I had the same reaction to this new, Sherlock Holmes film, that I had to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I say that in the mindset that I am a solid Harry Potter fan as well as a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories of the famous detective. Guy Ritchie and his team had a clear and justifiable direction in which they wanted to take the film; they claimed to want to tell a grittier, more action-oriented story, with suspense that actually pulled you into the action, rather than simply observing it from afar. He claimed to do so by eliminating the many stereotypes associated with Holmes and his adventures on 221B Baker Street. Or, rather, take things back to before those stereotypes formed. Ritchie’s intentions were honorable and, in some parts of the movie, they worked wonderfully. In others, however, they didn’t.
To put it bluntly, the good was very good and the bad was very bad. The overall character of Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr., was believable, right down to his mannerisms and accent. Meanwhile, I marveled at the entire character development of Irene Addler. They turned her into a full-blown criminal and modern-minded woman, rather than the sophisticated woman she really was in Doyle’s book. Yes, I say that book, singular, on purpose. Addler only appeared in one short story; and, in that short story, she and Holmes were NOT in love, nor was it ever implied. She merely bested him at his own game – the only person, let alone woman to do it – and he respected her for it, which is significant since Holmes did not respect women in general.
On another side of the playing field, the production design was fabulous, while their use of anachronistic devices was staggering, from the misuse of the phrase “down the rabbit hole,” to the extravagant (often unnecessary) fight sequences. The writing was well-written for the most part, as far as dialogue went, and yet I did not care for all the mystical, voodoo, magical…stuff they used in the story. It set the wrong tone as far as I was concerned, a tone too different from that of the books. And yet, in and of itself, it worked cohesively. I just didn’t like it much.
However, the fact that they introduce Professor Moriarty at the end of the film leaves me far more interested in the inevitable sequel than I had in this, first, film. Moriarty has been defined, even in this film, as a character who exists in the same intelligent, detail-filled real world reality in which Holmes, himself, lives. Plus, that final scene when you get the feel for what’s next, for the lead-in to Moriarty, that was straight out of Doyle’s work, for me.
Things I did like were the mentions of Microft (Sherlock’s older brother), Inspector Lestrade as an active character in the film (didn’t much care for the actor, but the character’s presence was great) and the fact that Moriarty’s hands were covered by the classic black gloves and that his briefcase had the “M” on it. Excellent details.
So, overall, I’m about 50/50 with it, and looking forward to the next installment.