My main intellectual activity today was to rotate curves around various axes, and then explain how to find the volumes of the solids that resulted. Doesn’t put me in the mood for heavy, thought-provoking blogging. But I did recently come across this interesting bit of movie news. Why am I not optimistic?
For more than 100 years, Sherlock Holmes has been the world’s foremost detective mind; a profound genius capable of unlocking even the most intricate mysteries. So how would he unravel this minor puzzle: A man known for his brain is about to showcase his brawn?
How do we know? Elementary: It’s a Guy Ritchie movie. Guy Ritchie is known for his gritty crime dramas. Guy Ritchie cast action star of the day Robert Downey Jr. in the titular role. It’s a simple deduction, really.
Well, actually, we just asked him.
“They never seem to manifest that [element] in some of the earlier productions they’ve done of ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ ” Ritchie said of what would separate his upcoming reinterpretation of the character from earlier versions. “We’re trying to bring a completely contemporary and entertaining perspective on an intellectual action hero true to his origins where he was more of an action guy originally.”
“It’s like James Bond in 1891,” producer Joel Silver added. “Nobody ever did the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ story as an action movie, and he really was an action guy. [Ours] is a big, wild action movie.”
Actually, Ritchie has a bit of a point. Holmes proved himself to be quite the brawler in several of the original stories. For example, in “The Adventure of the Empty House” he tells Watson how he survived his encounter with Dr. Moriarty at the Reichenbach falls:
[Moriarty] knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds, and clawed the air with both his hands.
Somehow, though, I doubt that Ritchie’s film is going to be very true to the Doyle corpus.
Holmes has been the subject of many film adaptations. The Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies of the late 1930’s and 1940’s probably come pretty close to portraying Holmes as an action star, at least by the standards of the times. As films they were entertaining, but as adaptations of Homes’ character they left something to be desired.
On the subject of dreadful Holmes adaptations, we really must mention Roger Moore’s dreadful try at the role in the abysmal 1976 film, Sherlock Holmes in New York. I mean, really, once you’ve tried that you might as well cast Tony Randall as Hercule Poirot. (Oops, they did that one too.)
Pride of place in any list of bad Holmes adaptations must surely go to 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes. Young Holmes fighting a crazy, sadistic religious cult. Enough said?
Holmes did get a truly excellent treatment from Jeremy Brett, in a series of adaptations for PBS’ Mystery series. Brett’s Holmes was surely the definitive treatment of the character, at least if a proper adaptation of Doyle’s writing was the goal. Somehow I don’t see Robert Downey’s take on the character being quite so faithful.
Whatever. I’ll go see the film even if I’m quite certain it’s going to be pretty bad. That’s pretty much how I feel about the upcoming Star Trek prequel too, but that’s a different post.