Sherlock Holmes (4K Blu-ray Review)

Sherlock Holmes made its way to the premier 4K Blu-ray format last week! Has time been kind to the big budget Guy Ritchie revamp? Let’s relive 2009 with Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams in a dingy dirty London and see how it holds up, shall we?


First, here’s the synopsis:

Sherlock Holmes has made his reputation finding the truth at the heart of the most complex mysteries. With the aid of Dr. John Watson, his trusted ally, the renowned “consulting detective” is unequaled in his pursuit of criminals of every stripe, whether relying on his singular powers of observation, his remarkable deductive skills, or the blunt force of his fists. But now a storm is gathering over London, a threat unlike anything that Holmes has ever confronted…and just the challenge he’s looking for. After a string of brutal, ritualistic murders, Holmes and Watson arrive just in time to save the latest victim and uncover the killer: the unrepentant Lord Blackwood. As he approaches his scheduled hanging, Blackwood–who has terrorized inmates and jailers alike with his seeming connection to dark and powerful forces–warns Holmes that death has no power over him and, in fact, his execution plays right into Blackwood’s plans. And when, by all indications, Blackwood makes good on his promise, his apparent resurrection panics London and confounds Scotland Yard. But to Holmes, the game is afoot. Racing to stop Blackwood’s deadly plot, Holmes and Watson plunge into a world of the dark arts and startling new technologies, where logic is sometimes the best crime-fighting weapon…but where a good right hook will often do the job.

Now, here’s my take:

All of that sounded so interesting right? I can totally relate to the excitement of what you just read and also of the awesome trailer I saw of Sherlock Holmes all the way back in 2009.  The thing that always remains with me was that I saw the cast and the cool new way Ritchie was trying to bring Sherlock and his world into the 21st century and it felt so impressive.  What scale! What a cast! What a cool way to do a fight scene! But that’s just it – The best of the film is in that trailer.

It’s really unfortunate that the best bits were all reserved for one preview.  This is not a new phenomenon or anything, but it is a frustrating one.  Sherlock Holmes should certainly have had more going on when you think of a story about a Satanist cult and murders, you think of all the cool thriller elements that could take place and you also think of the race against time that could be making you as a viewer take to the edge of your seat in awe of the pacing and the creepy nature of the story. Instead we get a very droll and long-winded Sherlock by way of Robert Downey Jr.  His counterpart Watson is no shorter on the wind as played by Jude Law. Rachel McAdams’ femme fatale is quite beguiling, but she still deserves more to do here also.  Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood is neither sinister, nor creepy and falls flat too.  I really hoped for more from a story and acting standpoint.

The look of the film is another aspect that is disappointing.  London is drab and dusky, which would be interesting if the film looked a little brighter. There is an air of sepia to the overall look of the film to give it a period look and set pieces are often dense, which you’d think would mean they had an immersive quality… Unfortunately, no again.  If you’ve noticed there haven’t been many, if any, positives to note about this first installment in the Sherlock Holmes Guy Ritchie franchise.  The film did manage to get some good notices and score half a billion plus bucks worldwide, leading to the sequel Game of Shadows and now onto this 4K disc as well.


I hadn’t revisited Sherlock Holmes since my initial purchasing of the DVD way back in 2010.  I can’t say that I feel any more impressed now than I was then.

  • Encoding: HEVC/H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2K Digital Intermediate)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Layers: BD-66
  • Clarity/Detail: Sherlock Holmes brings its 4K mystery to disc with a somewhat disappointing transfer. Details are sometimes great and other times spotty with an overall dark and dingy look about everything.  There is density in the darkness that seems to be a stylistic choice, but you aren’t treated to a showcase with the new format.  Things still look dirty and very 19th century London, but not the sharpest most UHD version you were hoping to see.
  • Depth: This is not a release that features a lot of moments of pop. There aren’t any images that give the feel of jumping off screen and over the decade’s old Blu-ray, you’d be hard pressed to see much of a difference in depth of field.  This can be inherent to the source as the film was captured digitally at 2K, and will have that look kind of locked in.  This is not up to the debate of “real or fake” 4K which to me is a ridiculous one, but it’s not a big improvement of what was already available either.
  • Black Levels: If the 4K format were all about the blacks… this one would still be a tad disappointing. The blacks are so dark they often lead to a few moments of crush.  Detail gets lost in the darkness sometimes too, but in the grey daylight that is typically the color palette here, blacks look just fine.
  • Color Reproduction: Colors look as they are meant too. The color palette of the film almost has a Sepia tone quality to it that has been done intentionally. The look of the film is meant to be sort of shabby and drab and so colors look exactly that way here.  Seeing as that seems to be filmmakers’ intent, one can’t fault the new disc transfer for that, and I believe the colors look great and muted as they were intended.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look pale as they should considering the time frame and season the film is taking place in. Nobody has a tan or looks overcooked.
  • Noise/Artifacts: To my eyes this is a clean image overall.


  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, German, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English (SDH), French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified and Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Thai
  • Dynamics: This is the same mix that accompanied the old Blu-ray and while that was a technically impressive mix then, the same can’t be said for now. While competent and capable as ever, with new advancements and a not-so-old movie, there could’ve been improvements. Sound design dictates good activity for all channels and adding some more immersion would’ve brought the sound mix over the top. What we do have sounds nice and clear and still very modern, but it feels like it’s a lacking now in 2020.
  • Height: N/A
  • Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer gets some work to do in action scenes. This is a very talky film and so sometimes it feels like action is taking a back seat. The scene on top of the Tower bridge is quite impressive on the lower end of things though, with some good deep bass to rumble the floorboards.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Put in a Blu-ray from 2010, with a 2010 sound mix, and you’ve got your explanation! All jokes aside, the surrounds perk up for scenes involving echo or panning sound effects, scenes taking place where there are dinner guests or crowds also fill those speakers as needed. Ambient outdoor noises make their appearances in those channels as well.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: As is the case with some films, this mix presents dialogue mostly front and center and nice and clear, however, at times I felt I was needing to grab my remote to adjust the volume to hear people. Not a big deal and definitely not something I would say is a problem but it’s just a heads up for people who really want to hear the dialogue.


Sherlock Holmes arrives in 4K with a 4K/Blu-ray/Digital Code Combo Pack with a nice glossy slipcover for those who love them.  Extras on the Blu-ray are identical to the 2010 Blu-ray as it’s merely a reprint of that disc. They are as follows:

  • Maximum Movie Mode (132 Min./HD): A Picture-in-picture commentary with Guy Ritchie
  • Focus Points (31 Min./HD): The “best bits” from the above feature
  • Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented (14 Min./HD): An EPK Style featurette about the film and how Ritchie and his cast and crew bring a modernized take on Sherlock Holmes while keeping the setting firmly in the old days.
  • BD-Live Functionality


Overall Sherlock Holmes promises more than it can give and ends up being a drab, boring exercise in how not to revamp a classic character.  This to me still feels like a large stumbling point for all involved and was even more irksome when the sequel came out.  Still, I’m aware the film has its fans and they’ll be at least marginally impressed by the new 4K presentation.  Newcomers may want to see the film first before committing to owning it, but fans of Guy Ritchie may find lots to love here.

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