Monday, January 04, 2010

Sherlock Holmes, as he was meant to be!

(Warning - contains minor spoilers)

I saw Sherlock Holmes tonight, and I can only agree with LawDog - Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law bring us Holmes and Watson as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle meant them to be. LawDog puts it better than I can:
Is this movie an accurate depiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous literary invention? That depends.

If you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes of the books, then yes. If you are a fan of the Hollywood version of the detective -- then no.

This is going to come as a shock to some folks, but Basil Rathbone was a lousy Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Arthur penned a Sherlock Holmes who was a young man -- probably in his late twenties, but no older than mid-30's -- who was a genius, yes, but also manic-depressive.

In "A Study In Scarlet", Sir Arthur -- through Dr. Watson -- described how Holmes would be seized by melancholia and would lie upon his sofa, in the dark, for days without speaking or moving; in other stories, Holmes would be "seized by an intensity" and go for days without eating or sleeping, until he fainted.

He is -- as written by Doyle -- an eccentric, who kept his unanswered mail nailed to the mantel with a pen-knife; his tobacco stored in the toe of a shoe; and his cigars in a coal-bin.

He is an addict, who self-medicates his depression with a 7% solution of IV cocaine, with occasional forays into morphia use.
Robert Downey, Jr. does a bang-up job of portraying the Holmes of the books - mania, depression, and all. A man who can fight as well as reason, and is tenacious once the game is afoot.

Jude Law gives us an intelligent, competent, Watson - able to keep up with Holmes' mania, his eccentricities, his reasoning, his secretive planning, who can hold his own in a fight, and who has become familiar enough with Holmes' methods to make his own deductions.

They do take some liberties with the "official" continuity. The movie takes place shortly before Watson's marriage, but there are references to "A Scandal in Bohemia," which took place after his marriage. Watson learns of Moriarty, even though he had not heard of him at the start of "The Final Problem," which also took place after his marriage. There may be other discontinuities, but I'll admit that it's been so long since I read the books that I didn't really notice any.

Despite that, it was a good movie, true to the characters and the spirit of the books. It's made me want to read all the stories again (thank goodness for Project Gutenberg, which has all the Holmes stories - and more - available for free online).

I heartily recommend this movie, for all Sherlock Holmes fans. Go, and enjoy!

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