Sherlock Holmes: Captivating and Memorable

Sherlock HolmesI was sure I wouldn’t like this film. Sherlock Holmes as an action hero, in Guy Ritchie style? No way.

I was in for a surprise.

My first impulse was- “this is ridiculous and it makes no sense”. Well, it doesn’t, does it?- which is exactly what makes this film memorable. Maybe I am giving Guy Ritchie way too much credit, but he didn’t simply made “Sherlock Holmes with many fight scenes”- he actually made a pretty good deconstruction of the story. Ritchie’s reading of Sherlock Holmes might not be close to mine, but he managed to make a memorable story which, against all odds, make sense- the way it is.

Unique reading of the story

First ten minutes or so were predictable, in a way I was almost bored (excessive movie action often does that to me). But restaurant scene with Mary blew me away, and it’s followed by the boxing match- so yes, you could say it got me interested.

Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked “Sherlock Holmes.” Which is a good advice for anybody who likes traditional interpretations of A.C. Doyle’s stories (or anyone who is not crazy about fight scenes). But one must understand this is Sherlock Holmes; it’s not any less “true” because it’s not traditional. It’s Doyle’s world deconstructed, and you can see this in all the little details: allusions to original A.C.Doyle stories (along with quotes), setting (not true to the time, but not random either), and, perhaps the most interesting one, the clues left for the audience to deduct character’s past.

Robert Downey Jr. as HolmesThe best thing about this film, however, was Robert Downey Jr. His dirty, sweaty, smelly- but at the same time witty, hedonistic and egoistic Holmes is simply captivating. As interesting Ritchie’s reading of the story might be, not many actors could pull it off. It simply wouldn’t work well- or work at all- without Robert Downey Jr. Just like Johnny Depp is captain Jack Sparrow, Downey is this unique Sherlock Holmes. He completely stole the show- but it’s more than that. There wouldn’t be this film without him. Period.

The bad things?

You can’t really count often incomprehensible action sequences, since they’re meant to be that way. The only thing I really disliked were the female characters. Kelly Reilly’s Mary was so and so, but for some reason I couldn’t stand Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. “She looks and acts too modern!” would be my first complaint, though, in whole honesty, you can say that for all the characters, as well as setting. But I still feel she didn’t belong there; she wasn’t captivating enough, interesting enough, memorable enough. Maybe the woman simply can’t act. But I am so happy they didn’t (spoiler) have wild sex (they didn’t, did they?), that would spoil everything.

The best of

  • -Boxing scene with “Rocky Road to Dublin” in the background. Not as amusing as fight scene in “Snatch” with “Golden Brown” in the background, but equally awesome.
  • -Art direction and cinematography. They are excellent, and serve the story perfectly.
  • -Watson with a brain. I hate interpretations that make him mentally slow (to say the least).
  • -Clues left for us to deduct character’s past.
  • -Unique vision of the story and setting.
  • -Last, but certainly not the least: Robert Downey Jr.

20 thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes: Captivating and Memorable

  1. Mariana

    I must say. I loved this movie. I watched it twice.
    Like you said this interpretation “it’s not any less “true” because it’s not traditional”, as far as I know, Doyle mentions that Sherloke can fight really well, that he is a pugilist.

    I agree with you in all points you mentioned.

  2. Mira

    This film made my day, no- my week! I think I’m going to watch it again. Screw “Avatar”.

    I really, honestly, didn’t expect to like it this much. “Snatch”, for example, had a few good moments, I liked Brad Pitt’s character and I liked those fast scenes and dialogues- but that was it.

    This one? It was captivating on so many levels. The thing is, when you look at it- it doesn’t make sense, and you’d think it’s an insult to A.C.Doyle’s story. But then you look again. And you realize: this is it. This is one careful reading of the story, not a disrespectful deviation of the original work. Interpretation, not deviation. There’s a huge difference.

    I am personally not into fight scenes and excessive action, but I respect Ritchie’s vision of Holmes’ world, because it shows, in all the glory, all the different ways one can read Sherlock Holmes.

