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Sherlock Holmes

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on January 3, 2010


My first movie of the new year, AND my first review of the new year!

Let me start by saying this: take the preview with about 27 grains of salt. It makes Sherlock Holmes look like a superhero. He isn’t. There are reasons why he has an aptitude for fighting in certain situations, and why he sees the amount of action that he does. A lot of his “power” comes from his mind and not his “superhuman abilities”, which is how the trailer presents the film.

I honestly don’t get why this film is being so poorly received. I thought it was witty, funny, charming, and entertaining as hell. I was laughing the entire time (not inappropriately) and I didn’t mind the action scenes at all. In fact, they made much more sense in the film than you’d think. It’s not the Holmes can be a member of fight club because he is just so hardcore– rather, he takes a step back, gathers his thoughts, considers the likely moves of his opponent (which makes sense if he has been fighting the guy), and then calculates the swiftest and most effective moves to take out said opponent. It’s much more cerebral and less “superhero” than I had expected. Guy Ritchie takes great care to show us how Holmes is constantly in his head, even when he verbalizes his thought process. He goes mad when he doesn’t have a challenge in front of him, and hides away in his room to tinker with somewhat crazy experiments in order to occupy his mind. He clearly has problems relating with others (with the exception of Watson, for the most part), and uses his intellect to dissect people upon meeting them, which often leads to tension. You love Holmes, but you know you’d probably want to slap him if he ever spoke to you because he’d pick you apart, without venom and with almost complete accuracy, and leave you feeling exposed and somewhat broken.

I haven’t read any of the Holmes stories, but I think that, perhaps, this version captures some aspects of the original Sherlock that I never saw in any other incarnation.That certainly holds true for his loyal friend and partner, Dr. Watson. For once, Watson is just as dashing and heroic as Holmes. He’s clever, a bit of a gambler, and definitely is able to hold his own with the ladies. I LOVE this Watson. I have never seen Watson like this before, and I never want to see any other version of him. From what I understand, this Watson is more true to the original character, and I am thrilled that they went in this direction. Likewise, Inspector Lestrade isn’t the bumbling idiot he often seems to be in other takes on the series.

Guy Ritchie’s directing worked quite well with this story. I’ve enjoyed his style in Snatch, as well as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, but I’m glad to see it at play in a different format. As for the cast, well, what can I say about Robert Downey, Jr. that would be new and/or surprising? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. The man is simply wonderful. He does a spectacular job as Holmes, his accent works, his mannerisms are true to character… he’s just always so damn good. It’s not fair for him to be that attractive and talented! Sigh. Also–and this surprised me a lot–I really liked Jude Law. I thought I’d be annoyed with him, as per usual, but he was wonderfully subdued somehow as Dr. Watson. Even Rachel McAdams didn’t bother me! Granted, she had a smaller role, but I enjoyed her as Holmes’ only “worthy adversary” (and, of course, one true love) who is also a criminal. It was a fun touch. In addition, I thought Lord Blackwood, the antagonist of the film, was well cast. Mark Strong was strongly unsettling, even when he was being subtle–perhaps part of the reason why is because he looked so much like Andy Garcia that I had a hard time believing they didn’t screw up the credits:

compared to


Do I recommend this film? Yes. Yes, yes and yes. I am planning on seeing it again. I think it’s a lot of fun. I know some people think it’s silly, and someone I know even thought it was boring (!!), but I was pleasantly surprised. Also, I love how the set-up for the sequel was threaded throughout the story so that, when this story ended, we were still satisfied regardless of the obvious sequel plotline being left wide open.

Also, anyone else find it weird that WordPress says I published this on the 3rd when I clearly just published it close to midnight on the 4th? I know I started the draft yesterday, but that’s just fucked up.


18 Responses to “Sherlock Holmes”

  1. Bex said

    I’d rather take an ambien than watch this travesty again. Read the book, next time!

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      I think you DID take an Ambien before you went to see this. I seriously cannot see how it was boring– especially when compared to other filmed versions of Holmes. I found him to be so much more compelling in this film than in any of the typical British murder mystery set-ups I have seen with him in the past.

      And how can Robert Downey, Jr. bore you?

  2. Serryl said

    I just saw this, and I’m amazed that it hasn’t been uniformly praised. The fundamental challenge of Sherlock Holmes is that his deduction are interesting but amount to listening to him ramble on about trivial details for minutes at a time. In the couple stories that I’ve read, he does see some action, but there is lots and lots of dialogue. What this movies does (incredibly well) is capture the charm of Holmes and repackage to be suitable in a visual medium.

    For all the wonderful action and excitement, the best part was watching the tension between Downey Jr. and Law as Holmes and Watson. There relationship is simply hilarious and a little unhealthy, with Holmes outright manipulating Watson to get what he wants.

    I honestly can’t think of a single thing I disliked about the movie, especially after watching Avatar immediately prior. A movie like Avatar really makes you appreciate good dialogue and well-crafted plot. This movie had both.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      I know! I don’t get the criticisms at all. I thought it was interesting to hear his mind work, I thought the action was appropriate, and I loved how Watson knew exactly what Holmes was doing but still fell victim to his set-ups from time to time.

