I remember when this film was first getting hyped up. Guy Ritchie appeared on stage in the autumn of 2008 after a special screening of Rocknrolla for a Q&A session along with supporting actor and Ritchie favourite Mark Strong. In this session he laid mention to Holmes being his next project and that Strong would be playing the villain, and that a certain Mr Downey Jr had just signed to play the lead. Without name dropping he hinted that he had made an offer for the role of Watson who then turned out to be Jude Law.
A year later at the same venue Ritchie and Downey Jr appeared in person to promote the upcoming film with some footage. The film hit cinemas on Boxing Day and despite going head to head with the mighty Avatar – it still managed to pull in some very respectable bank (enough to secure a sequel, which we expect in the next couple of years). In fact Downey Jr could probably spend the next decade hopping between this and Iron Man.
Now the film hits disc this month – it is usually a very sobering experience to watch a film on DVD after seeing it on the big screen. The initial impact is gone, be it visual or story – the film has no more tricks up its sleeve other than general staying power.
The afore mentioned Avatar is already receiving a backlash on disc as audiences are finally realising that beyond the 3D magic the story was actually pretty poor and the action predictable. Holmes on the other hand, although it didn’t get an initial great response, seems to hold its own much more confidently. Whether you are fascinated by the little details that are hanging in the background, or the epic look of a Victorian London, or the banter that is swapped between Holmes and Watson; Sherlock Holmes is a justifiably very entertaining first venture.
Downey Jr can’t seem to play any part badly and it comes as no surprise that he was given awards for his performance. Law is much more restrained, but equally engaging in the put upon role of Watson. The surrounding cast all do their part without the film ever having loose threads. There is even the shadowy presence of Moriarty lurking – waiting to be brought to the fore in a future instalment (I hope they don’t rush that one!).
Ritchie probably got the most criticism when then film was released, and whilst he has a lot of his trademark style over the film – it is kept mainly for scenes involving the use of Holmes’ thought process.
The Blu-Ray release comes with some fairly standard featurettes explaining various parts of the process – but nothing hugely involving. A nice long doc on Conan Doyle, or his creation’s history would have been nice.
The biggest extra is probably the in screen commentary that Ritchie conducts – literally standing in-screen as he discusses various scenes here and there. The rest of this in-screen experience is taken up with text notes and in-screen video interviews. It’s a cut and paste experience that is sometimes disorientating as you go from film to “making of.” A simple commentary would have probably been more effective.
All in all – the film looks beautiful in high definition and the tale itself is still an entertaining one if you like a good romp set in the past. The second film has plenty of opportunity to go up.