curiouser and curiouser

Sherlock Holmes

1) Guy Ritchie’s film is big and booming and blockbuster-y, but it is also a well-written, well-acted and overall well-executed production that satisfies the senses even as it asks us to use our brains just a bit – not too much, since a big budget often leaves little room for deep thought – but just enough to perhaps inspire a real interest in the film’s literary origin.  Without having read a single Sherlock Holmes story, there is enough mystery in the plot and enough incredulity evoked by film-Holmes’ powers of deduction to make for a spectacular detective movie in which the titular character’s abilities are never overshadowed by the special effects or the dark, dramatically grey setting of Victorian London.  Layers of conspiracy are peeled back and the truth is gradually exposed as the audience comes to realize that we can not possibly expect to keep pace with Holmes’ legendary mind – instead, we must ally ourselves with Dr. Watson and go along for the ride, unable to predict how slippery Irene will prove herself to be or how many people are actually involved in Lord Blackpool’s feigned mastery of the occult.  The film’s end is a brief lead-in to the character of Dr. Moriarty, a literary villain infamous even to those who have never actually read any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work prior to viewing Guy Ritchie’s cinematic adaption.  (i.e., me.)

2) The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone is brief and neatly solved, thanks to the use of Dr. Watson as a narrative focal-point at the beginning of the story – Watson has not been present for this particular case and is visiting his old friend and partner at the near-resolution of the crime, requiring Sherlock Holmes to reveal his methods and reasoning without the reader actually experiencing any of the events that preceded the detective’s hunch.  Despite the brevity of the story, this remains an enjoyable read due to Holmes’ sharp wit and the sense of humor that seems to be a trait inherent not only in his speech but in the means he uses to foil the perpetrators.  The image of Holmes springing out of a chair that the villains (and the readers) expected to be inhabited by a realistic dummy is comical, and this comedy translates very well to Guy Ritchie’s film, largely through the quick-muttering mouth and light-stepping figure of Robert Downey Jr. 

3) http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2009/sherlockholmes2009.html  Film review and general synopsis from a Christian film-review site, a thorough breakdown of the movie supplemented by an unintentionally humorous Biblical reading of the plot

http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2009/12/film-friday-comparing-ritchies-sherlock-holmes-to.html  Comparison of the original Sherlock Holmes to Ritchie’s film adaptation, interesting because the reviewer hasn’t actually seen the movie yet

http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/movies/25sherlock.html  Positive review of the film, reviewer seems unwilling to offer much criticism

The first link was the most interesting to me because of its characterization of Ritchie’s Holmes as a champion of justice and the analysis of the occult themes in the film – taking the reviewer’s beliefs and the endeavors of the website into consideration, it was surprising how positive this review turned out.  I think that this particular review is crucial in understanding the film because it constructs a position (Holmes as a protector of Christian virtues and a fictional device in the service of good) that can be argued by a less spiritual analysis and inspires such an argument of film-Holmes’ character in the first place.  I am not sure whether Sherlock Holmes is indeed a detective because he believes in bringing evil-doers to justice or because he is simply a brilliant, slightly eccentric man who happened to see detective work as a fitting career choice, but this review certainly makes me question my own interpretation of the character. 

4) Which is more interesting and convincing in the film: the “bromance” of Holmes and Watson, or the romance of Holmes and Irene Adler?

The romance of Holmes and Irene Adler loses its significance as Watson and Irene eventually come to occupy a position of equal importance to Holmes, as is evidenced when Watson is injured in an explosion and Holmes is visibly more distressed by this than any of Irene’s disappearing acts or her potentially dangerous employer.  Holmes remarks that Irene appears frightened of the figure who turns out to be Dr. Moriarty, but he never makes a sincere attempt at persuading her to end her contract with this man or seek safer shelter – Holmes seems to trust Irene’s own instincts and abilities to the extent that he does not worry about her wellbeing until she is obviously in danger, as is the case during the climactic fight scene towards the end of the film.  “Bromance” is one of my least favorite terms in the whole of modern language, but Holmes is apparently less willing to let Watson leave his side than he is to let Irene dance her way in and out of his life.  There is more history and more of an emotional struggle between Holmes and Watson than exists between Holmes and Irene, and it is much more intriguing to see how far Holmes goes in his attempts to keep Watson from marrying and moving out of their shared apartments – indeed, they seem to share much more than a living space if the arguments over who their dog and various articles of clothing actually belong to are any indication.  The film is never explicitly homoerotic, likely due in part to the marketability factors involved in such a large production, but Holmes’ fixation on keeping Watson in his immediate company is almost a subplot to the film – Irene is a likably mischievous and clever character, certainly a very important person in Holmes’ life and necessary to the plot, but her relationship with Holmes can only pale in comparison to the intimate partnership of Holmes and Dr. Watson.

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Comments on: "Sherlock Holmes" (1)

  1. Emily, in general well-done. However, as well-written as your descriptions of the film and book are (parts 1 and 2 of the assignment), I would like to see less of description (what I call “review-speak”) and a little bit more on the themes. 9/10.

    Joseph Byrne

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