Sherlock Holmes à la fake

05/02/2010 10:14

Review of Sherlock Holmes (2009), dir. Guy Ritchie

Perhaps you have not read Sherlock Holmes yet, nor have you seen any of the previous movies about him. Now - you think - it is the right time to give it a try. Please, forget it! What the latest movie involves is too much fighting, too much noise and darkness, too many inaccurate interpretations, exaggerations, and an open ending. Has such a legendary literary figure as Sherlock Holmes ever been so horrendously exploited? Holmes has never been portrayed as a fighting machine, ready anytime for physical violence, at least not until this movie directed by Guy Ritchie (2009). 

Poor Arthur Conan Doyle. His famous and beloved detective has been torn into pieces, wrapped up, made into a blockbuster and thrown into the fire of twenty-first century pop culture. The modern bruiser alias Sherlock Holmes lacks everything that makes Doyle’s super-hero special—and it is not his house at 221B Baker Street in London. Nor is it his bohemian arrogant caricature smoking a pipe, wearing a hat, walking with a cane, and playing the violin. But what about his excellent forensic skills, elegant erudition, intelligent prowess and courteous manners, which are almost forgotten in this movie? First, the main plot seems to be promising in the beginning. However, soon it results in a too linear storyline which is, indeed, purposeless and absurd. Perhaps Doyle’s traditional quest to unravel a murder mystery would be boring to the modern mainstream audience. Just imagine – Sherlock (Robert Downey Jr.) here literally struggles with the evil magic in order to prevent the horrific massacre at the hands of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a devil-like character who hopes to become the ruler of England, America and possibly the whole world. Beside the exhausting plot, the movie incorporates all popular motives like secret rituals, conspiracies, signs, and unspeakable symbols, intertwined with Holmes and Watson’s sense for fighting and karate. You may wonder where else you have seen all this mishmash, whether in Indian Jones, Batman Begins, Da Vinci Code, or Harry Potter.

The whole movie may seem over-the-top even to the most modern viewers who like to relax in front of the screen. However, relaxation is close to impossible due to another big minus—the incredible length of 128 minutes. The exact half would be enough. This review would be a little biased if I did not mention some positives (which, in my view, were almost non-existent). The viewer may find several thrilling, entertaining, and dramatic moments in this movie; for instance, the climatic duel between Blackwood and Holmes. But all in all, this re-interpretation of Sherlock Holmes is a complete disaster: irritating, excessive, and preposterous.

Fortunately, there are still Doyle’s stories which are widely read even nowadays and will be ideally read forever. My final recommendation: If you are a lover of action-packed movies and have the slightest sense of humor, you may like this movie. But if you are a cinemagoer, you may consider saving both your money and time.

Mária Slezáková