Friday, April 02, 2010
Well I finally got around to watching Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes film. Overall I enjoyed it, which will probably disappoint a few folks who were hoping I'd hate it. There were one or two, who, knowing what a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I am, seemed to be waiting in gleeful anticipation for me to see the film and be really put out. Sorry folks.
For all the talk of reinvention it's not really that different from Doyle. The character is basically the same. Yeah he knows wushu and kali-escrima, but Doyle's Holmes did know ju jitsu (misnamed as baritsu in the text) and was an accomplished boxer, fencer and single stick fighter. Yeah he shows a bit more emotion that the early Sherlock Holmes, but Doyle also considerably humanized his thinking machine as the series progressed.
But he still makes the lightning quick deductions and catches seemingly trivial bits of information that everyone else misses. The film did a good job of showing us how Holmes sees the world and there's an effective little scene in a restaurant where we see how this very talent can make Holmes' life difficult. He can't always turn his talents off so you get sensory overload as a threat to the world's most observant man. An interesting take.
Probably his obvious interest in Irene Adler is the biggest divergence from Doyle as Watson plainly states that Holmes had no tender feelings for Irene in a Scandal in Bohemia, but countless (and I do mean countless) Holmes pastiches over the years have portrayed 'The Woman' as the great love of Holmes' life, so that's not too surprising.
The plot is so so, being mostly a bunch of slapped together satanic cult trappings overlaying an overly complicated villainous plan. The villain appears to be based on noted black magic aficionado Aleister Crowley. I do sometimes wonder why screen writers seem to want to pit the ever rational Holmes against seemingly supernatural menaces. 1985's Young Sherlock Holmes also had a bunch of cult related nefarious doings.
Robert Downey Jr.'s performance was suitably Bohemian. Doyle's Holmes was a bit of a eccentric, so I didn't find Downey too far off the mark. Jeremy Brett was certainly fond of showing Holmes' anti-social nature and his quirky personality. Jude Law was a stalwart Watson, again closer to Doyle's character than Nigel Bruce or any of the other 'bumbling' Watson's.
This is an action movie first and foremost but the writers and director throw some bones to Sherlockians. There's quite a bit of actual Conan Doyle dialogue in the movie and nice bits like the use of a steam launch on the Thames. They remembered that Watson kept a bull dog and that he married Mary Morsten. (Though there's no reference to The Sign of Four. Apparently in the alternate take on Holmes that case hasn't taken place.)
I was glad to see that Professor Moriarty wasn't the villain in this one, though he does make and appearance. I get tired of people always trotting out the professor for every Holmes pastiche.
Anyway, I had fun with the film. It ain't Doyle, but overall it ain't bad.