Let me start with the disclaimer that I have never read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and therefore have no means of comparing this year's movie, directed by Guy Ritchie to the original work. I mentioned to a friend and coworker who has, in fact, read all the stories, that I planned to see the movie on Christmas Day, and he expressed his concerns about the bastardization of characters that he cherished in his youth. Well, I can relate to that, certainly. (Allow me to shake my fist at Peter Jackson for his disfigurement of Tolkien.)
Very well. On with it.
Firstly, the film is amply served by its two charismatic and versatile front-men, Robert Downey, Junior, and Jude Law, both of whom deliver appealing (perhaps even delightful) performances as Holmes and Doctor Watson. They seem to have established the chemistry between them that is required to pull it off. The supporting cast delivers as well. (And I just love Robert Downey. His well-publicized real-life weaknesses make him a brother.)
The sets, depicting London in the late 19th century, are captivating. Viewers are presented with a chaotic, fog-shrouded city, filled with opulence and squalor in equal measure.
The story itself centers around Holmes investigations into a diabolical cult that is poised to seize control of the British Empire. Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is the villain, seemingly endowed with the powers of the black arts, who somehow cheats the hangman's noose and proceeds to terrorize the city. Undaunted (of course) by the sinister nature of Blackwood's powers, Holmes and the reluctant Watson delve into the matter to discover its true nature and deliver London from disaster in the nick of time.
Throughout the viewing, it became obvious that this film, while it does relate a full story, is really just the opening episode of a planned new series of films a las Dark Knight or Spiderman. There will be more Sherlock Holmes movies if this one succeeds. Holmes' femme fatale, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), confirms this with her warning to Holmes that Lord Blackwood is just a puppet inadvertently serving a greater evil: the enigmatic and never-seen Doctor Moriarty.
Well, apparently, the film's producers have a high degree of confidence that the film will meet with enough success to warrant further episodes. And I can't disagree.
Sherlock Holmes is a diversion from Ritchie's earlier, edgier work, which includes Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, both of which I greatly enjoyed. But judging the flick on its own merits, I'd say Ritchie has succeeded. Sherlock Holmes is a good, solid film. It delivers a good amount of entertainment and the characters are portrayed in sufficient depth to make me want to know more about them. So, I'll look forward to the next installment. Maybe next Christmas?