Monday, December 28, 2009

Love: Sherlock Holmes

The truth is, I'd be lying if i claimed not to have enjoyed Sherlock Holmes. It's a tad smarter than your average action adventure story and features the genuinely charismatic Robert Downey Jr. spinning a new, very convincing take on Arthur Conan Doyle's old character. I'd also say it's director Guy Ritchie's first successful film since Snatch, and that it pulls off glorious things with its Victorian London setting. Oh yes, i enjoyed it. I liked it quite a bit. It plays on a whole run of things that appeal to me and i am truly a sucker for protagonists who happen to be eccentric rakish geniuses. I'd even go so far as to say that when the sequel comes out (and there will surely be a sequel) i will certainly run out to watch it. Then i'd go one step further and say that though it appears to be a departure from the novels and stories, it's not really so far away, and i can't really say i didn't ever know (though i can't recall if it's actually in the text) somewhere in the back of my mind that Sherlock had to be fairly decent at self-defense. If you need to stop here, i'll let you. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't see Sherlock Holmes, it's perfectly alright. It's just, you know, i'd also be lying if i pretended that it was actually something great.
The film, like all of Guy Ritchie's movies, is a tad on the long side and a bit meandering. Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) are in pursuit of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a man who may or may not possess supernatural powers. On the way, however, the film takes its time building up a comedic bromance between Sherlock and the soon to be married Dr. Watson and striking up a convoluted chemistry between the dissolute detective and the only girl to ever get the better of him: Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). Of the two of these, i'd say the former works the best, they're a regular Odd Couple and the mix of Holmes's bitter possessiveness and Watson's conflicted sense of responsibility creates a great forum for banter and Downey Jr.'s trademark twitchy likability. The latter, the real romantic entanglement, seems forced, a ploy to get a pretty woman into an otherwise male dominated movie. The McAdams subplot, at the end of the day, probably does little more than add about twenty or so minutes to to an already long film and attempt to prove that Downey's devil-may-care Holmes isn't actually in love with Watson (though i can almost guarantee slash fiction will argue otherwise). Irene Adler, then, is where we feel the 'hand of the author', which is in this case perhaps the hand of the studio. She's a cool customer, but I'd argue that in the world of Sherlock Holmes, the introduction of Adler into the first film of something so obviously gearing up for a franchise just isn't accomplishing that much (other than being a beard, she was only in one story for chrissakes).
Character is the main draw here. Robert Downey Jr. puts in a truly memorable performance and makes an iconic character his own. Jude Law is more fun than he's been in a long time. Personally, i could probably handle a whole film made up entirely of Sherlock being batty, snippy, and strung out at 221b Baker Street while Watson the mother hen pops in with commentary and exasperated glances. It would be good fun. This film, of course, is fun as well, just don't think too hard about the twisty, endless pursuit of the Dan Brown-esque plotline.

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