When people think of legendary literary character Sherlock Holmes, an image comes to mind of a hawk nosed man, wearing a deerstalker cap, puffing on a pipe with a rotund assistant who helps him solve many a case. In late 2009, Guy Ritchie’s version of the world’s greatest detective was released with
many of the characteristics associated with the world’s greatest detective removed from this film.
Robert Downey Jr. is the latest actor to portray the super-sleuth, with Jude Law as Dr. John H. Watson. In Sherlock Holmes we find Holmes and Watson helping Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade unravel a nefarious plot that threatens to destroy England. Holmes and Watson must race against time to stop the deceitful Lord Blackwood, a black magic-wielding occult leader and former Member of Parliament who has apparently returned from the dead after his execution.
Things get more complicated for Holmes when he crosses paths with the woman who broke his heart years earlier and got away; the devious Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). Holmes must now contend with Irene and whatever her motivations are for this case, in addition to losing Watson as he’s getting married and moving out of their shared flat at 221B Baker Street.
Ritchie ditches the deerstalker cap and pipe for Holmes, while keeping the keen intellect that is the heart of the character; he also went back to the source material and made him strong in mind and body. If you couldn’t imagine Holmes as a pugilist this film will change your mind; Downey is great as Holmes. He’s a bit quirky and uses his sharp wit and brainpower to deduce exactly what’s going on with Lord Blackwell as well as dealing with Irene Adler and his feelings for her.
Law isn’t who you would think of as Dr Watson, but he’s the perfect complement to the chaos of Holmes, both characters are intelligent, but Watson also acts as the brawn to Holmes brain. The duo have a chemistry that works very well on screen; they are more equals than portrayed in earlier film adaptations (which often cast Watson in the role of Holmes' long-suffering assistant.)
Rachel McAdams is great as the ingénue, and her character is an interesting choice for a somewhat romantic interest for Holmes since she’s only in one book. Hopefully she’ll be back to flesh out her character.
The colors don’t pop in Sherlock Holmes, however that is appropriate to the period being reconstructed. The look is drab, with blacks, greys, and browns being the most prevalent colors, with very well-defined shadows and fog. The only drawback is some of the CGI is more apparent in this high-def clarity that might not be seen in the standard definition DVD.
The film sounds great with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix sounding robust and full. It captures the clack of hooves on cobblestone, the roar of the crowd, the slicing of animals in the slaughterhouse and more without being garbled or losing definition.
The extras for Sherlock Holmes are primarily found in Warner’s "Maximum Movie Mode." First up is a picture-in-picture commentary with director Guy Ritchie who walks on screen at certain points in the film who discusses the making of the film and uses visual aids including storyboard comparisons, stills galleries and an interactive timeline.
There are also over a half-dozen short (under five minutes) featurettes that you can play together, or individually.
"Drawbridges & Doilies: Designing a Late Victorian London" showcases how the design crew created 1895 London for the film.
"Not a Deerstalker Cap in Sight" looks at the various costumes used in the film.
"Ba-Ritsu: A Tutorial" takes a brief look at the fight choreography the actors learned for their scenes.
"Elementary English: Perfecting Sherlock's Accent" spotlights Robert Downey Jr. working on his English accent, which shouldn’t be too hard since he used one in 1993’s Chaplin.
"The One That Got Away" takes a look at Rachel McAdams’ character and her origins.
"Powers of Observation and Deduction" looks at the original source material and how they were reinterpreted.
"The Sherlockians" is a nice counterpart to the previous feature, this one shows how literary experts and fans take a close look at Sherlock Holmes.
“Future Past” shows how the green screen process and other modern technology were used to recreate 1895.
Leaving the Maximum Movie Mode section, there’s one additional extra "Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented" which is the standard making-of featurette and the only extra on the standard edition DVD. So if you are a fan of the movie and want to see how the film was made or hear Guy Ritchie’s stories and more, you’ll want to pick up the Blu-ray edition of Sherlock Holmes.
The latest version of Sherlock Holmes is a fun take on the character which casts off some of the characteristics that have been associated with the character over the decades and returns him closer to his original incarnation. The cast and crew did a great job of adapting him for today’s audience and fans of this film will be happy to know that a sequel is already in the works.