I saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie last night. (I’m not sure if it is needful to state that; after all, why would I be writing a review on it had I not seen the movie? Then again, based on some reviews I’ve heard or read, I’m not sure those writers saw those movies. Honest, I really did see Sherlock Holmes 2.)
I liked it. It’s a good movie over all, entertaining, not too insulting to the intelligence – although they did feature a Mauser Schnellfeuer (machine pistol). Since the date I remember from the movie is 1891, this is an anachronism. The basic Mauser pistol wasn’t introduced for sale until 1896 – which is why the pistol is officially called the C96. The detachable box magazine, fully automatic version – the Schnellfeuer (Rapid fire) – was not introduced until 1930. However, in the movie the company name ‘Mauser’ was changed to something else starting with “M” so we’ll let it go.
The good Doctor Watson, being of able – more or less – body and sound mind, did figure out how to fire a crew-served cannon all by himself. That’s a bit of a stretch, actually. It just so happened in the factory yard the cannon, projectiles, powder bags and ignition devices were all there to hand. Still, it was a plot twist so it had to happen that way.
The plot was pretty solid, if not highly inventive. The evil arms manufacturer who seek war to sell his ‘instruments of death’ was Professor Moriarty of infamy. They had to put in a slap at ‘evil arms manufacturers’ in order to politically correct, but the writers didn’t dwell on it. Therefore, Holmes conscripts his beloved friend Dr. John Watson and sets off to ‘save Western Civilization’. Since we’re still here, he seems to have done so. Of course, the war avoided in 1891 in the movie was the war fought essentially from 1914 to 1917. Western Civilization did survive that war at the cost of the health of the British Empire.
What makes the movie really enjoyable is the basic script and acting. Robert Downey, Jr is delightful as Holmes, albeit a bit more eccentric than the Holmes of the Conan Doyle (or excellent homages of Laurie R. King). Holmes did not go to dinner at the Savoy without a clean shirt and a tie. Still, once that factor is ignored – and it is not too hard to do that – Holmes comes to life as a genius of observation and mental calculation. I much preferred the late Jeremy Brett as Holmes; sadly, he’s no longer available. Downey is far better at Holmes than the late Basil Rathbone – whom I admired – and head and shoulders above the rest of the Holmes actors of the past sixty years, either television or movie. (Leonard Nimoy’s version of Holmes as intentionally ‘campy’ and therefore does not enter into the discussion. I never saw William Gillette play the role.)
Jude Law is just perfect as Dr. John Watson. He is pretty much Holmes’ match in physical ability and not lacking in intellect. He ventures off on his own, employing Holmes ‘methods’ and does very well for himself. He fits the part very well.
The interplay between Downey and Law as Holmes and Watson is superb. Their timing and the way they seem spontaneous would give Abbot and Costello envy. One doesn’t see much in the way of acting ‘teams’ in movies anymore, but these two hit it off very well in the Holmes movies. It is entertaining and delightful just to see them do the dialogs.
Stephen Fry is Holmes’ older brother Mycroft. Stephen Fry is marvelous. Mycroft is an employee of Her Majesty’s government; he has no specific title but seems to be an earlier British version of J. Edgar Hoover less the political restraints and self aggrandizement. Mr. Fry is perfect in the role. He appears knowledgeable without being pedantic, mostly dignified (I’d like to club the writer who put in the conversation with Mrs. Watson as shown) without being stuffy and just very believable. He is – absent the one scene – very much as Conan Doyle portrayed him. Intelligent, competent and not one to draw attention to himself.
Mr. Jarad Harris is very good as Professor James Moriarty. He is malevolent, cunning, superficially polite, a sadist and altogether psychotic in the controlled manner. He is very believable in the role and an excellent villain.
Naoomi Rapace is the female interest and ‘indian scout’ for Holmes and Watson. She takes the role of a Gypsy fortune teller and guide into the world of the conspiracy to start the Great War. Her part grows from being an incidental source of information to a key factor in dismantling the conspiracy. She does a very good job of seeming unpredictable while supporting the story line.
I must confess, I have no idea why Rachel McAdams was only featured as a cameo. Perhaps she didn’t want to do the whole movie?
It’s a good movie. It has flaws, but over all it is entertaining to watch and fun to experience. It is satisfying even to this long time Holmes fan. It should probably present well to one with no knowledge of Holmes as well. But they’ll be confused if they read the Holmes canon.