Expectations can really mess up your experience.
Everything about the new Sherlock Holmes movie was appealing to me: Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes, Jude Law (who can even make a mustache look cool) as Watson, Rachel McAdams as Holmes’ love-interest/nemesis Irene Adler and Guy Ritchie at the helm directing. All seemed to lead to what would be a thoroughly enjoyable movie experience.
First things first, a sidebar: you must take all of this with a grain of salt…I was seated in the third row of the large AMC theater, which provided a challenge as it was. I do not recommend seeing this movie if the only seats you can find are third row.
Based on the trailers, the plot of the movie isn’t too difficult to sort out. Bad guy uses supposed black magic to take over the world, Holmes and Watson try to thwart him while being occasionally sidetracked by suspect women (McAdams) and lawman of questionable competency.
Honestly, the plot had nothing to do with my feeling let down by the movie. As I twittered, my biggest issues were the following:
- I felt like Rachel McAdams was a throwaway character. Her sole purpose in the movie? To fulfill a Hollywood quota that a rising star actress be on the bill. McAdams was wasted talent, in my opinion. Her scenes lacked much depth at all. She’s a good (arguably great) actress and I just felt like her role could have been portrayed by just about anyone (like Mary, Watson’s betrothed).
- Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood) was just not sinister enough. I guess I never really bought the black magic thing just because Strong (aka Andy Garcia’s doppelganger) never gave me a really sinister performance that made me think he was capable of such nefarious acts. I just thought he was boring.
- All along, I just felt like they were setting up a sequel. Now, don’t get me wrong…this is not something I am opposed to. I hope that with a better writer and a significantly better bad guy, the same cast and director could come up with something a little more complete. What’s this?
These are small quibbles and that’s the bugger about expectations. I found little things to pick on rather than just enjoying the experience (although it was a bit tough from the 3rd row). Unlike Avatar, where I went in with somewhat lower expectations, my high level of anticipation for this flick really worked against me.
OK, now for the good…
- Any scene that involved Holmes and Watson together. This movie was a bromance in a lot of ways and the Holmes/Watson chemistry was perfectly portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. (who is probably one of my favorite living actors) and Jude Law.
- The set design. I’m not ready to give Guy Ritchie his props just yet, but this is by far, his most striking film to date. The look of old school London is somewhat reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, but with a little less macabre.
- The action scenes. I think we can all agree that this is a place where Guy Ritchie should excel and he does here. The movie tends to drag in a couple places, but it is balanced by a few instances of really good action. Not great…but good.
- Robert Downey, Jr. I know that I’ve expressed my appreciation for this guy, but he’s terrific. Without him carrying the movie, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful. He’s such an engaging actor and he portrays the role of Holmes as it was intended by the director.
So the question I always ask myself is: who would I recommend this movie to? It’s certainly not for kids, although teenagers could easily handle it. Meesha claimed that long-time fans of the books will like it (yes, it’s true, he exists…I actually met him) and I think that people looking for something action-packed an fun will like it. I’m not sure it’s the first movie I would recommend this holiday season (AHEM), but for those of you who don’t have a lot of interest in blue people, I think Sherlock Holmes is probably right up your alley.
Also, I’m probably doing you a favor by bringing your expectations for this movie down a bit. So, you’re welcome.