It's a rare thing to get generally decent reviews, open to $62 million, slowly but surely cross $200 million domestic and $500 million worldwide, win a Golden Globe for lead actor and still end up with no respect. But that is the fate that faces Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes as it makes its way to home video. Completely overshadowed by Avatar, this relatively successful franchise starter had to deal with constantly being referred to as 'the other movie' in a holiday season that it expected to dominate. Oversold as a slam-bang action adventure that retrofitted the world's greatest detective as a Playstation 3/Twitter/Facebook friendly action star, the film reveals itself as a relatively character driven detective story that has only a token amount of gratuitous action.
While Ritchie's film is a flawed and often messy picture, it is an interesting piece of work and contains two surprisingly challenging lead performances. Come what may, Robert Downey Jr. resists the urge to simply play Holmes as Tony Stark in period London, as his work has a certain morose and low-key desperation at its core. His Holmes is a sad, confused man who has realized that his uncommon intellect and obsessive nature has come at a cost, as it has rendered him completely at odds with the world around him. He rarely speaks above a whisper, often mumbles, and takes no real joy in what he does aside from the relief at temporarily being useful. Contrasted with that is Jude Law's delightful turn as Dr. John Watson. While countless prior adaptions has rendered Watson as a bumbling fool, this film gets it right. Holmes may be an anti-social genius, but Watson is bloody brilliant too, but with an ability to actually enjoy his life and take pleasure in his relationships. If this sounds familiar to TV fans, now you know who Dr. Gregory House and Dr. James Wilson are based on.
To the film's credit, the film is surprisingly light on spectacle, with only a handful of action set pieces and only one completely gratuitous action detour (a large-scale scene of combat, chase, and property destruction at the halfway point that resolves nothing and reveals no new information). The majority of the film is what you'd expect: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson working together to solve a case. While the case in question is relatively mundane (and surprisingly similar to Young Sherlock Holmes), it makes a token amount of sense when all is revealed. And, without giving too much away, the film earns major kudos for ending not merely with a bloated action climax, but with a long scene of Holmes explaining in intricate detail just how he deduced all of the clues (Adrian Monk would be proud).
While the film has serious pacing issues (it takes nearly the entire first act for the game to become afoot) and most of the supporting cast is wasted (Rachel McAdams is the very definition of the 'token love interest'), the picture earns its keep by placing emphasis on character and mystery rather than pyrotechnics and spectacle. Above all else, the film is about a deep friendship between two colleagues that allows them to do great things together. Come what may, the film feels very much like a Sherlock Holmes picture. And while the climactic sequel-set up is laughably over-baked, this is a franchise that is worth developing. I genuinely look forward to the sequel.
For more about the Blu Ray itself, including why the Blu Ray actually looks better than most theatrical prints and how to participate in a live online chat with Robert Downey Jr, go to the rest of this article at Mendelson"s Memos.