Weekend Review – “Sherlock Holmes”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new franchise.

Cast and Crew Information

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes
Jude Law as Dr. John Watson
Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler
Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood
Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade

Based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Screen Story by Lionel Wigram and Michael Robert Johnson
Screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg
Directed by Guy Ritchie


A criminal captured by Holmes and Watson is sentenced to death, but he doesn’t let that stop him from continuing his nefarious plans.

High Point

As someone who has read most of the source material, I was quite happy to have access to all of the clues Holmes had access to. (Doyle wrote from Watson’s perspective, so the readers were often denied information that Watson failed to notice until Holmes explained the solutions.) Now, the majority of viewers, myself included, will not have Holmes’ breadth of knowledge to assemble the final puzzle, but when Holmes does so you’ll recognize the clues as he arranges them.

Source material aside, the most enjoyable moment of this movie as it stands was his manner of preventing his head from getting spit on.

Low Point

Undercranking the camera in the initial fight sequence. It’s a distinctive look, but as Jerry Seinfeld once said, sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason. The action was almost impossible to follow.

The Review

The originality of this adaptation must reflect the fact that it is an adaptation. It’s one of the few that didn’t shy away from Holmes’ drug use between cases, or Watson’s military service and enjoyment of a fight, though. The specific plot is also original, rather than adapting an existing tale. The adaptation is faithful to the spirit, if not the letter of the source. I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects were minimal. There’s an impressive explosion at an ammunition factory, and a few other physical effects, but it’s not a typical summer blockbuster style effects extravaganza. The loose ship was convincing, the hanging was convincing, and the final fight location was convincing. The moving background in one of the carriage rides was not, however. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is fairly well written. The clues are there for the amateur detectives in the audience, and most of the internal story logic is there. More background on Irene Adler would have been nice, but we get enough information to understand the emotional implications of the relationship. The villain’s scheme seemed to depend too much on timing and coincidence, as well as the popular opinion of people who did not have access to the spectacle that would spark the whole affair. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting is what sells the movie more than anything else. Downey and Law are well cast, and have great chemistry together. I fully expect this to be the launch of a franchise that will last as long as these two stay together. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was not as interesting as I expected from the director of “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” It wasn’t bad, but it was surprisingly pedestrian for much of the film. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response was good. There was definitely a lot of amusing dialogue, but the main plot wasn’t as gripping as it could have been. I think a lot of this is because we don’t really know what’s at stake for the majority of the film. It’s only in the third act that we realize Bloodwood’s endgame, and by then his plot is not where our emotional investment lies. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable movie that will likely spawn a franchise, but it’s not “must see” material. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Sherlock Holmes receives 30 out of 42.

8 replies on “Weekend Review – “Sherlock Holmes””

  1. I refuse to watch this movie on general principle. Sherlock Holmes was not an action hero. He was a think-about-it talk-a-lot cocaine-addicted THINKER. Now I love me some steampunk (though I hate that name) but if you’re going to totally change Sherlock Holmes, PLEASE change the name.

    • I hesitate to comment because I haven’t seen the film, but I had a similar reaction to the trailer and ads. Would Raiders of the Lost Ark been a better film if they had called the main character “Sam Spade?”

    • I was concerned about that, too, but they handled it well. He tends to lose fights until he has a moment to think. In that moment, he runs through his observations of his opponent, identifies and analyzes weaknesses, and then comes back exploiting them. i.e. he thinks his way through the fights. It is a change to the character, but not as drastic as one would expect from the trailers.

      • Yeah, I have a suspension-of-disbelief problem with a coke-head doing that. I bet he’s not even a coke-head in the movie.

        That aside, seriously, Sherlock Holmes is not an Action Hero. Sherlock Holmes stories were never action/adventure stories. I find it somewhat insulting to my intelligence that they come up with a completely non-Sherlock-Holmes story/movie but for some reason need to use a Famous Name to get people to watch it. Why do they need to “reinvent” Sherlock Holmes? Can’t they just INVENT someone new? Stop underestimating us, Hollywood.

    • Holmes does some action in the movie, but he’s not what I’d call an “action hero.” Even when he’s fighting, he uses his brain to win. I think they did a good job of representing him in this movie.

  2. I felt it was handled very well – as mentioned by others his drug use was brought up several times, the action sequences were more incidental (and he didn’t necessarily win them all), he wasn’t an out-and-out Hollywood action hero. I was impressed with many story elements that relied solely on his intellect and how it caused him to fall apart when he wasn’t focused on a specific case.. I look forward to future movies in the series.

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