Sherlock Holmes Review
In a world which is constantly raping surprise sexing the past to populate the present, knowing the source material for an upcoming film can be hazardous. Do you get excited about it, or do you hold true to the theory that it’s ‘Not Your Father’s Insert Character Here’? Do you openly deride the movie while still secretly crushing on the idea of Robert Downey “Sexpants” Jnr is playing one of the least physically attractive yet cerebrally sexy characters of all time? And isn’t the notion of finding Holmes hot kind of like wanting to hump Data from Star Trek: TNG in order to jumpstart your failing heart?
It’s questions like these that were going through my mind when I sat down to watch Sherlock Holmes.
I tend to view updated versions of older material with excitement, mainly because I have infinite forgiveness for people who want to tackle other people’s ideas. I am a big fan of cover songs, for example.
But when it’s something like Sherlock Holmes, so ingrained into international culture as the older man, hawk nosed, with pipe and deerstalker hat made famous by Basil Rathbone in the old movies, it’s terribly difficult to divorce a feeling of ‘why?’ from your brain. Why bother updating it? Why fuss and meddle with a standard? A folklore hero that so many people believe was a real man?
Here’s my version of why, and why it’s a good thing.
First of all, this is not an origin story. Thank the gods. We begin our story with Holmes having saved the girl, defeated the Big Bad Blackwood and languishing in the Bohemian filth to which he is accustomed. Or rather, the filth which happens when his considerable intellect is not kept busy. But just as soon as Blackwood is pronounced dead he is ressurrected, which automatically reopens the case, dragging Watson back from his new fiancee into the waiting arms of Holmes and a new adventure.
In this incarnation Sherlock Holmes is, of course, a brilliant, gifted man but he’s so far above the norm in terms of observation, experimentation and thought that he cannot seem to connect with anyone on a level that behooves him. While he loves his messy world of apophenia, his seemingly magical power to connect the dots that almost don’t exist to create a much larger picture, he suffers continually from it. His relationships are tenuous, with the exception of Dr Watson, due to his need to work out what makes people tick, good or bad. He terrorises his landlady, accuses Watson’s fiancee of being a gold digger. He collapses into a drug addled slump when he runs out of cases and it is up to Watson to pull him back out. Guy Ritchie plays on this dynamic, giving them ample chances to finish each other’s sentences and banter about clothes and money.
It is this relationship that drives the film. I suppose you’d call it a Bromance, but I’d hate to imply something that isn’t quite there. They’re brothers from another mother, yo, with Holmes relying on Watson to get him around the everyday world and Watson relying on Holmes to keep him out of debt and trouble. It’s this dynamic that kept me interested when the action didn’t.
The movie has a lot of nice touches in it, perhaps included to appease the purists. Holmes shooting ‘VR’ into his wall or keeping his cigars in his coal scuttle. It also takes into account Arthur Conan Doyle’s own love for the occult, though cheekily renders it obsolete in the face of Victorian Era science. Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood has all the power of a dark magician at his beck and call, complete with a fearful and shady birth, a dead family and a tie to a powerful secret society – all text book plot points to ‘mystical bad guy’. I think Conan-Doyle would have loved it, the occultist vs the scientist. It makes you wonder where Holmes picked this stuff up. What was he doing in his youth?
Which brings us back to ‘It’s not an origin story’. This is my main point of contention: we see in this film a younger Holmes, able to bare knuckle fist fight, run like a horse and escape explosions and falls with the barest of injuries. Yet, we are lead to believe he is middle aged? Or at least a hard living 30-something. Watson is ex-Army, so that explains some of his fighting ability and clear-headed reactions to some situations…but Holmes? Apart from his martial art expertise (mentioned in the books, I’m lead to believe) he seems an asthete. I’m just a little miffed by the idea that he is almost magical himself in his ability to get out of situations. And don’t get me started on Irene Adler. Updating the boys to be punch-drunk heroes is one thing, making Irene into an action figure was just silly. The original Irene got by on her wits and her ex-husbands’ money.
But apart from this weird timeslip on Holmes’ age, it all works rather well. We have the nods to the original material, a dirty, unsanitised London and a hero who’s just on this side of normal.
Sherlock Holmes is a fun movie. It’s got good dialogue, excellent visuals, a rollicking plot and a nice sense of humour. And a bonus for the Christmas crowd, you won’t have to think too much to enjoy it. Robert Downey Jnr is equal parts clever and pedantic, with a dusting of masochist. Jude Law is the embodiment of the British Stiff Upper Lip. Amy Adams has a nice spark, but doesn’t get enough of a character to work with. Mark Strong oozes confidence and menace like a shyster. The production team manages to modernise the subject matter without completely ruining the setting. All in all, a fun movie to watch. Go see it with your favourite boy-who’s-your-friend.
Pro: Great humour, fast paced and fun. RDJ and Law make for an entertaining pair, who carry the plot expertly.
Cons: If you’re a devout fan of the original stories, this version of Holmes will irritate you.
Overall: 4 out of 5!
2 Responses to “Sherlock Holmes Review”
Great review! I really liked how you managed to point out some of the jumps away from canon without sounding like a Holmesnob. Entertaining, educational, and the eye candy was nice too! I give it a 6 out of 7 clams.
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