A very good action flick, a mediocre Sherlock Holmes film

I originally wrote this when the movie first came out (apparently December 26 to be precise), and just noticed today (looking through my drafts) that apparently I never posted it… My bad… Better late than never I hope.

Warning: This review may contain some spoilers. I will attempt not to give away too much of the movie, but it is hard to do justice in a review without giving away some points. If you don’t want to know about any parts of this film, you should stop reading now.

To call me a fan of Sherlock Holmes would be a bit of an understatement, on par with saying Bill Gates is somewhat well off or Andy Dick is kind of creepy.
I’ve all of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories countless times and most (well all of the ones I have come across) of the “unofficial” Holmes stories by other authors.
I’m a huge fan of the 1980’s PBS series with Jeremy Brett and have seen every episode many, many times.
I’ve seen countless Sherlock movies, including of course the classic Basil Rathbone / Nigel Bruce films from the ’30s and ’40s (I’ve heard that there have been at least 211, so I’m still on the lookout for the ones I’ve not seen).
I have (or have at least have heard) virtually all of the surviving radio shows from that era as well, and know most of them well enough I can often times spot where they veer off from the original Doyle stories.

So when I say that as a Holmes movie it was “meh” at best, I do have a bit of experience with Holmes…

But at the same time, I also fully endorse this movie as a very well action flick.

But let me explain. Let’s take a brief look at the basic plot of the movie:

In London, Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. John Watson captures the follower of black magic and serial killer Lord Blackwood that has already killed five women when he is near to kill his sixth victim. Blackwood is sentenced to be strung up and Dr. Watson attests his death. However, Blackwood mysteriously returns from the afterlife and Inspector Lestrade summons Sherlock Holmes to help the Scotland Yard in the investigation. Meanwhile Dr. Watson intends to get married of the gorgeous Mary Morstan while Sherlock is visited by his former lover Irene Adler that has a secret agenda.

Obviously more than just a hint of Jack the Ripper, which some previous Holmes stories (but not the Doyle ones) have touched on. It brings in some characters from the original stories, and integrates them in to a brand new plot. All in all, a very interesting premise.

Holmes and Watson have their standard bromance relationship throughout the movie, however Jude Law is a significantly more assertive than most depictions of Watson. Mary Morstan’s budding relationship with Watson comes directly from Doyle’s work, and the character of Irene Adler is a great one to see for all true Holmes fans.

But where it veers from Doyle’s work, it veers drastically. One early scene has Holmes running down a spiral staircase, pausing when he notices a ruffian who is standing guard, analyzing the situation (the audience actually sees in slow-motion how Holmes plans to take the ruffian guard out), and then disarming the bad guy. While this makes for great cinematography, it is very un-Holmes like. While I enjoy having Irene Adler as part of the story, the relationship between Holmes and Irene is so far removed from the original works that it actually becomes distracting on occasion. There were numerous other examples where to a true Holmes fan the movie would make you cringe, and I actually tried to think of it as an action movie where the main character just happened to have a famous name.

With that said, I still enjoyed the movie immensely. Where it stuck with the Holmes canon, I smiled, and where it did not, I was able to just see it as nothing more than an action movie, and a pretty enjoyable one actually.

But the original reason I actually began to write this review was as a response to Ben Radford, who said:

Did Blackwell really come back from the dead? Is Irene really in love with Holmes, or spying on him? What’s with the red-haired dwarf? How do pentagrams and pig carcasses fit into all this? Why does Irene’s accent come and go? Who cares? Sherlock Holmes has one of those ridiculously convoluted Rube Goldberg type plots in which the only way any of it makes sense is if one or more characters knew exactly what one or more of the other characters would do before they did it. The elaborate “explanations” for the different aspects of the mystery are farfetched, though the script tries to make it seem like Holmes is so smart and so ahead of the audience that his deductions are pure genius.

To which I have to reply; Ben, did you watch all the way to the end of the movie?

No he did not come back from the dead.
Yes Irene really loves Holmes (it’s Hollywood after all, every tale must have a love story woven in).
Do you mean why was he a little person? Or what was his involvement in the plot?
Because she is not a very good actress.
$516,766,545 worldwide, so apparently quite a few people.
Yes the plot was excessive, so was Dark Night, and that movie is almost universally applauded.
And Holmes IS SUPPOSED TO BE a genius. One of the top minds of all time in fact.

Yes there were gripes to be made with the film, but I am not sure that using ones which are answered by a basic understanding of how Hollywood works and watching the last 5 minutes of the movie would answer, is the best way to critique a film…

And on a final note. In cleaning this up really quick to publish this review today, I stumbled across this preview which might interest other Holmes fans:


About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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