This is a very difficult review to write. On one hand, I greatly enjoyed myself. The performances carried the movie, and they were wonderful to behold. Special props to Mark Strong, who stole the show as Lord Blackwood, the film’s villain, but I’ll get to him later. This film seems to have all the elements of what is considered a “good movie”. So why do I feel like it missed the mark?
First of all, let me get this out of the way. The film is surprisingly faithful to the books. Holmes displays much the same character from Conan Doyle’s imagination. The writing for his character reminded me a lot of TV’s Dr. House, but this isn’t too surprising when we remember who inspired House. Jude Law’s turn as Watson was remarkably enjoyable. There was more focus on his character than I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised to see his character and his relationship with Holmes explored more in-depth than previous installments.
The script was imaginative, but somewhat unremarkable. The script was almost secondary to the chemistry between the characters. Holmes and Watson invented the “bromance”, and that is on full display here. Watson has a genuine concern for Holmes’ safety and health, and Holmes is concerned more for their friendship. This makes him out to be the more selfish of the two, and the scenes that stand out for me are the ones where Watson deals with that. I do wish that Holmes’ cocaine addiction had played a larger role in his character, just as I wished that Iron Man had commented more on Tony Stark’s alcoholism.
One problem I had was with the plot. Now, the plot wasn’t BAD, necessarily, but it took a backseat to the characters. It seemed like the plot only showed in certain scenes, but was always in the background, waiting until the end to really show itself. When you see the film as more of a character study, and less as a thriller, it works a lot better.
I won’t comment too much on Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, as the general feeling has already been put forth. He is fantastic, and a whole lot of fun to watch. But the real star of the show, as I mentioned before, is Mark Strong, as the villain Lord Blackwood. He gives the most nuanced villain performance of the year. Rather than just saying his lines in a menacing fashion, he gives facial cues and body movements that really make him more than just an evil plot. (I loved the plot by the way, but I won’t spoil it.)
So, what was my big problem with it? Simple. There wasn’t enough. This is an irresistible film. It pulled me in right off the bat, and kept me there for over 2 hours. And I wish that it was longer. The last 5 minutes of the movie are the first 5 minutes of the sequel, and I am eagerly awaiting it. At the very least, rent it. At the most, see it in theaters! I want a sequel!
And for those of you Britons who complain that American actor Robert Downey Jr. is playing the very British character, just consider it revenge for a Brit playing Batman.