    Oh, but I believe all this was possible because of Robert Downey Jr. He nailed Holmes, and made this film awesome. He also managed to make Holmes- how shall I put this?- fuckable, which not every actor could do.

    I know some people heavily criticize Donwey for his persona and over-the-top acting(now where did I hear this before?), but I certainly like his style. He never disappoints, even if the film itself is crappy. Which isn’t the case here.

  3. zek j evets

    hmm… i debated going to see this because i wasn’t sure if downey could live up to the image sacd conjured up in my head as a young lad reading the hounds of the baskervilles for the first time.

    however, i’ll trust your opinion and maybe go see a show after all. maybe.

    question: how was jude law as watson?

  4. Mira

    Robert Downey is nothing- I repeat: nothing- like your “regular” Sherlock Holmes. That’s why many people hate this film.

    But nontraditional Sherlock and his world is, in my humble opinion, the whole point of this film; without it, it wouldn’t have the charm.

    Of course this is not for everybody. Like I said, I was sure I wouldn’t like it; I can’t express how much I hate when they “modern up” traditional stories. Historical and literal accuracy, at least in style, is very important to me.

    But for some reason, this film works. It really feels like one reading, one true interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, rather than just an action flick which happens to have Holmes as a main character. My interpretation wouldn’t be this one, but I respect Ritchie’s vision and the world he created.

    Oh, and the plot itself isn’t spectacular, and yes, there are way too many fight/action scenes, but against all odds, this film works- at least for me.

    Jude Law as Watson? Not sure what to say here. He wasn’t particularly memorable (at least to me), but he was ok. His Watson isn’t the stupid, almost-comic-relief Watson of some earlier work, which is good. But to me, he- like most of the other things in this film apart from cinematography- pales in comparison with Downey’s smelly & witty Sherlock Holmes.

  5. Mira Post author

    (I am spamming my own blog)

    Interesting trivia:

    The set for Sherlock Holmes’s home was previously used as Sirius Black’s home in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

    Sienna Miller was in talks for a role before her ex-fiancé Jude Law was cast as Watson. Well, in this case, go Jude Law! I am sorry, but I can’t stand Sienna Miller.

  6. Sigg3

    I haven’t seen this, but there have been a number of interviews with Sherlock Holmes fans that endorse the movie. Just not as a Sherlock Holmes movie. It is an action movie.

    You could say that it is just a “one reading” of the movie, but to me that’s completely disregarding that they made this “one reading” into a movie WITH the title of its original idea!

    If I had gone to lengths to create a character as intriguing as Holmes I would have been happy that people made their own interpretations, just leave my own work the f alone. It speaks for itself (and if it doesn’t and need an accompanying interpretation in the form of a Hollywood movie I’d call it worthless anyway).

    The point being that Sherlock Holmes doesn’t need re-vitalization. He is very much alive today. It just seems like a cheap shot to make some quick cash.

  7. Mira

    I agree… And disagree (is that even logically possible?)

    I hate adaptations that are insults to the books or history (example: “The Tudors”). And I also despise action films- yet, I liked this one, which means there must be something else in there that I liked.

    There were several previous Sherlock Holmes adaptations that I loved, but one must admit they were also, in a way, deviations of Doyle’s original work. In the stories, Watson isn’t an overweight moron. In the stories, Holmes is an eccentric who is a junkie, a fighter (boxing, wrestling), a bohemian, borderline asocial and misogynistic, and he’s also suspiciously asexual (bisexual? homosexual?). All of this is shown in the film. In fact, the only thing I can say it’s untrue to the book character (as far as I remember it), is Holmes as dirty and smelly (I don’t remember lack of personal hygiene from the books). Everything else is there. Of course, some of the character traits are exaggerated, but it’s not like they were picked by filmmakers at random and never mentioned in the books.

    Also, the world created here isn’t a true adaptation of XIX century London- but isn’t a random Hollywoodized setting either. It’s Holmes’ world carefully turned into a steampunk fantasy, which I really liked.

    And yet, all of that could easily be “epic fail” without Robert Downey Jr. If this flick works, it works because of him. Everything else (Watson, the plot, female characters (especially female characters!), fight scenes) wouldn’t work without Downey.

