I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, I used to read the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when I was younger. This movie felt to me like it captured the spirit of Sherlock Holmes and tweaked it to well suit the 21st century audience.
All the little details are there. They make clever little references all over the place in this movie, to details and characters from the extensive Sherlock Holmes case files. I guess considering Sherlock Holmes has been a literary figure for well over a hundred years a lot of those details are “well known”, well, perhaps not to the everyday audience, but as far as popular literary characters go, he is surely one of the best known.
I’m not sure if a Sherlock Holmes purist would approve, but I certainly did. “Factually” (in as much as a fictional character can have facts) it was all there, Holmes was an adept pugilist and does make references to the fact that he utilises a form of martial arts involving fighting with his cane, and Watson often brought a pistol with him whenever they suspected a situation would get dangerous. This movie just cranks that up to the point where the adventures of Holmes and Watson are well laiden with action – and that wasn’t a bad thing at all.
Jude Law seemed a comfortable fit as Watson, and his character was well done. One of the big challenges with Watson is that he is a medical doctor and very intelligent, and yet whenever he is with Holmes, the danger is always how do you manage to showcase Holmes brilliance without making Watson seem like a fool.
Robert Downey Jr seemed like a curious choice to me to play Holmes, but it’s clear the man has cornered the market on playing pompous prats that the audience can’t help but love. They play Holmes as the brilliant, drug addled genius who is socially inept, and arrogant – just as the books intended. RDJ finds a way to do this and you still love the character.
The classic Sherlock Holmes style is still there, he deduces things like no one else can, and the manner in which Guy Ritchie does exposition seems well suited in allowing all the explanation to take place in an entertaining (and expedient way).
Finally, the aesthetics of the 19th century Victorian England setting is really well done. The streets (and the faces of people) is all grimy and the whole setting looks great.
All in all, this is the best Sherlock Holmes movie I could have possibly expected, it takes all the elements of Holmes and tweaks it for the modern audience, without losing a single part of the Holmes fiction at all. A great movie.
True in spirit, exaggerated in detail – with the modern audience in mind.