A good way to wrap up the year 2009 was to go and watch Sherlock Holmes with friends. (This was before New Year’s Eve, but anyway…) This time, I was slightly more ready than the last time I went to ‘the flea pit’ here. I knew I needed to get refreshments and drinks enough to last a good three hours and exercise bladder control. Still don’t get why Odeon doesn’t stop patrons from bringing in their own food and drinks from outside their premises. After all, most multiplexes make money on this, not ticket sales (most of which goes to the distributors). First the companies here aren’t dickish enough to implement policies that will increase their revenue, and then they cry about ‘the recession’. What they do, instead, is to completely try to piss you off by showing ads for half an hour. Thankfully, not in 3D this time.
Anyway, coming to the movie at hand. Sherlock Holmes is a complete revamp of the essence of what Holmes is all about. This new Downey Jr version of Sherlock Holmes is more of Jason Bourne than Peter Cushing. Downey Jr is this totally badass superhero who labours under the illusion that ‘talking fast = extremely intelligent’. Dr Watson (played by Jude Law) is his faithful superhero sidekick – and in a break from tradition, is not dimwitted; he often cracks clues in step with Holmes, certainly gives the big man a hand in dispatching villains during fisticuffs.
My first reaction a few minutes into the movie – as someone who is a fan of the books – was “What the hell?! They’ve reduced Holmes to solving supernatural mysteries?! What a huge insult to someone who believed so much in rational ideas!” As it turns out, my fears were unfounded as a plot twist at the end resolves this not-so-desirable situation.
The plot has nothing to do with any published Sherlock Holmes story so far. Basically, Holmes is called along to investigate a string of murders associated with Lord Blackwood (a wannabe Count Dracula), played by Mark Strong. (At first I thought it was Andy Garcia, but it turns out he’s the guy who played Hani Pasha in Body of Lies.) Now, the plot is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike any Sherlock Holmes story / novel ever written. It seems to exist in a parallel universe where Jason Bourne has been sent of Victorian-era London. It’s this Hollywood school of thought that occasionally saying “fookin’ arsehole” instead of “fucking asshole” is the only thing needed to make an accent ‘British’. That occasional attempt at a ‘British accent’ is the only attempt made to have ‘British characters’. It’s as if the story is set in ‘Washington-hampton DC-shire’ instead of London. Yes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did mention he was a good boxer and stuff, but that was more of a footnote than an actual characteristic of the man. Look at this clip from the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie below, which is more Fight Club than a genius mastermind who solves cases simply by smoking pipes in his room and spouting “The game’s afoot!” once in a while.
…compare it to the older BBC version of Holmes…
I mean, the BBC version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were portly gentlemen who used to trundle along like poodles, discharge a revolver once in a while – but mostly stick to ‘consoling distraught ladies’ in ‘their study’ while ‘drinking tea’. The dismay on the faces of my British compatriots in the theatre was very noticeable. When the movie finished and people were leaving, I could sense a disturbance in the Force – a quivering of the British stiff upper lip, perhaps. A few people sitting around me actually left midway into the movie, which goes to show how distraught they were; considering that nobody left (or told me shut up) when I spent a fair part of Avatar simply laughing my head off.
So far, we’ve established that Guy Ritchie’s Holmes is significantly different from the original. But does this movie entertain you? HELL YEAH!!! I enjoyed every single moment of this movie, despite all the changes that have been made. Change is good. Do I mind Holmes being transformed into a kickass superhero minus Iron Man like armour? Hell no! Despite putting in a love angle by promoting Irene Adler (played by the cute Rachel McAdams – remember her from Mean Girls?) to a fairly major character, you’re ready to forgive this sort of flirting in Victorian-era England because of the chemistry between the characters.
In ways more than one, Sherlock Holmes the movie works towards making the quintessential detective more of a human being – while at the same time making him more of a superhero. I still like the Holmes from the books, but for the big screen this version of the character works better.
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