Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Despite his eccentricities there has always been something endearing about Sherlock Holmes, or perhaps it is his eccentricities that make him wonderful. Either way, I remember being fascinated by him as a child, along the same era I devoured The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Just the idea of being able to understand the clues and catch the bad guy all without having to be big, buff, or even remotely athletic. Exactly the kind of thing that would appeal to an ailing intellectual child like myself.

So I started seeing trailers for “Sherlock Holmes” (2009) starring Robert Downey Jr. and that little kid in me crosses its arms, stamps its foot, and says we are not going to see that because Sherlock Holmes does not act like that. (Don’t lie, we’ve all had this happen over the last ten years as the entertainment industry reappropriates characters and remakes movies for better or worse.) However, as often happens, curiosity got the better of me and I found myself sitting in a darkened theatre on Christmas day feeling the mixed butterflies of anticipation and apprehension.

Then the movie started…

Remember the little kid, the one who said no way, nuh-uh, this is not happening? It was actually happy within the first five minutes of the film with Sherlock going up against the man in the dark and describing both the man’s problems and how he would dispatch him in a rather dry clinical tone. Sherlock was still more action-y than I remember the man being, but truthfully I feel that was necessary in order to compete for the attention span of the American public. We are just not happy unless something blows up or someone is getting the snot beat out of them. Yet the parts of the movie which made me really happy were: Sherlock’s intellect and the Sherlock/Watson dynamic.

The detachment Sherlock shows toward the things going on around him and his encyclopedic knowledge are two of the things that make Sherlock great. And no Sherlock story would be complete without the grand reveal, made all the more fun by the fact that Lord Blackwood is holding on for dear life throughout the entire exposition. I admit to thinking he was going down before Sherlock finished going on about the entire set up. Made for a great moment though, especially when he finally does fall and hang.

The interaction between Holmes and Watson has seen a major revamp as well. For me, Watson has always been an overweight gentleman with glasses who could not have fought his way out of a paper bag and was really only along to hold Holmes’s bag while he did the heavy lifting. (This might not be entirely true but that’s what I remember of the pair of them.) In this newest installment however, Watson has seen an update to make him more of an action hero as well. He’s a lithe man with a cane who not only fights but fights well enough to hold his own with or without Holmes. Nothing will quite beat him taking on giant Frenchman.

Anyone who has seen the movie will probably ask why I do not going into the relationship between Holmes and Adler or the great reveal of Moriarty. Neither of these things interest me all that much. Moriarty’s reveal at the end of the movie is woven into the overall fabric quite well, but other than making me think there will be a sequel in the future, it does not do much for me. The character of Irene, like Mary, is really just a token outside force proving the two boys aren’t wholly wrapped up in themselves.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. It makes me want to go back and reread the original stories just to remind myself of what Sherlock Holmes was like before Hollywood got its grubby paws on him because for me, the book will always be better than the movie.

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