[Fresh on 4K] 2009’s ‘SHERLOCK HOLMES’ doesn’t have much of a clue on UHD disc

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr.Jude LawRachel McAdams, Mark Strong and Eddie Marsan
Now available on 4K UHD.

Modern movie going audiences may be surprised to hear that there was once a time when Robert Downey Jr. was involved in projects that didn’t involve superheroes. 2009’s SHERLOCK HOLMES features Downey Jr. in the height of his comeback as a Hollywood juggernaut, and simply put, it’s hard not to have a great time during this movie. It’s a shame the same cannot be said of this 4K release.

Movie Grade: B+

After Holmes and his lifelong Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) foil the evil criminal plans of Lord Henry Blackwood (Mark Strong), all seems right with the world. Blackwood receives his due justice at the end of a noose, and Watson prepares to retire from detective work to settle down with his fiancée, Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). But when Blackwood mysteriously returns from beyond the grave, Sherlock must convince his dear friend to take up the case before Blackwood can carry out his evil plans to take over the world.

It’s a simple story, but part of what makes the film such a pleasure to experience comes from director Guy Ritchie’s iconic use of slow motion and frantic editing. In combination with Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-nominated musical score and RDJ’s brilliant performance as the legendary detective, this makes for a truly stellar cinematic experience. 

Video/Audio Grade: C+

SHERLOCK HOLMES arrives on 4K UHD after an upscale treatment from a 2K Digital Intermediate. This is a relatively common practice for Warner Bros when re-releasing films from the early 2000s, and this process yields typically considerably impressive results. However, the picture quality on display, in this case, is shockingly dull. There are a handful of moments where the increased resolution adds a slight uptick in clarity, but the vast majority of this film’s shots are frustratingly washed out. Areas that typically receive increases in detail, such as costume design, facial textures, and set decoration, appear far less refined than the format would suggest. 

Perhaps the 4K version’s only saving grace is its inclusion of HDR. The increased color depth is most welcome, considering the film’s desaturated tones to showcase London’s foray into the Industrial Revolution. Many of the film’s darker scenes are greatly improved upon with deeper blacks. There is still a frequently noticeable layer of grain throughout the film, but this appears to be a stylistic choice rather than poor lighting conditions. 

The 4K disc includes the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 track found on the 2009 Blu-ray release. A remastered Dolby Atmos track or even an upgrade to a 7.1 mix would have been a most welcome improvement, but unfortunately, this film does little to take advantage of top of the line home audio setups. That said, the 5.1 track is by no means bad. The use of bass during the numerous slow-motion sequences is a nice touch, and the score makes frequent use of the rear left and right channels. 

Extras Grade: C

There are no special features on the 4K disc of any kind. The included 1080p Blu-ray contains the same offering of bonus content from previous releases, including the short-lived Warner Bros staple, Maximum Movie Mode. This is still an interesting take on presenting a commentary by a film’s director, and it would have been very nice to see this feature carry over to the 4K disc. Sadly, the extras on the 1080p Blu-ray will likely be of little interest to second-time buyers. First-time buyers may get a kick out of it, but this begs the question why they shouldn’t just pick up the 2009 Blu-ray release in the first place.

A digital copy code is also included in the case.

Special Features: 

  • Maximum Movie Mode (132 Minutes)
  • Focus Points (31 Minutes)
  • Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented (14 Minutes)
  • BD-Live Functionality

Final Grade: C+

One would think that a 4K re-release about a character with an uncanny ability to perceive the smallest of details would put a similar amount of effort into allowing the audience to do the same. For first time buyers, there’s plenty of reason to enjoy Guy Ritchie’s signature break-neck pacing and Downy Jr.’s brilliant performance with this release. However, fans who were hoping to justify double-dipping are advised to leave this mystery unsolved.

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