The original Sherlock Holmes saga includes fifty-six short stories and four novels. They were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a master storyteller, who like Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot) and Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit), created a fictional character that has assumed the proportions of a real-life hero, not to mention Dr. Watson. Holmes and Watson have been featured in literally dozens of movies (even George C. Scott played Holmes in a great, but mostly forgotten film, “There Might Be Giants”).
The new Sherlock Holmes feature uses this character to plug into a world-wide reserve of memory, in order to produce a movie that is more like a video game than any salute to a great character of fiction (in fact a sequel is already in the works). Director Ritchie (remember, he married Madonna) has packed so much image and action into two hours that it’s hard to remember what’s happening on the right side of the screen, when the left side is licking the banks of the fetid Thames River (and in those days it was one of the most polluted rivers in Europe) or roaming the floor of a slaughter house or checking the contents on one of the most foul laboratories that any technician has ever confronted.
Before we are into the plot that concerns black magic and the destruction of the entire English Parliament (with a villain straight out of Harry Potter), we see Holmes sit in an arm chair and ta-pocket the walls of the flat at 221B Baker Street with a patriotic V. R., enclosed by symbolic hearts, to salute the great queen, as first mentioned in “The Musgrave Ritual.”
Next from “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” we watch Robert Downey, Jr., torment flies in a glass cylinder by plucking the strings of his violin hoping to find a sound frequency that would make the insects fly in a counter-clockwise direction.
We are then introduced to poisonous rhododendron honey (Rhododendron ponticum), produced by bees from the nectar of a common shrub in American and European gardens but the honey when gathered in nature is not collected by the bees into neatly packaged wooden combs.
We meet the English bulldog being beloved by Holmes and Watson (Jude Law), although the adventurous pair never had a dog.
In hospital where Holmes is disguised as a French surgeon, there is a vase of calla lilies in the room. This would never happen as Victorians believed that cut flowers in a sick room would rob the atmosphere of valuable oxygen, hence harm patients.
We hear the time-honored phrase “The game is afoot," which originally came from Henry V, Act III, Scene I, cried out by Holmes to Watson at the beginning of "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange." "Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!"
And there are hints of that master criminal Professor James Moriarty, considered by Holmes to be the Napoleon of Crime, who will obviously be in the next flick.
We have weapons based on the Tesla coil, too, but most of all we have Irene Adler, the one woman who charmed the soul of Holmes. Unfortunately, Miss Adler was not only as smart, if not smarter than Sherlock, but also from the top of her head to the soles of her feet a lady--and not, as played by Rachel McAdams, as a trollop in Victorian guise.
There is one part of the film that should not pass without notice: The acting job by Downey and Law as one of the best duos I’ve seen on the screen truly deserves some kind of award.
With this movie we are one step farther into the world of media mechanics!