    The thing is: if you see work of art the way I do, there’s really no true or false way to make an adaptation of a book. Your reading isn’t any better or worse than mine- or- if you really wish to go that far, than Doyle’s.

    And yes, I might be reading too much here and yes, I might be giving Ritchie way too much credit. Maybe this is just a simple action flick set in XIX century and named “Sherlock Holmes” just for the sake of it. Hey, it’s not like it’s completely impossible for this to be the case.

    But my reading of this film is “an interesting interpretation” rather than “deviation”- and my reading of the film isn’t any less true than Ritchie’s. So I’ll stick to it.

  8. Alex

    I LOVED Sherlock! Can’t wait for the sequel. But i don’t want Brad Pitt to play Moriarty!

    I like all things steam punk, and you’re right, it was steam punk!

    Not to mention Robert was hot as Sherlock! So charming (i dindn’t think he was exactly smelly just a bit messy). Robert is a great actor and people face it, he is hot. Too bad he’s short. But a great actor indeed.

    [Edit by Mira: Alex, smiley codes you used didn’t work, and it messed up your whole comment. So I had to delete them and re-post this comment.]

  9. Mira

    Steampunk indeed! But Ritchie’s vision certainly wouldn’t work without Robert Downey Jr. He’s the one who made this film great.

    I don’t really find Robert particularly handsome, except for his eyes. I like men with dark, beautiful eyes (speaking of which- why did they make his eyes blue on the posters?!? Not fair!)

    But he is a great actor, and he did charm me as Holmes (see my first comment). He completely stole the show, and he does make you fall for Holmes. That’s acting!

    And who cares if he’s short? Why do so many people consider short men less attractive? There are some really good looking ones. Many great actors are short, but they charm you. (Now that’s an idea for a post).

    Wha… Brad Pitt as Moriarty?!? Please say it isn’t true!

    I advise Ritchie to cast a British actor, preferably a charming, versatile one. Now let me think… Now who could that be?

  10. Mira

    I am afraid it’s true. Well, he is rumored to be cast as Moriarty. I do hope Ritchie or whoever is in charge will change his mind.

    Pitt was ok in “Snatch”. But there’s no way he could do a decent Moriarty. For a start, he can’t do a British accent. Robert Downey Jr. did a great job with his accent, but Brad Pitt- no way! He’s going to ruin this sequel. Not even Downey’s charisma could save it with Pitt as Moriarty.

    The funny thing is: that role is just made for a certain skinny blue eyed London-born badass of an actor… If you know what I mean.

  11. zek j evets

    i still have no idea who ya’ll are talking about… maybe alan rickman could be moriarty? he’s my favorite fucking british actor.

    it’s strange how steampunk has — slowly, but surely — been going mainstream. there was wild wild west, the prestige, league of extraordinary gentlemen, van helsing, etc., and now sherlock holmes apparently. (i wonder if they’ll do a subtle tie in between LEG and the movie, since moriarty features in both.)

    i think this conversation has inspired me to do a post on steampunk culture…

  12. Mia S

    the movie was good. too much action, but watching Jude is always a pleasant experience. i am not really into guy ritchie movies but this one was good.

    and i though Robert’s eyes were blue. !??

  13. Mira Post author

    I appreciate steampunk, though it’s not my favourite (fantasy) genre. If done right, it can be fantastic. If done right. If not, it’s just a waste of space and money. Luckily, in Sherlock Holmes, steampunk elements are done beautifully and with a style.

    I was referring to Gary Oldman. He’s one of my (and Mariana’s) favourite actors. (He’s the guy on my gravatar btw). Alan Rickman would be a nice choice too. But not Brad Pitt! NO WAY.

  14. Mira Post author

    Welcome, Mia!

    I am not into action/fight/testosterone fueled movies, but this one was such a pleasant surprise. It was much better than the trailer promised (never trust trailers, btw).

    Oh and no, I am quite sure Robert’s eyes are dark (see the above photos). I can remember a dark eyed man when I see one, trust me.

