Went to see the most recent release in the Robert Downey, Jr.take on Sherlock Holmes. Surely a bit of Victoriana replete with early modern firearms and fast-paced action would be of interest?
Or not. If you're any kind of a Holmes admirer, you'll want to see some other movie. Or stay home.
I had my hopes; the opening wasn't at all bad. It didn't last.
Sadly, the director and writer treat the source material with about as much respect as did the previous decade's Wild, Wild West; while the resulting film is a little less campy and has much better setting, supporting players and cinematography than the Will Smith vehicle (which at least had the excuse of being based on a series filled with overplaying, smugness and anachronism, albeit wittily presented) , there were a number of scenes that had me wishing the director could be taken out and shot. Over-use of self-indulgent slo-mo, effects for the sake of effects, shambling storyline; even granting the film's bizarre take on Holmes and Watson, there's a lot wrong.
Stephen Fry* as Mycroft provides a very bright spot; Jude Law's prissy, unbelievable John Watson brings very much the reverse. Downey's Holmes simply is not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's consulting detective; he's some other fellow, who half the time appears to have wandered into the wrong movie by mistake and is fumbling for the exit.
By the time the awkward working out of the plot was pointing inevitably to Holmes and the (well-played) Professor Moriarty plunging together over Reichenbach Falls to their deaths, I was rooting for the falls. A nice chess-playing scene that sets the event was spoiled by the over-used device of Holmes working out of the dynamics in slow-motion, blurry advance, this time with Moriarty's ratiocinations shown as well, padding the entire thing out to a yawning eternity before the two got on with going over the edge, only seconds before I was ready to toss them over myself.
Sadly, this Holmes hasn't the grace to stay dead, nor the director to leave us in some tiny degree of suspense; he's alive and whacky again before the closing credits roll.
The BBC's 21st-Century take on Sherlock has another season out, not yet in the States as far as I know; it is far more faithful the the sense and spirit of the characters than this tattered, tweedy wreck and I commend it to the attention of my readers instead.
Update: Went back and watched the first of Auntie's modern Sherlock tonight; had memory and contrast lent it extra shine? Nope. Even better than I remembered. Those are the men I read about as a child. Updated, time-jumped, manners and mores not quite according to Doyle -- but wonderfully Holmes and Watson nonetheless.
* However, I would gladly sit and listen to Fry reading a telephone book, so my judgement may be a bit off wherever he's concerned.
4 months ago