Have any of you ever heard of Steampunk? Apparently it’s a style of fiction, often associated with sci-fi or fantasy, generally set in Victorian England, with a specific attention to being all around bad ass and action oriented. Think Charles Dickens, but fun to read. Featuring steam-powered gadgets either present at the time or fictional evolutions of modern technology. According to Wikipedia it’s been around for like thirty years. Weird, huh? Until Sherlock Holmes, I’d never heard of it either.
The first twenty minutes of Holmes are busy, loud, and abrasive. Introducing the heroes, villains, the general plot, and (most importantly) the world all at once. And all of it wrapped up in thick British accents. It isn’t until the chase seen resolves and everybody calms down do we actually get to catch our breath and realize that what we’re watching is fun, rather than overwhelming.
Once given a chance to get to know these characters, we see how well thought out the movie is. Sherlock Holmes, brilliantly played (as per usual) by Robert Downey Jr., isn’t just a smart, über-observant guy. He’s a nearly autistic, utterly brilliant, complete basket case of a man. Watson, Jude Law (everybody’s favorite Brit), is literally the ONLY man who can contain/deal with his train wreck of a partner and keep him working.
The film also offers us an interesting twist on traditional fight scenes. Holmes, being the weirdo that he is, actually maps out how he’s going to win the fight before he engages it. And, of course, he’s always right. He is the world’s greatest detective. Except, of course, for Batman.
Their villain is a man who conducts black magic, and stuff. Convenient, since his name is Lord Blackwood, played by Mark Strong. He’s creepy and running some huge conspiracy to totally change the world and insists that he and Mr. Holmes are at the center of it all, forever wrapped up in an eternal struggle. And so on.
The real star of this movie, which brings us back to this whole Steampunk thing, is the city of London in the 1890s. Nearly every action sequence or great act of detective work fully incorporates the gritty, dirty world of the late industrial revolution. A sword fight a top an unfinished version of the London drawbridge. The ragged street folk constantly milling around the background. All of this atmosphere shapes up to be the most interesting character of the whole movie.
All in all, I’d say this movie isn’t a raging success. Despite its twists and turns on the classic vision of an old character, it still manages to just add up to a traditional action movie. But it’s still a good movie and fun to watch. Robert Downey Jr. always carries an irresistible charm to a film and he turns it up high on this one.
He almost makes this character as loveable as Tony Stark.