    Dark. Case closed. You may continue with fan-girlness! ;)

  15. Hugh

    You call this memorable? What’s so memorable about it? It’s an insult to the stories. Holmes is portrayed as an ugly aggressive guy who uses muscles more than his brain. Watson became a womaniser. There are so many bad things about it, they got all wrong. He jumps from the window? He is a boxing champion. He has random sex with dangerous women. He wears modern glasses. Really???? Really? And you like this?

  16. Mira Post author


    Please answer honestly: have you read the stories? I mean, actually Doyle’s work. Watching old movies about Holmes doesn’t count. Actual stories.

    I guess not. Doyle never created Holmes as an all-mind guy. He was also very physical, a man of action, so to speak. He does jump off the window several times, and yes, he does participate in boxing matches. As for “random sex”, there was no sex as far as I can tell in the film, and glasses are, in fact, appropriate for the time. Yes, really.

    I agree, Ritchie interpret Holmes’ character in his own way- but it’s not like he made it up. Most of the things- except for one (lack of personal hygiene) were in the stories. Previous adaptations often decided not to deal with these character traits. That doesn’t mean they’re not canonical.

    I can understand why someone disliked this film. It’s not for everybody. First off all, it IS Ritchie movie. You can’t escape anything that goes with it. Second of all, it does make its own interpretation of Holmes’ world. But like I said, details prove interpretation wasn’t random; in most of the cases, they were picked carefully and recreated in steampunk style. Still, I understand why someone would only see an action flick full of mud and sweat and nothing else. There are, after all, fights, mud and sweat.

    But I liked it, mostly because I didn’t expect it to like it at all. And Robert Downey Jr gave a very charismatic performance. And it was also surprisingly close to canon (as much as story full of above mentioned mud, fight and sweat can be), with many nods to Doyle’s stories. Great editing, cinematography and music. But what I especially enjoyed is the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously- and yet, it’s full of interesting and, dare to say, clever details.

    In any case, canon Holmes was certainly not your average (but super smart) Victorian gentleman. He was eccentric, asocial, snobbish, almost misanthropic. A drug user whose room is always in a mess. A skilful martial artist and a master of disguise. And yes, a master of deduction. You can’t blame Ritchie and Robert Downey Junior for deciding to include all those character traits in creating Holmes. You may not like what you see, but you can’t really say they made any random decisions.

  17. Alex

    I am not sure if Brad Pitt was cast as Moriarty, thats just a rumor. i dont want him to play that character! maybe johnny depp would be better, or a british actor?

    I hated the posters, RDJ and Jude look so fake, like its not them. And yes, I think they changed RDJ eyes to blue I dont know why. Kirk Lazarus had blue eyes so RDJ had to wear colored contacts, that why some people think his eyes are blue but they’re not! Thanks for the photos Mira, that man is so hot, it’s unbelievable!!

    And one advice for Hugh: read the stories! they might surprise you.

  18. Mira Post author

    I am not sure if Brad Pitt was cast as Moriarty, thats just a rumor. i dont want him to play that character! maybe johnny depp would be better, or a british actor?

    Definitely a British actor. (Gary Oldman! Gary Oldman!!!)

    Ok, that’s just me, because I like the man. But no, I don’t think Johnny Depp would make a good Moriarty (and I like Johnny- trust me on this). As far as I can tell, Brad is not listed anymore on the IMDB page, so maybe it was just a rumour.

    I hated the posters, RDJ and Jude look so fake, like its not them.

    Agree. The posters were photoshoped to death. They look fake and don’t represent characters at all. Same goes for the VERY misleading trailer.

    And yes, I think they changed RDJ eyes to blue I dont know why. Kirk Lazarus had blue eyes so RDJ had to wear colored contacts, that why some people think his eyes are blue but they’re not! Thanks for the photos Mira, that man is so hot, it’s unbelievable!!

    Maybe it’s just me, but those coloured contacts looked so fake- they always do.

    I don’t find Robert Downey Jr extremely handsome, but he is a very talented actor (one of the best there is), and he’s very charismatic. I don’t remember he ever gave a weak performance. Truly a great actor.

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