Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"you megalomaniacs are all alike."

so miscellaneous thoughts on sherlock holmes which you will be able to read while i am doing nothing at all at my parents' house in maine far from any internet connection. :)

anna and i waded out through some rather nasty boston weather yesterday to hit up the early matinee at the tremont street theatre.

there were a lot of previews, i know that! i realise it's been a while since i went to the movies -- g.i. joe, in fact -- but jeeze -- 20 minutes worth! two nicolas cage previews! a steve carrell preview! but, on the other hand, both the nic cage movies looked like they might be a good time -- although did anyone else think that his outfit in the sorcerer's apprentice preview just totally nicked harry dresden's hat and coat from the dresden files books? and there was a clash of the titans preview -- lots and lots of shiny things going 'boom!' looks promising.

anyway, holmes. i suppose i should put a disclaimer here to the effect that, while i have read and enjoyed all the holmes short stories and novels, for me, performances of holmes begin and end with jeremy brett (holmes) and edward hardwicke (watson). along those lines, i'm including the clip below here to make a couple of points. one: jeremy brett is awesome. he is on the list of actors to whom i would happily listen if he were reading a grocery list, the phone book, or a series of doctor's prescriptions. two: a lot of the reviews i have read of the new holmes have critiqued it as being a "bromance" vision of the holmes/watson relationship. i'm not entirely sure i understand what this word means and the bits i do understand i don't like. so we're not going to use it at all. what i think it's meant to mean is an affectionate relationship between two otherwise heterosexual men. if this is the protest against the new holmes, then all you really need to do is come back with the scene below.

just for context, that's from the empty house, holmes's first episode after his encounter with moriarty at the reichenbach falls. i really don't want to belabor the point of the relationship between watson and holmes because i think it's really rather sweet and certainly out-of-date. it strikes me as a very late victorian kind of male relationship. if this bears closer examination, it will be by someone other than me.

i will say, though, as a closing thought, that at some points the movie is rather like watching a long break-up between holmes and watson. law and downey do a good job making this seem sweet and rather sad but inevitable. watson is going to leave and marry mary; holmes is going to stay single because...well, he's holmes and he has to until mary dies and watson returns. i have to applaud the screenwriters and ritchie for placing the movie at a point in the holmes/watson relationship which conan doyle didn't cover: when watson is leaving to marry his wife, mary. if you've read the original stories and you're not a tiny little bit curious about how this went down...well, you should be if for no other reason than without watson there really is no holmes.

if i remember correctly, holmes himself only narrates one or two of the original stories -- i think "the lion's mane" is one of them? -- and then part of one of the later laurie king-written novels with mary russell (not one of the more successful ones). watson explains and excuses holmes to the wider world; without him, holmes is essentially voiceless. in the original conan doyle stories, holmes seems to realise and appreciate this. while he nags watson about how inaccurate and sensational his stories are, he also thanks him for getting the word out about how brilliant he, holmes, is. i'm not sure if this idea applies so well to the movie since holmes has to narrate for himself otherwise why bother to pay robert downey, jr.? still. it's an interesting point.

anyway, the new holmes really had me sold from the point -- about 10 minutes into the movie -- where ritchie did a nearly perfect re-enaction of the opening credits of the old brett sherlock holmes. youtube is your friend here:

this wasn't the version i wanted; it's from an earlier series with a different actor as watson, but you get the idea. watch this a couple of times, then watch the new holmes and you'll know it when you see it. i don't believe granada television exists any more, but i would swear that they had the same set to film that bit.

so, really, this movie pleased me right off the top so i was willing to let it get away with quite a lot. and it wants to get away with quite a lot. it wants to get away with an adventure totally independent from -- although referring to -- the original holmes adventures. it wants to get away with a (rather predictable) last-minute twist. it wants to get away with some rather unnecessary violence. it wants to get away with a totally foaming at the mouth/scenery chewing villain. and y'know what? if you just take a deep breath, relax, and let it get away with all of these things, it's a hell of a lot of fun. oh, and there's some great animation over the closing credits but no tag. don't bother waiting. :)

1 comment:

annajcook said...

this posted right on time, since you asked me to check :).

re: the holmes/watson relationship, I think you point out the essential key -- that it's a late-nineteenth-century homosocial relationship that could or could not have sexual overtones but really who gives a damn?

And I'm also terribly uncomfortable with the connotations of "bromance" as a concept. So let's go with it was sweet and charming and Downey & Law did a wonderful job keeping it emotionally intimate without belaboring the point.