Why Sherlock Holmes is this year's Batman Begins

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

You know Sherlock Holmes was conceived to be a lucrative franchise, but they definitely took the classiest, most highbrow route to doing it. Just as Batman Begins re-established a familiar hero, teasing the possibility of future adventures, so does Sherlock Holmes. It excites us about intelligent crime solvers and makes us want to see more. It's the most fun you'll have at the movies this year.

The film shows how Holmes' (Robert Downey Jr.) mind works as he solves the opening crime scene. He catches Lord Blackwood, who gets sentenced to death. However, Blackwood's return from the dead keeps the case open and leads Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) to investigate whether Blackwood has supernatural powers.

You can pretty much tell Downey is in charge of this thing. He distinguishes Holmes with all the little tricks that make Downey awesome. He's not just the generic hero going through the adventure. He's so smart that he's bored without brain work to do. He's so perceptive that social situations clutter his senses. Downey creates a hero even cooler than Iron Man. He's everything you want in a hero, and he leaves nothing lacking.

Holmes and Watson certainly make a dynamic duo. Their banter is so smart and snappy, you'll have to see it over and over again to take it all in. Law's performance is so strong you can imagine Watson having his own movie. He's just gracing this one with his presence, probably as a favor to his buddy Holmes.

There is plenty of sleuthing going on, so don't worry that they've turned Sherlock Holmes into an action hero. The action totally works, though. It feels like it belongs in the investigation. The big set pieces are smart, too, so it's more than just plain spectacle. Who knew Victorian London was so exciting?

The Victorian-era London of Sherlock Holmes almost looks like a 300-type landscape. It's not created entirely digitally, but it's overcast in a surreal way that makes it look like a fantasy realm, not a historical locale. It adds to the fun. If it's like Batman Begins and 300, what more could you want?

The film makes the supernatural and sci-fi elements obvious without blatantly hammering them at you. Holmes busts in on an occult ceremony and you know what that is, but they don't have to sit there and tell you, "Now, this is a sacrifice and they're using evil magic." The steampunk gadgets and contraptions are cool. The way they operate makes perfect sense. The only thing is they don't actually exist.

The Guy Ritchie style is actually pretty restrained. He brings in the crazy stuff only when it makes sense in the story. He introduces sped-up and slowed-down visuals and time jumping to show how Holmes thinks. It's Guy Ritchie's best movie by far, and maybe Robert Downey Jr.'s too. They've both done amazing work, but this is the total package. It's everything I'd want in a movie.