Not your father’s Sherlock Holmes

I went to see Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes on New Year’s Day while my daughter attended a birthday party at the mall. I will readily admit that I’ve never read nor seen a Sherlock Holmes story – ever. I grew up knowing about this legendary sleuth and saw commercials on TV regarding old black and white movies and tv shows, particularly the ones shown on BBC. It’s not that I didn’t like the character. For some reason, I just couldn’t relate to him. Something about how he was always portrayed on screen or on book covers that I didn’t find appealing. Perhaps it was that funny hat he wore and the constant smoking of the pipe or the pretentious use of his magnifying glass.

He seemed old to me. Not that I have anything against geriatric heroes, both literary and onscreen, but I just never could connect with the good ol’ sleuth.

Enter Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes with the lead character played by none other than Robert Downey, Jr. I immediately rolled my eyes and wondered, “what the heck?” Guy Ritchie couldn’t find a British actor to play the role? Isn’t Downey busy doing a ton of other movies? Surely there must be a starving, highly talented British actor in London that could’ve fit the bill.  I must admit that as much as I like Robert Downey Jr., I just couldn’t see him in the role. Here’s yet another American actor playing a British role.

And Guy Ritchie doing a period piece? Sherlock Holmes? I loved RocknRolla, Snatch, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels but I just didn’t know if this was going to be a good idea. I was really hoping for this movie to be really good, praying that Downey’s performance would transcend the role and that Guy Ritchie would do the character justice.

I should’ve had more faith. The movie was great! Hats off to Guy Ritchie for directing a great movie. I marveled at how he actually transported the viewers to a 1800’s London. The costumes, sets and art direction were right on the money. Kudos to everyone who worked on the film. The dialogue was witty and smart, true to the characters. The action wasn’t over the top, just barely believable and well paced. The mystery wasn’t too perplexing (although there was a twist or two in plot) but I loved how everything was executed and neatly solved at the end in typical Holmes fashion.

Downey’s performance as well as Jude Law’s portrayal of Dr. Watson were whimsical, humorous and most importantly, fresh. I know that there are many out there that may frown upon Ritchie’s liberal take on Holmes’ fighting prowess but in the novels (which I recently just picked up), it does state that Sherlock Holmes is an accomplished boxer and swordsman. Guy Ritchie made Sherlock Holmes cool. Sherlock Holmes is now an action hero but still retains his brilliance and intelligence as a mystery-solving detective. Casting Downey was brilliant. He’s such a great actor (yeah, I said great. He truly is) that I completely forgot he was an American actor playing Sherlock. He became Sherlock Holmes.

On a side note before I forget, the music. The minute the movie started the music grabbed my attention. Anyone who knows me knows that I love movie soundtracks. I have my favorite composers and always try to identify them if I don’t know beforehand or see their name on the opening credits when viewing a movie. This time around I was very stupefied as to who was the composer. There were no credits in the beginning of the movie (save for the title) so I had to actually wait until the end to see the credits roll by and reveal this mystery composer.

It was none other than Hans Zimmer! I was very impressed. Much too often, composers tend to be uninspired or lazy and start to reuse elements of other film compositions and mashed them together, giving the music a familiar tone. In this case, it was completely different and a welcomed change in his list of movie soundtracks. I bought it the next day on Amazon as a digital download ($7.90 compared to $9.99 on iTunes).

After the movie I went to Barnes & Noble and picked up The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I (hardcover, $7.95). Been reading it ever since and was surprised to see how many elements Guy Ritchie wove into his movie and kept the character traditional and yet fresh, new and exciting. I think he can single-handedly bring in a new generation of readers to appreciate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character into the 21st century.

I recently discovered on IMDB that a sequel to this movie may be in the works. If it is true, I hope Guy Ritchie helms it. I can see no other director doing it. I will be the first on line to see it!

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