Sherlock Holmes Review

(2.5 STARS)

If Sherlock Holmes had a somewhat decent story to go along with its enjoyable characters and great technical work, I’m sure I would be more enthusiastic about it. As it is, however, I can’t quite recommend it. The story isn’t even derivative, it’s a mess. Despite the fact that we are spoon fed everything we need to know in the final 15 minutes, gaping holes still remain. And the need for director Guy Ritchie to set things in motion for a sequel forces us to leave the theater without any closure.

This isn’t an origin story, so thankfully, the introductions are dispensed with and we are immediately thrust into the action. Scotland Yard has again enlisted the help of Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his faithful sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), in capturing the creepy occultist Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). Blackwood has murdered five women and is about to murder a sixth when he is apprehended. He is hung for his crimes, which include practicing black magic, but a few days later he has risen from the grave. Holmes and Watson are back on the case, but this time they are assisted (or hindered?) by Holmes’ former fling Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) and her boss, the mysterious Professor Moriarty.

The story is just preposterous. It has something to do with recapturing America as a British colony by using a secret chemical weapon, which is all fine and good, but this is the mid-19th century we are talking about. I pride myself on a pretty strong ability to suspend reality in the movies, but Sherlock Holmes asked too much of me in that department. And for the lengthy explanation at the end, let’s just say it’s pretty convenient that there’s a toxin or chemical in 1860s London that does just about anything you want.

The other major problem with the story, and the movie as a whole, is that it’s incomplete. We are left hanging in such a way that a sequel is necessary to tell the whole story. In the end, nothing was solved in this film, and the eventual sequel is unfortunately weighed down with the fact that the plot will likely be quite similar.

Having gotten that out of the way, the rest of Sherlock Holmes is actually pretty good. Robert Downey, Jr. is his usual reliable self. Even though the character comes across as British Iron Man most of the time, he’s still a lot of fun. He and Jude Law have a great deal of chemistry; They’re reason number one why the film works at all. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the chemistry between Downey and McAdams. There’s just not much there. I’m not sure whether it’s the fault of the actors or the writing, but with such a low-quality plot, I’m leaning toward the latter. Mark Strong does what’s necessary of him in the villainous role, nothing more, nothing less.

Sherlock Holmes‘ other greatest assets are primarily technical. The cinematography, costumes, and art direction are all very strong. There’s one shot of a hanging body off a bridge over water near the end of the film that is spectacular, one of the most beautiful single shots in recent memory. The film’s score, by Hans Zimmer, is also quite good. It’s moody, but doesn’t dominate the action.

Should you see Sherlock Holmes? I don’t know. It’s not the kind of film you should avoid, but it’s also not the kind of film that will make you glad you spent your hard-earned money on it. There are some quality elements, but if you’re looking for a satisfying story, look elsewhere.

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