First up, is this past holiday's smash hit, Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey, Jr. plays the title role while Jude Law plays Dr. Watson. Both actors do a great job in this new, action hero-light version of a Sherlock Holmes story.
Holmes can be played many different ways. In this film, Downey portrays Holmes as an eccentric genius whose barely holding onto his sanity. Holmes needs a constant challenge to his intellect or he becomes dangerously depressed. If he lived in modern times, he'd either be working for the NSA or locked up in a mental institution as a danger to society.
Luckily for the detective's brain, he becomes engaged in a twisted mystery of demonic cults and witchcraft that tests his wits to the fullest. I came into this film knowing his stories were rooted in reality so it was a tad predictable that Holmes would eventually pick apart each seemingly supernatural event that happens in the film and explain them with simple, real world logic.
However predictable the plot of the movie, the ride the movie makers take the audience on isn't any less enjoyable. There are great gag sequences where Holmes and Watson bumble their way through insurmountable odds. I also enjoyed how Holmes broke down a fight in his brain and then executed every move to perfection. The physical special effects in these fighting spots were really tremendous. It really looked like Holmes was breaking jaws and delivering devastating blows to his enemies.
Rachael McAdams plays a quasi-romantic interest for Holmes. I'm not sure if her character has an established history in the universe created by Sir Author Conan Doyle or if she was created for the film. She just felt odd to me and her effect over Holmes seemed out of character for him. The detective's advanced intellect almost makes him incapable of real human emotion and his fumbling over her every step felt a little forced.
A few more quick points, both in the positive and negative categories.
I thought the score of the film was really unique and really stood out.
I had a lot of trouble understanding Robert Downey, Jr. throughout the whole film. He kind of mumbles in this gruff understated voice and I'm certain I missed half of what I'm sure were witty one liners.
Overall, the special effects worked perfectly in creating the world of historical London. In a movie like this, it is really the job of the effects to put you squarely in the world and they shouldn't pop out at you like they do in a sci-fi or superhero movie. The effects succeed quite well in this regard.
I can't wait for the sequel which will delve into Holmes's rivalry with Professor Moriarty. If it's anywhere as close in execution as this first film, is should be tremendously fun.