It took me a while to warm up to Guy Ritchie's take on Sherlock Holmes. The whole action hero thing didn't sit well with me. It all seemed too jazzed up, too Hollywood. After my second viewing of Ritchie's stylized Holmes it began to grow on me. Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect person for the role of a man who could, in today's world, probably be diagnosed as a high functioning autistic. So, while Ritchie's update on the world famous fictional detective took a little getting used to, the BBC's new TV series bringing Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century is easy to love right out of the gate.
Imagine Holmes, so fascinated by everything, trying to soak up every ounce of knowledge humanly possible that could at some point help him on a future case. Imagine him in a day and age of computers, the internet, and texting. It's an idea that could go very wrong very fast, but creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have hit all the right notes (unlike Holmes when he absentmindedly plays his violin while thinking). Updating the story of Sherlock Holmes so drastically is a tricky proposition. Like any famous fictional character, Holmes has some very die hard fans who never like to see the original character tinkered with. You might as well be rewriting the Bible.
Gatiss and Moffat have carefully constructed a modern day Sherlock. He's obsessed with his mobile phone, where he can easily look up information vital to the case on the net. Even though he uses technology to his advantage he still keeps that same old Sherlock Holmes "charm" and only carries around a pocket magnifying glass to examine the evidence.
I know what all you Holmes enthusiasts are thinking. Does Benedict Cumberbatch do the famous detective justice? When we first meet Sherlock he looks like a slightly overgrown teenager who hasn't seen much sunlight, but then he starts talking. Cumberbatch is able to run down lists and lists of observational information like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun. He's arrogant, boastful, and completely obtuse to the way the normal social world works. In other words, he's brilliant.
We've all seen Martin Freeman before, who plays Dr. Watson. He's been in 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,' and the original British version of 'The Office.' After meeting Sherlock, Watson is intrigued by his capacity to solve problems. As an army doctor, Watson is dealing with his own demons, one of them being that he might actually miss being at war. So many people hate war, but there's something about violence and mystery that draws Watson along on Sherlock's cases.
With this update, the Holmes story has been given a facelift. Imagine the wit and cleverness of a Sherlock Holmes mystery mixed with the pomp and flare of an episode of 'CSI.' Hopefully the mention of 'CSI' didn't put you off. It's indeed a good thing. I loved the look and feel of these episodes. I loved how, as Holmes investigates a body, random words and numbers fly up on the screen giving us an insight into Holmes' mind's eye. We follow right along with his thought process as he pieces together the clues.
The show isn't so much about the crimes Holmes solves as it is about how Holmes would react being put in a modern day society. What his mannerisms would be, how he would interact with people. How he would use today's technology to help him solve the many mysteries that pop up. How he would risk his life and the lives of others just to prove that he's right.
I can't say enough good things about this series. It's fabulously constructed, down to the last detail. The mysteries aren't predictable, but in the end they're believable. Frankly, any Holmes fan should be proud of a series like this and should find it easy to embrace.
Yes it's true that 'Sherlock' comes to Blu-ray from the BBC with a 1080i video presentation. Is that something that should scare you? Not exactly.
'Sherlock' looks quite good over its three episode run. Blacks are infinitely deep, while the cold color palette shimmers on screen. The show is overrun with dark grays, browns, and blues. London, at night, isn't very colorful. Especially where Holmes and Watson travel, but there's enough detail in the surrounding buildings and their brickwork to keep even the most hardened videophile happy. Closeups on actors reveal quite a lot of detail. I even noticed a few closeups on Holmes that reveal an errant single strand of hair clinging to the shoulder of his coat. Watch for the specks of airborne paper fiber as Holmes carefully slices an envelope open in episode three! Artifacts like blocking are nowhere to be seen. Banding is a slight issue during some of the darker scenes where colors gradually fade away. I saw one bit of aliasing during the second episode as Holmes and Watson go to visit the museum on the grate at the bottom of the stairs. It's a fleeting example, but it's there. Otherwise, this is a solid transfer offering a spot on quality that simply looks fantastic!
Sadly we only get a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound track offered here.
The noticeable aspect about this presentation is that the soundfield seems unbalanced. LFE seems to overpower everything else that's going on. Dialogue, at times, is a muted affair and is hard to hear as Sherlock rambles off observation after observation at lightning quick speed. Rear speakers are active, but at times seem too active as they too overwhelm much of what is going on in the front channels. The original soundtrack booms through the soundstage, almost too heavy at times.
There aren't any terribly glaring issues with the audio presentation, but with this lossy option, much of the presentation seems off balance.
Sherlock Holmes fans are some of the most rabid when it comes to any changes happening to their beloved character. Holmes has gone down in history as one of, if not the most famous fictional detective of all time. Even if you haven't read one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about Holmes and his pal Watson, you still recognize their names when they're mentioned. This update of Sherlock Holmes is the perfect way for people that aren't familiar with the intricacies of the character to finally get involved. It's also perfect for those die hard fans who find themselves wanting more Sherlock detective tales. Dare I say it, this is one of the best adaptations I've ever seen of Holmes.
The video, even though it's in 1080i, looks good enough to present the show with great high-def pop. The audio is lacking with its lossy presentation, but in the end it's a serviceable soundtrack for fans. As far as the special features go, they aren't that extensive, but the commentaries are wonderfully full of information about the show and its creation. Although people may be put off by the fact that there are only three episodes here, they're all around 90 minutes long, and each is essentially a feature length adventure. This set comes recommended.