I’m aware that some other bloggers – other bloggers whose opinions I deeply respect – didn’t think much to the movie. Some even gave it a right good drubbing.
And so it was that, with no trifling sense of trepidation, I accompanied my good lady wife to the cinema on Saturday to sample Ritchie’s latest offering for myself.
I loved it. There. I’ve said it. I liked Robert Downey’s Holmes. His performance was captivating. Jude Law was also excellent as Watson. This is the first film I’ve seen Law in when I haven’t wanted to repeatedly punch his smooth smarmy little face until it resembled a blister pack full of Ibuprofen. Maybe it was the moustache? It suited him. Made him less smug. It’s why I have one, naturally.
But of course, I’m not at all precious about the Sherlock Holmes shtick. I’ve never bought into it. Never read the books. Never watched the various TV series and films that regularly pop up on our screens. I’m aware of the legend, of course, but... I’m quite happy for it to be played with. Quite happy for it to be sullied, profaned, pimped and perversely tweaked.
A good job really because this is precisely what Ritchie has done. The fiddle has been kept but the deerstalker and the droopy pipe have gone. The genius intellect is naturally there – it’s intrinsic to the character – but it’s been shackled to a manic, emotionally inept, impulsive, child-man who plainly has ADD and an extreme sports’ addiction to thrills and danger.
And it works. I’ve long believed that any genius must surely plumb the depths as much as he soars to the heights. There must be a balance. The obsessive compulsive behaviour of Downey’s Holmes makes him more real to me. More flesh and blood. More man. There was always something too... stiff, automaton-like about Doyle’s original creation. He was far too “literary”. He couldn’t possibly be real. But Downey’s Holmes – superhuman brawling abilities aside – could be.
And I know others have suggested that Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood in the movie) would have made a better Holmes. But I disagree. As good an actor as Strong is (and he is) there is something too... measured, too chained down about him. His Holmes would have been flat and bland. Downey’s portrayal was rich in suggestion and paradox. Again this makes him more real. More human.
Lastly, although much of London in the movie was CGI’d, I thought it done with care and love. Ritchie obviously knows London. Knows it intimately. This came over in the beautifully crafted establishing shots of the city. The views were true. They weren’t some awful Mary Poppins cartoon approximation of London and “her famous landmarks”. There was something real about them too. And I loved the detail: the ordure on the streets, the filthy glass in the windows of the horse drawn carriages... grit, grit and more girt. All keeping it real.
Ultimately of course the film was just a romp. Good natured. Fantastical. Rumbustious. Honest. With the odd bit of discombobulation thrown in for good measure. I needed something light-hearted and fun and that was what I got. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might be spinning in his grave but I was clapping my hands on the cinema seat with sheer pleasure.
Would I go again?
Elementary, my dear Watson.