Sherlock Holmes: A Review

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Almost a week after the release, my wife and I went to see Sherlock Holmes on the big screen.  This is probably the first show we have seen in the movie theatre in years, as we have been preoccupied with our children and our son's development of late.  The movie was interesting, and overall I would say it was very well done.  Would I see it again?  Yes.  Would I own it?  Definitely.

The story places Holmes and Watson in about the middle of their career together, when Watson is about to marry.  I won't tell of the story, other than it deals with supposed Magic, and there is a beautifully placed cameo of Professor Moriarty, who later became Sherlock Holmes' one great rival.  The setting was true to Victorian and Edwardian England, the sets, props, and costumes enough to make a steampunk enthusiast drool.  Over all, I loved it.

Before watching the movies, I gorged myself on all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, both in print (all but the Case Book, which I am currently reading), and the old 1940's radio shows.  I wanted to know Sherlock Holmes, whom I have loved since childhood, and wanted to really study the persona given to him by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before I tried to see whether or not I liked the movie.  I also read reviews on the Movie, which I must admit was a bit daunting, and only about half true (proving that most movie critics don't read books, more's the pity).

First off, the critics were right in saying this movie is not what you would have expected having watched any previous Sherlock Holmes movie, or any special done by the BBC.  Where previous movies painted him as nothing more than a thinker with occasional action, this movie shows Holmes as very able in fighting and active in his investigations.  For this reason, critics assaulted this movie.  They couldn't have been more wrong.  As a good read in the Sign of the Four, His Last Bow, or a number of other cases I can't recall of hand, Holmes is very active in his investigations.  In fact, he was well known as a champion boxer.  Yes, he could use his fists, and would do so when necessary.

The second was alluding to the relationship between Holmes and Watson as being homoerotic.  Good heavens.  Does this mean that any time a guy has another guy as their roommate, they are gay?  No, I didn't get any vibes of homosexuality in the relationship between Watson and Holmes.  Perhaps because I wasn't looking for it, or perhaps it's because two gentlemen who have been through a lot together could become very much like brothers without anything being overtly sexual.

There is one scene that I thought interesting:  Holmes is in a restaurant, and becomes overwhelmed by all the sounds, sights, and stimuli that are coming his way.  While this could easily be explained away by the drugs he had taken and their after effects, some critics called is a sign of Autism.  Is it?  It's been so surmised by many in the Autism community, but as he is not a real person, it can't be proved.  I'll just say that the movie still entertains the idea, which is fun, but I wouldn't go so far as to call him Autistic.

So much for critics and their judgement.  At any rate, I loved the pace, and the thought process, as the movie came from the point of view of Holmes, as all the stories (with one exception) came from the point of view of Watson.  This gave Watson a chance to shine in his ability to detect, stand out for what was right and lawful, and even put Holmes in his place once or twice.  As such, I felt that the story was unique, and gave one an insight into the methods that Holmes would have used (had be been a real person, of course).  His triumphs and his vices were all on display, including his drug addiction when not working on a case.  While my favorite persona of Holmes remains to this day Basil Rathbone, I loved the Robert Downey, Jr. take on the great detective.

Mary in the story was superb, as she was a practical woman, well acquainted with the methods of Holmes, and actually had more sense then did James Watson at times.  In a sense, she was the perfect woman for Watson, as she was patient with Holmes' constant need for her husband on errands, and her husband's need for adventure.  Watson was also well portrayed, and Jude Law's Watson is perhaps my most favorite version.  He even had the limp that Watson had from his wound that discharged him from the Army in Afghanistan.  Lestrade was classic, and I thought his character was very well done.

And finally, I was on tenderhooks at the end of the movie.  Not because I was at all worried that Holmes would not succeed, but rather I was afraid the movie would in some way allow the arcane and superstitions that were often ridiculed by Doyle in his books to exist.  I was thrilled to see that it wasn't the case.  Holmes had, in his truly unique way, discovered the whole thing, even presented it to the villain at the end, and received his usual conformation.  In short, the essence of the movie was the same as any story from the Memoirs, Adventures, or Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, with only a few twists to make it different.

But it couldn't be completely true to the cannon.  For one, of all the stories I read, Irene Adler was only one minor character, an English woman, and not necessarily a renegade of the law.  All this changed in the movie, but then I supposed if any woman were to be Holmes' love interest, it would have to be "the woman", as he called her.  Point two comes from the introduction of Moriarty, of whom Watson was not aware until well after he was married.  Holmes was, of course, but not Watson.

So, my final verdict is that if you enjoy any Sherlock Holmes book, I think you will enjoy the movie.  If you were more of a fan of the BBC specials, it may not be what you would expect.  But I still think you would enjoy it.  There is a richness in this story that makes it both humorous, exciting, and engaging.  And of course, if you are into Steampunk, you can't help but love the movie.  There is a touch of Dan Brown (secret societies) that makes the movie compelling.  Those who love action will enjoy it, and those who love a good mental exercise will like it even more.  I admit that while I have figured out about 20% of the Holmes stories before the end, this one had me going for a minute.  The clues were there, but I didn't catch the full meaning of them until Holmes dictated the events to Blackwood at the end of the story.