Enola Holmes is a Better Mulan movie than Mulan 2020 (a Review)

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Sherlock Holmes might be one of the most perfect properties in the public domain ever created. The skills of deduction, crime solving, and wit can be used, rearranged, deconstructed, reconstructed, parodied, and everything in between. That makes anything after the original stories more an exercise in expanding the scope of what a Sherlock story can be (you know, like secret sisters and my favorite story being turned into a dog and not a secret society of people with red hair). This leads to a varying range in the quality of said stories too.

This preamble takes us to the Millie Bobby Brown star vehicle, Enola Holmes. She too is a secret (or more surprise to us the audience) sister to Sherlock and Mycroft, only this time left abandoned with her mother after the death of their father and her brothers leaving. She was then raised to be strikingly independent by her mother. Teaching her life lessons and skills over a classical education. It was a good life that is thrown off course when her mother disappears leaving only a box of coloring utensils and book of flowers. When the Holmes brothers return Mycroft threatens to send Enola away. Enola, in turn, realizes the secret message her mother was trying to send and runs off in search of her. Upon her travel she runs into the son of a nobleman, next in like for the House of Lords whose life is in danger. It is then up to Enola to find out what her mother is up to, save the life of the young lord and evade capture from her brother. The game is truly afoot.

The film is surprisingly good. Not shockingly good. It’s not an amazing film or anything, but when all the trailers painted the film as a cringe fest it was a nice surprise to get a smarter film than that. A film that is actually about something, seeks to use its protagonist in a compelling way, make an actual role model for young girls, and when watching those same clips in the film are clearly more to be cheeky jokes than taken absolutely seriously.

Cheeky is often the tone of the film. It does have some far more hard boiled moments that are reminiscent of the Guy Ritchie films, but is often far poppier, lighter, and closer in tone to a mid-90s Disney live action film. The world can pop but is often rather basic in terms of sets and world design. Not a visionary style, but works.

It is more of a detective story than it seems on the surface. It takes quite a while for the plot to fully reach the surface, but when it does it is satisfying enough. You could put the clues together easily, feels fresh for a Holmesian mystery, and focuses on the stories main theme.

That is right, a movie about Sherlock Holmes having a smart, strong willed sister who must go out on an adventure alone in and use the skills she acquired by her feminist mother to save a white man does far more than dress the part. The film is expressly about the future and the power women have in that future. It uses the strict Victorian setting well in that respect. Enola gives a strong contrast to the rest of the women she runs into, and is shown to be competent but still make mistakes (even though no one would complain if it was Sherlock who did the exact same things but made no mistakes). It is helped that Millie Bobby Brown is a phenomenal actor.

Millie Bobby Brown seems to be the Emma Watson to Finn Wolfhard’s Daniel Radcliffe. As in to say (the internet ruined me because I know there are creeps who are waiting for her to turn 18 and proclaim how attractive she is in gross ways. Just like Selena Gomez Ariana Grande, or the Jenner Sisters) she is certainly a far stronger screen presence that can flow from emotion to emotion with ease. Can adapt well to any scenario she is in all while still feeling like a kid. She is truly a standout in the film and by far the best part in it. She turns what should be cringey dialogue into believable phrases that feel almost iconic. Some of her 4th wall breaking chats do get gratting, and the she can’t make the opening and closing voiceover work to save her life (no one could), but she does great.

The only other standout is Henry “The Chin” Cavill as Sherlock. It is no secret that British men were often incredibly withdrawn folks. Cavill plays him that way and forgoes the excentric weirdos of Rober Downey Jr and Benedic Cumberbatch and focuses on that. His Sherlock seems to have a lot more going on under the hood. Refined, but still ever observant, sharp, and quick with hints of that outgoing nature. An interesting take that, along with the lack of a Watson, makes it feel like he’s still early in his career.

This film shares an odd amount in common with the 2020 crime Mulan. Both have highly competent women going out into the wider world in search of a cause connected to family, and deal with larger political themes around a less interesting male. They also are saved from being stabbed by the trapping they hide themselves in. difference, of many, is framing and character. Enola works hard, is shown to be outgoing and easy to like. She is shown struggle and works through it, and deals with the political issues directly as a example of why they work. The future is women not because they sometimes have super powers to help the totalitarian government, but because they are just as capable when given the proper education and challenges. They will rise (also the mother, played by Helena Bonnem Carter, because of course, is kind of dropped with no follow up which is weird but not movie breaking).

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