable to resist and as desperate for more adventures as Holmes and Watson.
Something tells me they’ll all get their wish.