  3. Alex said

    Going to watch this tomorrow i think. Hope it’s as good as you say!

  4. Tsai said

    I’m absolutely elated that I decided to watch this on Graboid, rather than the cinema, just so that I could capture every single detail of this film. Every single charming dialogue, witty routine, and complex reverse-flashbacks which leaves you absolutely baffled and needing to rewind to further analyze the order of events. It took a creditable step to recognizing the true character of Holmes, Watson, and other minor characters, without over-emphasizing on other-worldly aspects that viewers may have confused them with (see: superpowers) or culturally renown relation (protagonist to sidekick as Holmes to Watson, etc.).

    The plot was well done, and I certainly cannot wait for the sequel*. All in all, I love how this film was produced, and am certainly surprised that it received the reception that it did (average-above average scores on RT, MC, yet I believe it deserved better).

    *Rumor says pre-production and storyboarding begins March 10th, 2010, and that Brad Pitt may be playing the role of a certain Professor.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      I am SO glad that you liked it! I enjoyed it on the big screen, but I will probably enjoy it again on DVD. I really don’t get why a lot of people didn’t like it– I thought it was most enjoyable and also a lovely portrayal of the characters! I’m excited for the sequel, as well. (P.S. I prefer Metacritic to Rotten Tomatoes any day of the week :P.)

      Huzzah for enjoyment!

  5. Tentacles said

    I watched this in the cinema today, and I thought it was great! It was so much fun to watch, and interesting to see what would happen next. Would definitely watch this a second time.
    P.S. Great review!

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      So glad you liked it! I need to see it again– I think it’s a movie I could watch many times when it’s on TV and such. I’ll probably own the DVD.

  6. Delgado said

    Interesting. I was convinced by the trailers that this movie would suck horribly. Might go see it now.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      I know, a lot of people have that reaction. That or, “But it got such bad reviews!” I was pretty shocked by the negative response it received. I don’t know, maybe I’m way off on this one, but I think it’s incredibly enjoyable.

  7. Roll said

    loved this movie. your review is spot on. i thought seeing downey jr as sherlock would be weird but he did it so well.
    i didn’t like the actor playing watson. something about him annoyed me, but i cant put my finger on it.
    i loved the character watson though, good to see him being less “wimpy”
    and i loved the “magic”. pretty much all i got to say about it ^^.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Yeah I don’t love Jude Law, either, but he did a pretty good job here, I thought. He’s a bit smarmy in pretty much every role he’s ever played, but that’s how he is, I think.

      I’m glad you enjoyed! I really think it’s much better than a lot of people give it credit for.

  8. […] scenario as it played out with the main baddie, Frank D’Amico (played by Mark Strong from Sherlock Holmes). By the way, Mark Strong plays an excellent badass, as we’ve now seen in both Sherlock […]

  9. richardsblah said

    I saw this recently, and I must confess, rather reluctantly. I’m a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve been reading them since I was a kid, and as far as I’m concerned the greatest screen Holmes is Jeremy Brett, of the British TV series which began in the mid-eighties. I’m also a big fan of Robert Downey Jr, but when I heard he had been cast as Holmes I was slightly aghast. Holmes was a clearly described character, complete with illustrations which accompanied the original stories when they were published. Downey Jr does NOT look like the character as he was described, and as a Holmes purist this pissed me off. Coupled with the fact that I loathe all of Guy Ritchie’s movies, there wasn’t much going for this new version.

    I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Sherlock Holmes. Downey Jr looked wrong, and his accent was pretty rubbish. It played up the fighting skills a little too much, although Holmes was an excellent bare-fist fighter and did possess considerable strength. However, apart from these niggles, I thought it was excellent. Jude Law was a wholly accurate Watson, who was never a fool and was in fact a soldier, and the interplay between Holmes and Watson was also excellent. Watson did indeed regard his friend with a mix of admiration and exasperation and I was glad Ritchie kept that aspect. And despite the inaccuracies elsewhere, Downey Jr really nailed the character of Holmes; a recluse, slightly contemptful of the public he protects and given to mood swings, substance abuse and depression. It was all there.

    It’s nice when a movie defies your expectations. 😀

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Isn’t it so much better, though? I mean, I keep trying to impress that upon people who enjoyed the books, and they just don’t believe me. My mom and I had an argument about the film and how horrible it was because it was so “unHolmes-like”, and she never even watched it. From what I gathered about the books and the characters, the film did a pretty good job with capturing the complexities of those personalities, and I appreciate that. I never liked the Basil Rathbone series of Holmes tales from British TV, and I was really glad that this offered something that felt a bit more ‘real’, in terms of Sherlock being a deeply flawed, albeit brilliant, character. Plus allowing Watson to be something more than just a bumbling fool is quite appealing to me, as well. And I like that it actually WASN’T a superhero flick, even though the trailer kinda led me to believe it was.

      I am really glad that you enjoyed it, especially as a Holmes purist :). Thanks for leaving your input about it :D!

      • richardsblah said

        Basil Rathbone was okay, but lacked that eccentricity which made Holmes so enjoyable. He also had a woefully bumbling Watson, which set the template for future interpretations of the character. If you ever get the chance, check out Jeremy Brett’s series. He was the perfect Holmes. 😉

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