By Don Simpson | December 24, 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Arthur Conan Doyle (Characters), Lionel Wigram (Story), Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg (Screenplay)
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
Guy Ritchie’s interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous sleuth – Sherlock Holmes – bares very little resemblance to its literary source, as he opts to focus on Sherlock’s brawn over his brain. Sure, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock can fight when need be (according to Doyle’s books, Sherlock is an expert fist-fighter and swordsman) but Ritchie’s Sherlock possesses fighting skills, strength and indestructibility that are typically reserved for superheroes and gods.
Ritchie’s relentless testosterone fest takes place in London in 1891 (which looks eerily similar to the Hughes Brothers’ vision of London in From Hell). We are introduced to Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) as they are in the midst of solving a string of supernatural murders perpetuated by a magical secret society called the Four Corners (the plot is also eerily similar to the Hughes Brothers’ From Hell – which explored a less secret yet equally maniacal society: the Freemasons). Sherlock and his dear Watson effortlessly snag the ringleading satanist Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) and Lord Blackwood is subsequently hanged. Unfortunately for London, Lord Blackwood appears to have risen from his grave and the murders commence once again (and Blackwood has created an all-powerful, not to mention indestructible, weapon of mass destruction to boot!); but luckily for Sherlock, this mystery is more elementary than a Scooby Doo episode.
When Ritchie chooses to retain consistency with Doyle’s source material – Sherlock’s eccentric habits (primarily his disregard for tidiness or order), intellectual prowess, astute observation, deductive reasoning and forensic skills – Sherlock Holmes is its most entertaining…and at least Ritchie got Sherlock’s address correct: 221-B Baker Street. If it were not for Robert Downey Jr.’s highly entertaining interpretation of Sherlock – especially his knack for the more Holmesian scraps of dialogue – Sherlock Holmes would have no merit at all.
It is also worth noting that Sherlock Holmes was not adapted from any of Doyle’s works – it was originally conceived by Lionel Wigram. However, some of Doyle’s original characters (besides Sherlock and Dr. Watson) do make appearances, including Sherlock’s famed archenemy Professor Moriarty (mentioned by name only – in a brazen set-up to a sequel) and one of Sherlock’s only love interests Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).
(On a side note – and I am by no means a master of hebrew – it appears as though the Four Corners utilize hebrew letters in their writings. What, if anything, is Ritchie trying to say about Jews?)
Nonetheless, all that is afoot in Sherlock Holmes is a bit of the old ultra violence; and all brawn and no brain make Sherlock Holmes a very dull film. Very disappointing my dear Watson, very disappointing…