04 February 2010

Sherlock Holmes

I finally saw it, and I give it a rousing "meh."

Top marks for action and photography, and the actors played their parts well. As for the plot, well, at least it appears that perhaps one or two of the screenwriters have actually read one or two of Sir Arthur's stories because one or two tidbits made their way in.

One such tidbit is the study of a pocketwatch. In the written stories ("The Sign of Four" to be exact) the watch belonged to Watson's older brother, an heirloom that was passed from his father and then on to the good doctor himself at his older brother's demise. In the movie the watch belonged to a "ginger midget" who was found dead in his first appearance.

Downey's Holmes is a bit of a bumbler and not as aware of his surroundings as the fabled detective from the stories, and Jude Law's Doctor Watson tends to be a bit surly throughout (which again is not a part of the canon, although the Watson in the stories had his bouts of petulance to be sure). Both are portrayed as active men; Downey's Holmes is shown to be a skilled boxer and knowledgeable of the martial arts and Law's Doctor Watson is an intelligent man who shows an ability to deductively reason things out for himself, all of which do fit the stories.

There are really only two parts of the movie that I found objectionable. One is that Holmes did not know the soon-to-be Mrs. Watson when in fact Miss Mary Morstan was introduced to Doctor Watson by way of being the client in one of his adventures with Sherlock Holmes, "The Sign of Four" once again being the story. Although a trifling difference it is a glaring one, and comes in early enough that it interrupted the flow of the rest of the movie for me.

The second, and most annoying, was the portrayal of Irene Adler as a master criminal. She is also hinted at being Sherlock's lost love, which as any reader of the stories knows is quite impossible. "The woman" was in fact an American opera star, and a bit of an adventuress herself, having been one of the few adversaries to outwit Holmes ("A Scandal in Bohemia"). I find it deplorable what the movie has done to her.

On a side note, the character of Irene Adler is expanded upon greatly in a series of books by author Carole Nelson Douglas. If you are a fan of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, it might be worth your time to check them out as well.

Of course I understand that some changes have to be made to tell the story well, because you can't fit four novels and 56 short stories into one movie. The changes to the two characters described above, relatively minor in the case of Mary Morstan but rather substantial in the case of Irene Adler, were the ones I found most distracting, and I wish the screenwriters could have found a better way to fit them in.

All in all the movie is an enjoyable waste of a couple of hours as long as you don't get too distracted by comparing it to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective stories.

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