Solving the Mystery of “Sherlock Holmes”

When I used to read “Nancy Drew” novels in elementary school, I was always the most excited about the mystery (go figure.) Needless to say, that was what I was looking forward to when I bought an 11 p.m. ticket for “Sherlock Holmes” on Christmas night.

Sadly, the mental stimulation from my grade school literature surpassed that of an $80 million production – a mystery within itself, I must say.

Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, the 2009 adaptation directed by Guy Ritchie delivers entertainment, but disappoints when considering the reason many audience members paid to watch this movie: the mystery!

The film stars Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock himself, Jude Law as his sidekick Dr. Watson and Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, Holmes’ criminal former flame. The story begins with the execution of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a practitioner of black magic. Before his death, Blackwood requests to see Holmes personally to warn him that three more deaths will occur after his execution that will change the path of the world as they knew it.

After his death, many thought that the eerie crimes witnessed around town would finally end. But three days later his tomb is found shattered from the inside out, and instead of Blackwood’s body in the coffin, police find the body of an unidentified red-haired man. The quest begins for Holmes and Watson to find Blackwood again before Blackwood finds his three victims. With sporadic help from Adler, the duo collects clues from crime scenes in order to track Blackwood’s next victim. They stop at nothing to find this threat to their country with Holmes even attempting to practice black magic to fully understand Blackwood’s future steps.

Sounds like a good story, right? It is. The details within the plot were well thought out and the script was smart. Unlike many mystery stories, “Sherlock Holmes” doesn’t think of unrealistic events just to feed a twist into the story. The problem, though, was that the audience was given zero room to try to figure out the story themselves. With every obstacle came an unnecessarily lengthy and detailed explanation of how it was solved.

It’s a pity because the rest of the film was actually very well-made. The character of Holmes is written the way I would think Doyle would have wanted him to be: arrogant, a bit of a loner, messy in appearance but impeccably tidy in his mind, collecting the tiniest details and linking them all together. A noteworthy style of depiction of Holmes’s personality can be seen in scenes where we are shown the step-by-step thoughts of Holmes seconds before he actually performs them. The casting was all a good fit, the only glitch being McAdams’s inconsistent British accent (but I suppose she makes up for it by being so delicious…what?).

The visuals of the film were also worthy of praise. The fight scene in particular was a memorable one: Holmes goes through his attack plan in his head, strike by strike, to injure his opponent. The slow motion illustrates Holmes careful attention to detail and allows him to calmly narrate strategy.

It’s hard to recommend this film because of how let down I felt with the absence of mental stimulation. But if you’re ever planning on seeing it, I would see it now on the big screen rather than waiting for the DVD since the cinematography makes up for the sub-par storytelling.

However, if you’re like me and expect at least five minutes of intense nail-biting mystery in “Sherlock Holmes,” I’d save my 10 bucks and go buy the books.