One of the most famous literary characters ever created. I am once again a horrible English major and have not read the tales. They’re sitting on my bookcase; I’ll get to them…eventually. There have been many incarnations of Sherlock and his faithful sidekick Watson throughout the years. Basil Rathbone from the Golden Age of Hollywood is iconic. Christopher Lee was involved as well. Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin from the original Star Wars), Christopher Plummer, John Cleese, Ian McKellen, and of course, BBC’s smash hit Sherlock made starts out of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. And I love that show, though along with new fans everywhere I was confused when the episodes ran long and at the end of the third one; “where’s the rest of the season?”
This iteration features Robert Downey Jr (this movie came out a year after the first Iron Man) as Sherlock Holmes, Jude Law (now part of the MCU with a role in Captain Marvel, he’s also recently portrayed a younger Albus Dumbledore in Grimes of Grindewald [which I still have not seen], and I adore him in The Holiday) is his partner John Watson. Irene Adler, “the woman” is played by Rachel McAdams (again, now part of the MCU as Christine from Doctor Strange [made even more ironic since Strange is played by Cumberbatch, she has now starred opposite two Sherlock’s. Oh, there are a bunch of fans who want the line “No shit, Sherlock,” to show up and Downey and Cumberbatch just look at each other], also famous from Mean Girls and The Notebook [that movie will not appear in this blog]). Mark Strong (we just saw him in Young Victoria, and know him from Robin Hood) made his mark as Lord Henry Blackwood, accompanied by Hans Matheson (Mordred in Mists of Avalon and Thomas Cranmer in The Tudors) as Lord Coward. And if the palm reader looks familiar, she was Isolde’s maid in Tristan and Isolde. The soundtrack is composed by Hans Zimmer.
We jump right into the middle of a case. Sherlock enters first and begins taking down the guards. I like how this movie frames some of his analytical thoughts, when he imagines how an opponent will react and plans his own defense. He finds a man practicing dark arts, ready to sacrifice a woman on an altar. Watson joins Sherlock and they capture their adversary, Lord Blackwood. Quick time jump, we’re at 221 Baker Street where Watson is preparing to move once he marries. First, he has to rescue his roommate from his own mind; Sherlock’s mind rebels at stagnation, he requires work. Taking down Blackwood was their last case, but they’ll attend his hanging together. Watson wants Sherlock to meet Mary.
Dinner…could have gone better. Mary insists that Sherlock make deductions about her, even though he and Watson protest at first. Sherlock, concerned for his friend, deduces that Mary has been engaged before, but assumes that she broke the engagement for better prospects. Actually, the man died, and Watson was aware. Sherlock finds his way to a boxing match (Rocky Road to Dublin is played underneath) and expertly takes his opponent down, despite a brief distraction from a woman. Come morning, Sherlock is Blackwood’s last request. Blackwood warns Sherlock there will be more deaths. The criminal is hung and Watson pronounces him dead.
Back at Baker Street, Sherlock has a visitor, Irene Adler. She has a case for Sherlock. When she leaves, Sherlock demonstrates he is a master of disguise and follows her, glimpsing her mysterious employer. His day is ruined when word arrives that Lord Blackwood has risen from the dead. Watson accompanies him, just until he has to meet Mary’s parents, and find a ring. Buried in Blackwood’s coffin is the man that Irene is looking for, which leads them to a lab that combines sorcery and science. A few thugs show up to tie up loose ends and there is a smashing fight between Watson, Sherlock, and the three men (one of whom is large). This carries on to a shipyard and results in a partially completed ship sailing into the water and promptly sinking. Watson and Sherlock are arrested.
They bicker like a married couple. “Get that out of my face.” “It’s not in your face, it’s in my hand.” “Get what’s in your hand out of my face.” Mary kindly bails Watson out. Sherlock has to wait until Lestrade comes with orders from friends in high places. They blindfold Sherlock, but that doesn’t prevent him from deducing where he is and who he is dealing with. They are a secret society with the intention to steer the world to their liking. Blackwood has grown too powerful and is a threat. Sherlock will stop him, but not for the society and not for a price.
Sherlock tries to warn Irene about the dangerous man she is now dealing with, but she drugs the wine. A bit hilarious later when a maid enters the room to find a naked Sherlock (modesty covered by a pillow) handcuffed to the bed. There has been another death, Blackwood’s father in his bathtub. Sherlock discovers a secret room. At a meeting of the secret order, another member dies, who opposes Blackwood. This leads him, and Watson, to a factory where they find and rescue Irene, only to be caught in an explosion, Watson more so than Sherlock. A friend on the police force finds Sherlock and warns him that there is a warrant out for his arrest, and assures him Watson is still alive. Sherlock briefly visits his friend, in disguise, and is encouraged by Mary to find the man responsible, Watson would say it’s worth the wounds.
Irene tries to leave her employment, but the professor will not allow it. She was supposed to manipulate Sherlock’s feelings for her, not succumb to them herself. He wants what Blackwood is working on. Sherlock descends down the rabbit hole (reference to Alice in Wonderland) and deciphers Blackwood’s spell. Then fills is in to Irene and Watson the next morning. It involves the sphinx and the four elements. Sherlock sends his two companions away so he can be arrested by Lestrade so he can see Lord Coward. The final puzzle piece fall into place and the trio prevent Blackwood from unleashing a chemical weapon upon Parliament. Irene gets away with the radio control feature and Sherlock faces off against Blackwood on the Tower Bridge, which is under construction. Blackwood does hang this time, permanently.
Mary and Watson stop by for a visit, Mary sporting a large engagement ring; a present from Sherlock, featuring a stone Irene stole. And Sherlock is on to a new case, involving Professor Moriarty.
This was my first true exposure to Sherlock Holmes and I was hesitant going in to it. But I love it. Robert Downey Jr. (this was also one of the first roles I watched him in, I didn’t get into Iron Man until afterwards) is excellent; the fight scenes are superb. Watson is serious and suffering. Sherlock is quirky and eccentric; Jude Law and Robert play off each other well. The music almost has a steampunk vibe to it, with the persistent tempo underneath and making use of some rather unconventional instruments. The story line keeps me intrigued. Overall, a very good film.
Next Time: A Game of Shadows