Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sherlock Holmes -- The Movie

I am by no means a Sherlockian scholar but lately I have been immersing myself in Sherlock Holmes and I did get the three volume New Annotated Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie Klinger for Christmas. Consequently, nothing would do but that I see the movie which I did on Boxing Day.

One line review: I enjoyed it, it was great fun, I wasn't offended, and I plan to see it again with my wife.

There are negative reviews that decry the deviation from The Canon (and, oddly, the earlier screen images of Holmes) but I'm with Leslie Klinger who says "Get a grip."

Yes, there is considerably more physical action than in the books; Holmes and Irene Adler have a relationship that continued after Scandal in Bohemia (apparently they had a favorite hotel room at the Grand Hotel); Watson is courting Mary Morstan though the Sign of the Four has not happened; Holmes is more a James Bond action hero than we expect.

But anyone who has read the stories will recognize the touches that characterize Holmes:
-- untidy habits
-- plucking at violin strings as he thinks
-- lethargy between cases
-- drug use (toughed upon very lightly)
-- skill at boxing
-- skill at single stick fighting
-- skill at baritsu
-- at least one direct quote Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay" he says to a Constable. (from The Adventure of the Copper Beeches). At least once Downy uses the famous Holmsian dictum that it is useless to speculate without sufficient data.
-- skill at observing
-- photo of Irene Adler in Holmes' room

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law work very well together as Holmes and Watson. There is humor and the comfortable bickering possible between fast friends. Like the Watson of the stories, movie Watson displays the same loyalty and courage. Eddie Marsan is spot on as Inspector Lestrade; he is much as I imagined him to be from the stories. I have read objections to Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler but I quite liked her and didn't have a problem with female character opposite the hero (as in Bond films).

If you can get past the re-imagining of Holmes and enjoy an action thriller then by all means see this movie. Personally, I will probably purchase it when it comes out on DVD and hope for a sequel next Christmas.

A few articles and reviews
The Screen Has Been Unfaithful to Holmes
My Precious Collection of Holmes Articles Inspired by the Movie
The Case of the Weird Sherlock Holmes Adaptations
The Brawling Supersleuth of 221B Baker Street Socks It to 'Em
The Burden of Holmes


Margot Kinberg said...

Mack - I noticed the same similarities you did between the movie and the stories. In fact, I had great fun boring my family with them... ; )

Margot Kinberg said...

Mack - Just wanted you to know there is an award for you on my blog.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, the movie is more thriller and less deductive detective tale than are Doyle's stories. But it pays savvy respect to the Holmes tradition in the ways you mentioned. It also highlights the Irish presence in London in ways that I don't remember from the stories. Surely that's a salutary addition.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Uriah Robinson said...

Mack, you are definitely a Sherlockian scholar, and your recommendation is enough for me to want to see the film.

Mack said...

Immediately upon clicking publish I remembered I wanted to mention that Holmes is a man of the streets and not the armchair sitting, pipe smoking, thinker that some people seem to expect. And not deerstalker hat and curved pipe thank heavens.

Margot, thank you, most kind.
Norman, likewise, you are too kind.
Peter, as you say, more thriller and less deduction. I like the way they worked in the savvy respect to The Sign of Four and they do give Holmes a massive burst of deduction which I thought was nicely done.

I do need to see it again, though. Was Holmes' boxing opponent McMurdo (The Sign of Four)? There is a character named that but I didn't catch a reference in the movie.

Also, did the captain of the launch that fishes Holmes out of the Thames given a name? I swear I read a story where Holmes describes a boat captain as having a better knowledge of the water than anyone he knows.