Classic culture constantly updates itself to remain relevant to popular culture. From Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to “PLAY!“, a symphony that plays video game music, all types of entertainment are bridging that gap between classy and cool. One might wonder how to take the analytical, perceptive, cerebral detective Sherlock Holmes and make him successful again in today’s culture. Well, quite simply, take the parts of people that haven’t changed much and play them up. Holmes can use his acuity to setup an attack on a foe as vicious as that in Batman Begins or The Bourne Identity. And I think our love of Superbad and Napoleon Dynamite shows that we love awkwardness and bromances more than ever.
The general plot follows a classic detective setup: Holmes and Dr. John Watson apprehend Lord Blackwood at the beginning of the movie in the midst of a occult ceremony and have him hanged 3 months later. Soon after, however, Blackwood apparently rises from the grave, and Holmes must investigate Blackwood’s resurrection and stop a plan in action. Along the way, he meets Irene Adler, an American thief working for a third-party and odd love interest.
Though the movie is just over 2 hours long, you won’t get bored watching Holmes jump from scene to scene. Like many crime dramas today, the movie runs through a series of scenes played out in live-action, only to have Holmes come by later and put together more parts of the scene from details around the room. The action involves all the fisticuffs and explosions you could want and keep the movie moving through potentially slow points. Although somewhat formulaic, the setup stays fresh through moody scenery and Holmes’s insights.
We, of course, crave deep characters on top of an engaging plot, and the cast delivers. Having once been a House watcher, I’m familiar with the portrayal of Holmes-inspired characters, but Robert Downey Jr. plays the original with perfect strangeness. He fights scrappy, exhibits hilarious antipathy and scorn for others, and ribs and toys with his assistant Watson at every turn. Jude Law, playing Watson, plays the foil against Holmes. For his own development, Watson is engaged and planning to move out, beginning a tug-of-war between his desire to move on with his life and his knowledge that Holmes very much needs him. Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood is suitably sinister, though his character isn’t particularly interesting. Similarly, Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler isn’t prominent enough to make her relationship with Holmes anything more than an amusing side note.
Just like many of the series reboots we’ve seen recently, Sherlock Holmes isn’t quite your classic Sherlock Holmes, but what you remember probably isn’t the best part of it. Maybe the action is rawer, and maybe subtlety gives way to cinematic epicness, but the essential cleverness and methods are all there. It won’t make you think very hard, but I give it the slow head nod for having been a lot of fun.