Sherlock Holmes is one of the most durable characters in all of history. He has a wide fan base, and he has appeared on stage, in movies, in books (not authored by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), and in original stories and books by creator Doyle. Holmes is known for his charisma, topsy turvy moods, almost supernatural powers of deduction, and eccentricities like firing guns indoors at his residence and, of course, his notorious drug abuse (a habit he kicked in the original stories). The Holmes of “Mr. Holmes” has none of these traits. This movie is supposed to be about the “real” Holmes (Note: Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character, but the movie treats him like he was a real person).
Rather than charismatic, he is closer to a very vocal, royal pain in the rear. His housekeeper hates him more than Mrs. Hudson ever did in the stories, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s still moody, but there’s none of the charm and tenderness that came with it in Doyle’s stories. The Holmes of Doyle’s imaginings was up and down, a whirlwind of passion, and that often manifested itself in love for his true blue friend Watson.
Because the Holmes of the movie has early Alzheimer’s, he can’t dazzle us with his problem solving abilities. Apparently, his days of getting high and firing off a gun on a whim are also long gone. This is probably for the best, because firearms and cocaine don’t mix well with Alzheimers. He’s just your typical, angry old man with a bee farm, and it’s not charming. He’s a has-been trying to find himself after years of living without a heart.
If readers wonder why there has been zero mention of what Watson is like in the movie, it’s because Watson isn’t even in the movie. He’s only shown as some blurry image in the background of a flashback sequence, and that’s because he’s dead. It’s revealed in the movie that Holmes and Watson were estranged at the time of Watson’s death, and they never got to say a proper goodbye. Sherlock had cut out everyone from his past and moved from Baker Street decades ago.
There is also little to say about Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. Mycroft is also deceased in the film. Sherlock reveals that he briefly left his exile on his bee farm in the country to retrieve Mycroft’s things at the Diogenese Club. When he got there, he found a case of books. They were all Watson’s tales of Sherlock. Clearly, Mycroft had his thoughts on Sherlock, even if Sherlock had cut out his own brother years earlier.
Holmes only had one friend and one brother. Besides those two, there was no one else that he was close to in his life. Those two men were essentially his only family, but he hid himself away from them for years.
This movie shows Holmes as a wretched person who cannot figure out how to connect with other people. He is supposed to be the “actual” Holmes that is nothing like the “fictional” Holmes of books and movies. He was never an unwavering friend to Watson or the respectful younger brother of Mycroft. He’s just a narcissist.
While there is some hope for the “real” Sherlock Holmes, he does show some rehabilitation of character, who wants this 93 year old jerk to be the biopic version of Holmes? Do Sherlock Holmes fans need a realistic, biopic version of the character? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created a foolproof hero and plot formula. There was no need to mess with the original.