Sherlock Holmes Review
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 69%
My rating: Full Price!!
Sherlock Holmes returns after a film hiatus since 1974 with more punches, kicks, axe throws and more than two smoking barrels.
After a lengthy investigation of a Lord Henry Blackwood’s (Mark Strong) murder of five innocent women, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) catch the supposed practicer of the dark arts and he hangs but not before telling Holmes that he will be back and heads will roll. Watson pronounces Blackwood dead but within frames he is back from the underworld and killing left right and centre. Holmes and Watson must stop whatever Blackwood is doing and put him back in the grave for good. Again. What follows is Doyle’s character on speed running all over the place, for bad or for worse.
This film wins on its characterisation, largely playing Holmes off Watson but also the varying antagonists, the back and forth of aligiences, and the fodder, generally the old men with mutton chops who are just waiting for a beating.
On the subject of antagonists, I have a little man-crush for Mark Strong. He is certainly Mark and certainly Strong. He’s tall dark and handsome, and he has a voice that makes you think dark evil bastard with every word he says. He’s an imposing character who looks dark but there’s something distracting about his slanted front tooth. Why Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) even exists as a character is a mystery to me. Obviously she is fulfilling the typical female part but she is neither a femme fetale nor necessary. Her job seemed to be to get Holmes to do his job which he was doing anyway and her only fatale moment is chaining Holmes to a bed which could have only been intended for comic effect. However, the play of Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. was excellent. Watson, as ever, is a wonderful crook for Holmes, a frequent revealer of his short-comings, and despite his best intentions, an enabler. The concept of unintentional and often unwanted brotherhood is strong and played well. However, it is saddening to say that their interactions tapered slightly in the middle, revealing a rather dull plot core. It is rare to be sighing and shuffling in your seat during a Holmes movie but this pulled it off.
Perhaps it was a case of long build up but i found myself bored at a midway section despite a lot of major plot developments. The film also plays its hand too early, revealing that Blackwood IS alive rather than leaving it to our supposition. On the whole though, the piece is tight, moving only where it has to and showing us set pieces, inventions, mysteries, and varied arenas. It is most accurately called a romp, an adrenaline fuelled mystery for the ADHD generation.
One point of great praise is a correct use of slow motion. It was revolutionised in 1999 with The Matrix and has been the bane of movies since which used it to show individuals scratching their arse or brushing their teeth. Here it is used with purpose. Holmes dictates his thought processes slowly, showing us how and why he is doing the action. But rather than simply slowing down time, the scene acts as a precursor, allowing us to see what is happening before rewinding time and showing us in high speed. This was always my problem with slow motion: it always made the action seem less epic. What is impressive about seeing Kung Fu being pulled off at a slow pace? Nothing. Seeing it real time and blindingly fast: now that’s cool. Ritchie caters for both here and does not fall short.
Something that does fall short, however, is the music. While not offensive or bad, it falls into that Star Trek category of being disappointing and unimpressive. What is most surprising though is that it is written by Hanz Zimmer. Obviously he ran out of action themes after using the same one in all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (that was just insulting, Hanz). It fulfilled its brief exactly: background music, but it didn’t deliver anything impressive.
The cinematography was run of the mill yet solid. The colours were varied yet dull, but not in a bad way. They were accurate to the times and highlighted pivotal characters by the richness of their clothes. The film managed especially well during night time scenes as the lighting was excellently played. As to the mise-en-scene, it showed me everything i needed to see, something the plotting did not.
The plotting a fell sadly into the typical ABC walkthrough of the 21st century’s works such as the Da Vinci Code. This is both a compliment and an insult. As a 21st century rendition of the character this is excellent, but I imagine the more ponderous Arthur Conan Doyle would be reeling in disappointment. Whilst to an individual working this out these puzzles would be rather intricate and confusing, to us as spectators they are not. The film holds our hands as Sherlock acquires clues, clues he decides not to share with us many times. We should be trying to solve the case with him, not scratching our balls and hoping for another good line from Jude Law. For instance, there is a part later on involving five murders placed on a map. If we were told at the beginning where these were, London-savvy individuals might have had an interesting ponder on the mystery. Instead we are told everything by Holmes, making us feel less intelligent than Rachel McAdams’ character.
This is its only really breaking flaw. The puzzles are a little simple and the only thing stopping us from working out how things were pulled off is the lack of information given. However, the characters on the most part play well and it has a rather enjoyable menace. It’s a low, but still greatly enjoyable,