Not Quite Elementary: Andy Burns On Sherlock Holmes

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Saturday afternoon the Queen and I were on our way home after meeting up with my Dad for a nice lunch. We had lots of plans that we wanted to do over the weekend and catching a movie was high on the list. The thing about the two of us is that we are fairly in sync with one another about what we’re going to see. For instance, when it comes to big budget blockbusters and mainstream comic films, we’ll see them together. Dramas are negotiable. Chick flicks (most of them, at least) are a girls night out endeavour, while horror films are equivalent to a boys night. On this particular day there wasn’t a set film we had in mind. There wasn’t even a set theatre. We just pulled off the highway at the AMC that was on the way home and decided to choose something. Once we were in line it came down to a decision between films – I was hoping for The Book of Eli, while the Queen had her eye on Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, there was no real choice. Sherlock Holmes it was. After all, I know who butters my bagel.

The idea of a new Sherlock Holmes film sounded pretty good to me. Robert Downey Jr. as the legendary detective was always going to be a great casting choice, and with his clout at an all time high thanks to his roles in Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, guaranteed the film would be quality. Jude Law as Doctor Watson was also an inspired choice. But to be honest, I was never quite sold on Guy Ritchie as the director. Believe it or not, I don’t believe I’ve actually seen one of his films. I know people swear by Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Swept Away, but somehow I’ve managed to miss them both. Could he handle a big budget, mainstream flick? After two hours of Sherlock Holmes my answer wound up being – sort of.

To me, Sherlock Holmes is ok, but not good enough to be great. I thought the pacing was far too slow, especially at the beginning (I think the Queen felt the same, as she managed to drift off for a minute or two within the first twenty minutes). There was a fair amount of fidgeting going during the first hour or so from me. While I was interested in where the story was going, I never felt particularly engaged by it. Perhaps it’s because nothing was really ever at stake with the main characters. You know that whatever dire circumstances Holmes or Watson found themselves in, they were going to make it out no problem. And while the same can be said for most franchise films, with a good script you’re still invested in the characters survival. That wasn’t the case for me and Sherlock Holmes.

There was some good to the movie, though, more than I realized as I was sitting in the theatre. Downey and Law have a great chemistry together, lending Sherlock Holmes a 19th century buddy picture feel. I’ve always enjoyed Downey in anything I’ve seen him in, and this film was no different. His English accent was solid and he gave the character equal amounts of brilliance and heroism, with more than a hint of despair. His brilliance alienates him from the people that surround him, after all. While it’s not the knock out performance he gave Tony Stark, Downey’s Holmes was still entertaining. Jude Law’s Watson was also appealing, as was Mark Strong, who served as the film’s main villain. Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams was fine as Holmes’ love interest Irene Adler, though she didn’t have a heck of a lot to do for most of them film. 

Visually, I thought Sherlock Holmes succeeded well. It had a dark and gloomy tone to it, all grey skies and dark buildings. Guy Ritchie also knows how to shoot and stage an action scene, of which there are a few good ones throughout the film.

Finally, and well worth mentioning, is that even though I did feel the script to Sherlock Holmes was weak, I did enjoy how Ritchie managed to set up all sorts of possibilities for the sequel. Walking out of the film, even with all the negative things I thought about Sherlock Holmes, I was eager to see what the filmmakers would do next.

Whatever it is, I just hope it keeps the Queen awake next time.

One Reply to “Not Quite Elementary: Andy Burns On Sherlock Holmes”

  1. I agree that it was a good film. I personally enjoyed it, because it goes back to a prominent feature of the period that often gets overlooked: powerful people were involved in movements like “the golden dawn” that are magic-based cults. Yeats, Croweley, and other talented and wealthy people got in on it. I thought the movie did a great job of working that conspiracy in there, and having prior knowledge of that historical fact made the movie that much more exciting. I expect a lot for the sequel.

    -fireinthedust

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