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Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/30/2010

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/31/2010

Get in on Blu-ray, DVD, and Download on March 30th!

We've spoken many times in the past about Hollywood's obsession with remakes. Well go ahead and add re-imaginings and reboots to that list as well. For some reason, filmmakers seem to have a thirst for taking established, often perfectly fine characters and updating and changing them. To be fair, in films like Batman Begins, this approached has actually worked, as the character was able to get back to its roots. But others, such as Speed Racer, miss the mark. With Sherlock Holmes, we see a beloved character from classic literature get a fresh look. Will this approach work here?

As Sherlock Holmes opens, famed detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his trusted associate Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), race to stop a cult from committing a ritualistic murder. The duo, aided by the police, arrive in time to stop Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from killing a woman. Holmes and Watson are happy about their success, but there's a sense of melancholy as well, as this will be their last case. Watson is planning on getting married, and he's already made arrangements to move out of the building he shares with Holmes. However, their victory celebration is short-lived when it appears that Lord Blackwood has risen from the grave to continue his murderous ways. Meanwhile, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a thief and an old flame from Holmes' past suddenly arrives to make things interesting. Will Holmes and Watson be able to stop a man who is supposed to be dead?

Despite the fanbase that he's developed, I've never been impressed with Guy Ritchie as a director. I like the fact that he's not afraid to move the camera, but his movies always feel hollow. However, during the first act of Sherlock Holmes, I began to think that Ritchie may have finally turned things around. The film's opening is exciting and the introductions to the characters is well-done. However, once the movie begins to settle down and the story is introduced, things start to go sour.

Even before Sherlock Holmes reaches the halfway point, it becomes obvious that there are two huge problems with this film. First of all, the screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg is an unnecessary mess. (It took three people to write this?) What do I mean by "unnecessary"? If you pulled the basic plot out of the movie, it isn't all that bad. However, the script throws in all sorts of unneeded twists and turns which only serves to make things confusing, not compelling. This slowly becomes one of those movies where things just seem to happen randomly and they have no real meaning. The Irene Adler character arrives with no real backstory and she feels especially useless at times. The oddest part of the film is that no one seems all that surprised or upset when it's reported that Lord Blackwood has returned from the grave. Was that a common occurrence then? As he's a classic character, I'm not sure if the story here was meant to seem wholly original, but when it was revealed in the opening scene that Holmes was up against a hooded cult, I felt as if I'd seen this movie before.

The film's other huge mistake is its new take on the Holmes character. Well, let me amend that -- there's nothing wrong with wanting to take a fresh approach on Holmes. The problem is how they did it here. Gone is the familiar deerstalker hat and overcoat. In their place, we have an unshaven, sullen, and unkempt Holmes. What is meant to be seen as his insight and observational acumen, comes across as anti-social and pompous. In short, this Holmes is instantly unlikable. The fact that he uses his deductive logic in fighting is sort of cool, but otherwise this Holmes is simply a shiftless jerk. In addition, Downey has chosen to mumble his way through the role, so not only do we not like him, we can't understand him.

The worst part of Sherlock Holmes is how humorless the movie is. Yes, I know that it wasn't advertised as a comedy, but Downey usually finds a way to interject some laughs into his movies, but there are none here.

I have to admit, I've never read a Sherlock Holmes book, but I've always liked the idea of the character. Therefore, he deserves a better movie than this. The story is dense, but lacks any real surprises. When Holmes finally explains everything at the end, only the most patient will care. The bad news is that that movie made a killing at the box-office. Someone must have expected this, as the last few minutes is the most obvious set up for a sequel that I've ever seen.

Sherlock Holmes experiments on a dog on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is extremely sharp and clear, showing only a slight hint of grain and no defects from the source material. The image is a tad dark -- due to stylistic choices -- but the action is always visible. The colors look fine and skin looks realistic. The level of detail is very good and we can see textures on clothing. The depth is good as well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. This Disc has one of the best tracks that I've ever heard. The amount of detail is amazing and we hear every minute sound coming from the 5 main channels. The stereo separation is excellent and we always know exactly from where the off-screen sounds are coming. This would be my new demo disc if I ever wanted to see this movie again.

The Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras, most of which are packed into one feature. "Maximum Movie Mode" is hosted by Guy Ritchie, and it includes storyboards, behind-the-scenes footage, and a commentary of sorts, as Ritchie steps into the picture and lets us know what's happening in certain scenes. This different from watching a movie with a commentary, as the film actually stops at times so that things can be explained. If you don't feel like sitting through all of this, the main "Focus Points" (31 minutes) have been pulled out and can be viewed individually. These look at the sets, the costumes, the stunts, visual effects, and a look at the Holmes character. "Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented" (14 minutes) gives a general overview of the making of the film, focusing on the updating of the character. We get interviews with the cast and crew, as well as some on-set footage.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long