johnlink ranks SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

Way back in my AVATAR review over a month ago, I voiced my desire to see SHERLOCK HOLMES before the year was out. Well, that did not happen. Fortunately, I did get a chance to go see it on a cold Monday morning before it left theaters.

I watched SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) at the theater on 2.8.10. It was my first viewing of the film. I know it won’t be my last. TRAILER HERE

I’ve not read as much of the source material as I would like. I read a bit in high school, and a smattering of some Doyle in college. If nothing else, watching the Guy Ritchie film has revitalized my interest in getting back to the Holmes anthology I’ve had on my shelf for years.

I know enough to get the joke when Watson’s fiancee notices he has been writing a lot of journals, which Watson is modest about (though we know they come to be the stories). I know enough to know it is a big deal when Holmes notices that the mysterious villain is a professor, and that we are going to learn soon enough that it is his nemesis Moriarty.

All that said, how was the film itself? I think this might be one of those movies which rewards the second viewing much more than the first. The story of this film is of a possibly magical villain trying to become the ruler of the world (a generic aspiration, no doubt). He does this with trickery and flashes and bangs. We know, all throughout, that there is a logical explanation. We are just waiting for it. So the fun, for me, was not in the story at all. It was in the creation and interaction of character.

Jude Law’s Watson and Robert Downey’s Holmes are pitch perfect. They banter like the old friends (and some scholars would say unrequited lovers) that they are. Holmes baits Watson, and Watson saves Holmes when he steps a bit too far. One of the things I love about this movie is that, despite its title, this is not a hero/sidekick relationship. This is an absolute partnership. I’d like for the sequel to be called HOLMES & WATSON.

Rachel McAdams thieving female lead adds much to the relationship. She makes Holmes feel a way nobody else can, which is to say vulnerable. While Downey Jr. plays Holmes to instantly regret when he pushes Watson’s fiancee too far,  or masochistic when he gets involved in a boxing match as a result, it is really only Irene who causes him pain (this is demonstrated subtly when he notices her emblem on a napkin, realizes she is present, and is immediately punched in the face by an opponent).

The look of London is stunning. This is not the beautiful, romanticized 19th century London we are used to seeing. This is a dirty, messy, sometimes ugly place which is in transition towards modern day (the building of a new style of bridge plays a big part, both as a symbol and a plot point). This is more akin to Scorcese’s New York City in GANGS OF NEW YORK than some of the beautifully sprawling representations we get in many period pieces.

I also very much like that this first film in a potential series did not play its entire hand. Moriarty lurks in the background, and Holmes gets through this one mostly unscathed. His challenges are usually of his own making, and he only gets in real danger once or twice.

I like the writing. Towards the end there is an obvious romantic question which a scriptwriter always beats dead. The moment where the hero says, basically, “Why’d you do it?” And the lover says, “Because of you.” (I’m paraphrasing as to not totally ruin it here). I love that this script lets the actors’ eyes answer that question, preventing the moment from becoming too cliche. In general, this film’s script works hand-in-hand with the acting talents.

I also like that the film set up this idea that Holmes talks himself through something logically and we see it happen in slow-motion as he does. Then the film goes back and runs the scene in real time. There is generally a rule of three wherein it works twice, then the third time something would go screwy. Well, we never get that screwy version because, I assume, we’re saving that for a sequel, for Moriarty. Because, as we all know, there are very few who can beat Holmes’ logic!



BONUS: I give the bonus for the look and feel of London, both in the set design and in the costume design. I don’t want to call it historically accurate, what with some of the inventions and gadgets the film deploys, but it certainly, on a street level, feels right.



~ by johnlink00 on February 8, 2010.

One Response to “johnlink ranks SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)”

  1. […] It was my second viewing of the film, and first since it hit theaters. My original thoughts can be found here. But I am not reading them myself until after I write this. Hopefully I don’t repeat myself […]

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