The new Sherlock Holmes film directed by Guy Ritchie has premiered in London and there have been early screenings in Los Angeles. And so far, the reviews are mixed:
The Guardian gives it 2 out of 5 stars and calls it "high-end hack work"
The Daily Telegraph says that it's "an undeniably rollicking romp"
The Times says that Robert Downey Jr. is "terrific" as Holmes but that it was an "overlong film."
inthenews.co.uk gives it 7 out of 10, calling it "immensely enjoyable."
But you see, here at the Baker Street Blog, we won't leave you to trust the reviews of the mainstream press. Oh no. We're about much more. In fact, we've got a review from a member of the Baker Street Irregulars - Sean Wright ("The Manor House Case"), who saw the film over the weekend. Sean is the co-author of Enter the Lion: A Posthumous Memoir of Mycroft Holmes and knows his way around the Canon. Here is his guest post:
My son, DeForeest, and I saw Sherlock Holmes at a screening for the Writers Guild in Hollywood. We learned that members consider the film a "hot ticket", sure to make Warners a bundle.
This cinematic Holmes adventure comes to us courtesy of former Warners' executive and graphic novelist, Lionel Wigram who wrote it up originally as a graphic novel. Realizing that today's youth knows next to nothing about the character Warners made sure to hire box office champ Robert Downey, Jr. to lure teens into theatres. If the gushing two-page puff piece appearing in the NY Times last January is to be believed, adolescent girls will line up for blocks just to gaze dreamily at Downey's "abs".
The trailers had me all set to detest the movie but, and not at all grudgingly, I enjoyed it. The film is a fine adventure, happily peppered with canonical quotations despite liberties taken with chronology as John Rabe noted earlier on the Baker Street Blog. I also agree with him that it is LOUD.
As for the actors, Rachel McAdams is quite fun but her "Irene Adler" has little in common with her canonical counterpart aside from the fact that she's cunning, fearless. and runs about in men's clothing. Despite this she looks disturbingly right as Irene.
The Lestrade and Watson cinema stereotypes are pleasantly guyed - with a measure of revenge one might say. Eddie Marsan plays Lestrade with gusto and would look even more like him if he lost the beard. 'Tis a pity Kelly Reilly is not given more to do as Mary Morstan but the little she's given she handles well. It would also be nice to see a bit more of Geraldine James who makes the most of the little screen time she's allotted as Mrs Hudson.
I was all ready for Lord Blackwood - ably portrayed by Mark Strong - to turn into Professor Moriarty a la Young Sherlock Holmessince he looks "curiously reptilian." Problem is he hasn't enough scenes to give the audience a really good reason to loath him.
Having played the good doctor many times it was a joyful revelation to see Jude Law's portrayal of Watson in his prime. Honest, able, upright, a man of action, recognizably a former soldier, who is not above gambling (yes, Holmes keeps his chequebook locked up). He is even allowed to be shown in practice as a doctor. It is to the screenwriters' credit that Watson is allowed to display his deductive talent which anyone who reads the Canon knows Watson to possess.
The nicely-wrought screenplay has several memorable sequences, such as watching Holmes improvise a disguise as he shadows Irene Adler. There is an homage to Basil Rathbone and another to Jeremy Brett but I'll let the reader find them. And, professionally speaking, I recognized two script details which were, um, "inspired" by a memoir entitled Enter the Lion written by Mr Mycroft Holmes which I "edited" 30 years ago. I was nevertheless impressed that the film's dénouement depends so heavily on logical deductions convincingly explained by Holmes.
A crass concession to the present age has Holmes naked, shackled to a bedstead after spending the night with Irene. This is offset by a fascinating sequence showing Holmes mentally mapping out an attack on McMurdo during a bare-fisted boxing match alluded to in SIGN. Warners has long touted this film as emphasizing Holmes as "action hero" and why not? It is a neglected part of Holmes' character on film although Nick Meyer included a memorable duel spotlighting Holmes' prowess as a fencer in The Seven Percent Solution.
The one drawback with the film that just won't go away is Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. God love him, he's to be commended for doing all he can to make the role work. Every so often he sounds right but it's not enough. Downey is simply miscast. Contributing to this problem is the producers' decision to make him unlike any previous Holmes.
While there is a canonical purple dressing gown, the producers have understandably jettisoned the deerstalker to avoid cheapening the character with stereotyping. Many of us remember the disconcerting image of Christopher Plummer in Murder by Decree arriving at the opera attired in deerstalker and capecoat.
Downey's costumes are inspired more by Toulouse-Lautrec posters than by anything Sidney Paget illustrated for Strand Magazine. Holmes is now attired in the costume of an insouciant poet or artist at home in Soho or the Rive Gauche, his collar dashingly turned up a la Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. When forced to sport neckwear, instead of his proper under-the-collar bowtie, this Holmes simply ties on a cravat and lets it dangle from beneath his collar in a most ungentlemanly way. But this Holmes is anything but a gentleman, as Victorians understood the term.
The producers seem bent on turning Sherlock Holmes into a Victorian Batman, solving crime, not to see justice prevail, but due to a mental unbalance. Watch for more of this in later installments.
Months ago I remarked that Warners was treating this film like a franchise and I was not disabused of that fact by the film's conclusion. Like it or not, there will be more of the Lionel Wigram vision of Sherlock Holmes just as long as Warners is confident in Downey's bankability among teens and other adolescents.
So there you have it. I'll be interested to hear your reactions as the film rolls out.