Without nary a “The game’s afoot, Watson!” or even “Elementary, my dear Watson”, but with a nod towards “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” at the conclusion, we are shown a Sherlock Holmes that lies beneath the cultured and stoic Victorian and Edwardian image we have built of him in his latest incarnation in Sherlock Holmes.
I will admit that when I saw that Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark was a perfect role for him) was to play the part so beautifully embodied by the late Jeremy Brett that I trembled and silently swore that nothing good could come from it. Holmes had been done good and badly, but I thought this another one of those ridiculous “reboot” movies that are all the rage and it would destroy the image of The Great Detective.
Happily, I was proven wrong.
While the image of Holmes that is presented in the film is not the one that most people have (no deerstalker hat makes an appearance, nor does his great Inverness cloak), the person is very truthful to the Holmes of the written word. For example, Watson notes that Holmes was an expert in boxing, and there are several incidences in the canon when he employs that activity, so it is not too farfetched to have him involved in such an endeavor as portrayed in the film. What I thought was well done was the way in which Holmes planned, with extremely logical and cold, scientific reasoning his actions and the results and then carried them out. That was the way his mind worked.
What was refreshing was there was no attempt to “reboot” the Holmes-Watson companionship, but to assume it had been going on and that Watson was in the midst of his getting ready to marry Mary Morstan (from The Sign of Four, the second Holmes novel) and move to “new digs”. And, at the end, that is still the case. This episode is just that – an episode in the larger universe of Holmes and Watson.
Irene Adler is there, of course. And, fortunately, there is no un-Holmesian romantic attraction at all, but an admiration of the two for each other, as is befitting “the woman.” And even though Professor James Moriarty (who made only one infamous appearance in the whole of the written canon) is introduced, we know nothing of his intentions, thus setting up a hopeful sequel.
Two other small trifling points I would like to make. One is that in this movie, all the CGI is done so well that you don’t notice it. Mostly. There are a few times when it is evident, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with its cleverness – it simply is there to enhance and make the texture of the movie all that much more enjoyable. Secondly, if any of you never thought you would hear Holmes decry, “Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay” need to go back to “The Adventure of the Cooper Beeches.’
Sherlock Holmes has a storyline fully aware of where it comes. And it also shows that special effects add to and enhance a well-conceived plot, rather than take it over (as in Avatar.) Holmes I will buy on DVD if for nothing else than to regal in its careful texture of both story and setting. And, of course, to watch The Great Detective once again move through the alleys and streets of London.