Released: 23rd September
Seen: 27th September
December 26, 2018. A date that will live in infamy. This is the date when Holmes & Watson was released and, despite the year being almost completely finished, made a case to be called one of the worst movies of the year (a case it won, easily, since it made it on my list with 5 days to go!). It was truly a ghastly nightmare but as since then it looks like it may have done something even more sinister… it may have killed the Sherlock Holmes brand!
Think about it, the third RDJ Sherlock Holmes movie has been delayed again, the final season of Elementary hit the airwaves to depressingly low ratings and no one has really touched the property since. It’s damaged goods, broken almost beyond repair. If someone were to try and revive this property, they would need to come at it sideways, maybe via a series that takes the work of Sherlock Holmes as a starting point and creates a new world around it.
Enter Enola Holmes, based on the series by Nancy Springer, which proposes that the Holmes family had a young sister called Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) who wakes up one morning to discover that her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) is missing. She tries to get help from her brothers Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) but they’re a little more interested in getting Enola into a boarding school so she can be raised as a proper lady. Deciding that boarding school sounds like a stupid idea created by dumb people, Enola runs away and ends up bumping into Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who seems to be the target of an assassin. Enola finds herself with two equally difficult tasks, keep Tewkesbury from being murdered and maybe find out what happened to her mother.
Filmed in a style that can only be compared to Guy Ritchie, Enola Holmes is a high energy film that doesn’t slow down for a second, even when it probably should just so the movie can catch its breath. Filled to the brim with heavy stylistic shots, fast cutting and a fourth wall that ceased existing long ago, it’s a little bit too much at times but for the most part the heavy stylism helps give this film some serious forward momentum. It’s hard to resist the urge to just stare in awe as the film rockets past at breakneck pace. It’s not willing to sit still for too long for fear you might get bored, it’s using the style we saw in the two Sherlock movies that everyone likes and hoping that’ll carry it through and for the most part, it does.
To ensure this style works though, I have to actually be fine with the characters breaking that fourth wall as regularly as they do and luckily Millie Bobby Brown is such an engaging charismatic lead that I’m more than happy for her to basically hold our hand and guide us through this world that they’ve created. Apparently, Millie’s been wanting to play this specific character for years and she has fantastic judgement if that’s the case because there is no one else who could bring this character to life as effortlessly as she does. She manages to give the film a charm that it desperately needed in order to work because we really don’t have anyone other than Enola to hold onto. Hell, Sherlock and Mycroft are here because the audience expects it, and judging by the lawsuit that was filed by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle I imagine Netflix wishes they had left those two out entirely (Yes, someone still owns the rights to Sherlock Holmes stories that were written in 1927, because copyright laws are a gigantic mess)
The problem with this film is that, beyond Enola, it’s a little hard to care about any of the characters. Tewkesbury is basically little more than a macguffin that’s there to push plot and little more (he’s a character so bland that he changes his hairstyle at one point and I legitimately thought it was a different person altogether), the headmistress of the school that Enola is sent to is such a standard Fiona Shaw-esque character that they just cast Fiona Shaw and did nothing else with her and even the Holmes brothers aren’t that interesting and one of them is literally played by Superman, I should in some way give a damn about them. Maybe I could argue that Enola’s mother was interesting but she’s also basically just a trinket that we spend the whole film chasing and also she’s played by Helena Bonham Carter who is incapable of being anything other than interesting. I’m not saying they’re bad because I don’t like them, it’s often not important if we like the characters, we’re not meant to like Walter White, Tyler Durden or Travis Bickle but we still find them engaging characters who we’re curious about. Beyond Enola I can’t really say that about anyone here.
Still, Enola Holmes is a fun, fast paced ride that’s certainly a lot of fun with a fantastic lead performance. It’s the kind of movie I hope becomes popular enough to merit sequels because it was a lot of fun and I want to see more of this world where we can hopefully expand on the other characters and give them even half the life that’s been given to the lead. It’s a big gaudy popcorn movie that’s having a lot of fun and really brings the audience with it. It’s not perfect but it’s still a genuinely fun time and right now I think we need a few more fun movies with interesting female leads.