“What are the facts?”

Just in time for the Holiday box office boost is Sherlock Holmes, one of Hollywood’s better, yet still obvious, attempts at franchise movie magic we’ve seen these last few years. Now, I’ve never read any of the Sherlock Holmes novels or short stories (although they’re sitting in my to-be-read stack), so maybe once I’ve read them I’ll look at the movie differently. But for now, I’ll judge it on its own merits. Let the great experiment begin!

Overall, I felt that Sherlock Holmes was a movie that took some really good source material and gave it a typical Hollywood makeover. Inject some action, a little comedy, attach a big-name cast, and you’re almost guaranteed three movies. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Plenty of other movies have followed the same formula and been more or less enjoyable. And I did find Sherlock Holmes to be an enjoyable movie, just not great by any means.

If Robert Downey Jr. has taught us anything it’s that people who do drugs will always land on their feet. And as long as they’re funny/sexy we’ll always be ready to welcome them back into the fold. What this has to do with the review I still haven’t figured out. If you have any idea, please post your thoughts in the comments section. Anyway, Downey’s portrayal of Holmes is an interesting one. Instead of the typical, self-absorbed detective, he’s portrayed almost like he’s autistic. He’s so trapped inside his head that venturing out of it is almost painful for him. Before the trailer I don’t think it was what people were expecting and I think it’ll work well for the inevitable sequels.

I was glad to see that they chose to portray Watson and someone who was actually competent at what he did, rather than some bumbling, idiotic sidekick. Johnny Knoxville as Watson. That would have been great. Jude Law seems perfect for the role, and plays it every bit as well as Downey plays Holmes. The only one who really felt out of place in the movie was Rachel McAdams. Maybe out of place is the wrong choice of words. More like, why was she there? McAdams seemed more like a place-holder than anything else and if the filmmakers had instead decided to cast Winona Ryder or Gwyneth Paltrow I don’t see the role being very different.

I felt the overall plot of the film was a little strange. We all know that Holmes’ nemesis is Professor Moriarty, and I thought it was a smart decision not to feature him in the first film. Just like the Joker wasn’t the bad guy in Batman Begins. It’s good to spend a little time setting things up. Letting the audience get to know Holmes and Watson, the dynamics of their relationship, and the people they work with. But having the first villain to face Holmes be some sort of black magic wizard just felt like they were trying to push Holmes into a world he didn’t belong in. For me, that juxtaposition between solid detective work and mysticism just didn’t work, and really took a lot of tension from the movie. It’s a shame because you look at other places it’s been done (The X-Files comes to mind) and see that when done right, it comes off beautifully.

Holmes is set in the 1890s. And while a fantastic job was done on the costume and set design, you still get that sense that you’re looking at everything through some sort of gloss. You know London is a dirty place, but you get the feeling that someone’s sitting there saying, “Look! London! Gross!” It feels like the world you’re looking at isn’t genuine. This is only made worse by the movie’s final showdown between Holmes and Lord Blackwood, set in the middle of CGI porn we haven’t seen since the Star Wars prequels.

Despite all of this, the movie does offer some laughs, along with the opportunity to unwind and just enjoy yourself for two hours. Downey’s portrayal of Holmes, along with his chemistry with Law makes the movie definitely worth checking out. By and large, I think this one will please the great, unwashed, movie-going public, as we’ve seen from this past week’s box office numbers. I hear they’re talking to Brad Pitt to play Moriarty in the sequel, so it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here.

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