Sherlock Holmes

After my experience with the negative impact of high expectations for The Hurt Locker, I now have a perfect example of the opposite… the positive impact of low expectations for the delightful Sherlock Holmes.

I’d written this one off as a rental, if that, based on my low opinion of director Guy Ritchie and less than stellar reviews. But when my wife and I wanted a nice cinematic diversion the other night and didn’t want to travel across the county to find it, Sherlock Holmes emerged as the best candidate (I promptly vetoed Leap Year when that possibility came up).

I was a big Sherlock Holmes fan during junior high and high school, though I haven’t given him much thought since then. But my inner 14-year-old bristled at the thought of Ritchie turning the beloved Holmes into a slow-mo kung-fu fighter, as the trailer suggested. Why modernize and make hip something decidedly (and wonderfully) old-fashioned?

But my worries were for naught. Ritchie’s Holmes, as portrayed by the always excellent Robert Downey Jr., is true to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation. The slow motion in the trailer, it turns out, was not some stab at a Matrix-style action scene but an illustration of how the cerebral Holmes dissects a fight beforehand in order to plan his course of action. And Doyle’s Holmes was indeed a man of action.

Admittedly, Doyle probably couldn’t have imagined that action brought to life through the magic of CGI, but I’m guessing he would be more than pleased with the combination of smarts, brawn and humor put on screen in Sherlock Holmes.

I’ve long been fascinated by Holmes’ observational genius — that ability to divine everything important about a suspect from a cursory glance. A scuff on a shoe can betray the location of the villain’s secret lair; a tan line on a woman’s ring finger offers a window to her romantic history. These powers excite me far more than supernatural abilities or high-tech gadgetry. It’s a talent I’ve envied since reading the stories as a boy, and one I’ve always wanted to possess.

Sadly, I’m on quite the opposite side of the spectrum. Just this afternoon, after staring in the cupboard for several minutes, I complained to my wife that we had no jelly, only to have her point out that it was behind the Pam. I suspect Holmes would not have had that problem.

Sherlock Holmes makes fine use of Holmes’ observational gifts, and that’s my favorite part of the movie. Holmes is such a fascinating character because he’s deeply flawed but even more deeply talented. And Downey, about whom you can say the same thing, plays both facets brilliantly.

Apart from the case at hand (which involves a practitioner of black magic and his plot to overthrow the British government), the film is a love story of sorts between Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson (played by Jude Law). Watson is recently engaged and planning to move out of the shared bachelor’s quarters at 221B Baker Street, and Holmes will have none of it. A more traditional romantic interest shows up in the person of Rachel McAdams as a cunning con artist from Holmes’ past but the central relationship definitely belongs to the two men.

The film’s open-ended conclusion, and the close to $200 million it’s made at the box office, guarantee we’ll see Downey don the topcoat and pipe again. You can definitely count me in for the sequel. But a word of warning… thanks to the fine job Ritchie and company have done on this film, my expectations will be a lot higher next time.

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6 thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes

  1. Amy says:

    :) Thank you for that laugh. The image of you at the cupboard, sans Sherlock’s gifts, amuses me no end. I’m glad you like it, and I think you may have raised my expectations just enough to go see it. Scary factors for the kids?

  2. Clay says:

    I can’t think of anything that would freak out the kids… most of the violence is of the hand-to-hand combat variety, and that’s pretty mild.

  3. Kerrie Rueda says:

    I find myself in complete agreement with you yet again this week. Hmmmm…..
    We saw this a few weeks ago and I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Holmes thought through his plan of attack and then executed perfectly (more than once, I might add), and I thought the way Ritchie handled it worked really well.

    I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and detective stories in general. When I heard Robert Downey, Jr. would be playing him, I was even more excited about it. I really like the parallel you draw between the actor and the character – he was, indeed, well cast.

    Carlos didn’t like this movie so much because he felt like the bad guy was revealed at the start and then it went on a little too long to get to the why he was doing it, etc. I, on the other hand, was completely enthralled. In explaining my enjoyment of the story and the movie as a whole, I had to tell him about my long appreciation of Holmes and how we used to play “221B Baker Street” when we were kids. Remember that board game you had? You brought it with you when you came with us on that trip to the Bahamas, remember? I have such a vivid memory of sitting on the boat playing it. “The game is afoot!”

    Anyway, I thought it was great and I’ll be looking forward to the sequel as well. Amy, there is nothing I can think of that would scare the kids. Some gross stuff, maybe, but nothing that stood out. I hope you all enjoy it – it’s just a good time.

  4. Clay says:

    Ah yes, I remember that game well. In fact, I still have it stashed away in a closet somewhere.

    I recall that Amy, in a particularly Holmesian bit of deduction, once figured out a whole case based on a flea bite on the victim’s neck.

  5. Amy says:

    Elementary, my dear Clay. Elementary ;)

  6. peg says:

    Sounds like a good one for us to see! and I love the image of you looking for the jelly and it was right there, it happens to Dad all the time :)

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