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Sherlock Holmes

By Mary Quite Contrary
9 Jul 2010, 14:27

Everyone loves a good mystery.

I wanted to watch Sherlock Holmes as soon as it was released on the big screen, which was last January 8, 2010 in the Philippines. That was six months ago. I’ve also been asking myself why I don’t review films anymore. Before, time was the issue and how there isn’t enough to watch all the films I wanted, much less to write about each one. Now you ask, “Why are you writing this now?” Being a film student, it was required by every major subject. As a film graduate, ideally, I should make time for it. Easier said than done, but I want to try. Talk, about a film as with any creative work, is as important as the watching. You can’t just let it rot in your brain. Something must always come out of the taking. Hopefully that something adds to what’s already out there.

Also, I’m in the mood.

Truth is, I haven’t read Sherlock Holmes. The closest thing to a detective novel I had my hands on (Harry Potter aside) was Nancy Drew from our grade school library, so I won’t be having a comparison on the points of variation from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In any case, I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to fans of “the book version is always better than the film”: Different media have different strengths and limitations; you can’t expect every favorite detail in a novel to come out in the film. Doy.

This film by Guy Ritchie came out in good time. Amidst every comic book superhero to be reborn on the big screen, Sherlock Holmes stands out like the Batman of the industrial revolution. Cinematography and special effects dolled up the movie just like a Marvel adaptation, but I like the creepy vignette in the OBB and again in flashbacks on clues, smoothly using a blinding flash similar to that of 19th Century photography. The music spells out “mystery” in all kinds of tingly sensations that it scored so high in my book.

Like Batman, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is full of gadgets, likes chemistry, has inside connections with the police, knows his city like the back of his hand, doesn’t have super powers but is amazing at street fighting, has a faithful sidekick John Watson (Jude Law), and loves a good mystery.

I don’t know much about the real lives of superheroes but I do know that most sidekicks throughout cinematic history are beneath the hero in social class and intellect for slapstick purposes. I’m pleased with this treatment of the sidekick where Watson is assertive and independent from Holmes. By independent, I mean having his own career and on the same social class, offering a more challenging dynamic of wit and power between the two. Not to mention the hot slab of bromance!

In the movie, their relationship is at a turning point of Watson leaving the duo for Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), to which he is (in the beginning) engaged to, but without a ring. Holmes, bordering on needy, is reluctant to believe that Watson is serious with settling down, at the risk of losing a sidekick to his adventures whom he can “thoroughly rely on.” Watson, on the other hand, remains unwavering in his decision that “this is happening” with or without Sherlock's consent. Throughout the film, this conflict is milked in all its glorious—but subtle—gay humor. With Robert Downey Jr.'s crazed acting and Jude Law being… himself, who can possibly resist? Some straight guys I know also got excited.

As Holmes laughs at Watson’s plans of marriage, so does Watson at Holmes’ taste in women. Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a thief of men’s hearts and money around the world, is the only woman who’s ever outwitted Sherlock. If Batman has Catwoman, Holmes has Irene, who gets past his security system and turns all his screws loose. The coy playfulness between lovers-turned-enemies-turned-comrades-in-arms to fight a greater evil than each other is a win for the casting of Robert Downey Jr. and Rachel McAdams. Watson's fianc√©e Mary is initially suspected by the detective to have it in for the doctor’s stature, to which she throws her drink to his face and doesn’t help him out of jail later on. Sherlock’s rash judgment may have been caused by his previous divorce with Irene. The two leading ladies may seem to be opposites of each other at first glance: one secretive and the other prim. We eventually discover that both are rightly proper and rightly devious in their own respect. And so are their leading men: Holmes is useless to society without a case to solve; Watson is as reserved as any good doctor. The lure of mystery and the thrill of the chase are what binds them. Holmes becomes order, calculating beyond imagination, and Watson turns to chaos, seeking out danger, saving each other's necks every time.

Again, apt for my superhero comparison is this classic problem of world domination. Lord Blackwood is sentenced to death only to rise from the grave, causing a wave of panic and the ugly dread of dark magic. He can only give us a vague reason of England’s weak and corrupt government for his own pompous greed and ambition. Sad, I know, though I really didn’t expect much politics in this eye-candy. Wait, it gets better. The plot may be character-driven but the good vs. evil blah serves only as a backdrop against the much stronger pull of the curious mind, the characters’ desire to reveal a mystery and hopefully get to live to tell the tale. Spotlight is on whether logic can master the mystic.

“There’s nothing more stimulating than a case where nothing goes your way.” – Sherlock Holmes

*screencaps from IMDb

(Read more on Sherlock Holmes after the jump.)


By Sting Lacson

Guy Ritchie, I love your style.

Actually, I've loved his style since Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. I didn't think his style would fit well with a period piece, but surprisingly, it did.

Yes, this is a period piece, but this is not a strict adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's canon. This is a retelling. Or a re-imagining, if you want to call it that.

Production design is win. Victorian London always looks good on film. Although the costumes have a hint of modernity, they still retain the look and feel of 19th century England. Sort of like Gangs of New York, only on the other side of the Atlantic.

Robert Downey, Jr. obviously did his research. My only problem is that he seemed to concentrate too much on his "re-imagining" than in actually breathing life to Conan Doyle's Holmes. Yes, the new Sherlock Holmes engages in fistfights, but what happened to the original deductive brilliance that was very apparent in the canon? Yes, he did show some of it in some scenes. But Sherlock Holmes seems to have been reduced to a brilliant agent from CSI: London. Sherlock Holmes was way, way more than William Petersen, Gary Sinise, and David Caruso combined.

Jude Law, surprisingly, looks amazing with a mustache. And he didn't try to upstage Sherlock Holmes. Watson was just Watson--a sidekick at the least, a best friend at the most.

And Rachel McAdams: I'm sorry. You may be pretty, but I don't really like you. Something about you annoys me, and I really can't put my finger on it. I like Kelly Reilly more (she's that girl who played Watson's fianceé).

*some info from IMDb
pic from cinematicpassions.wordpress.com

Sherlock Holmes. USA. 2009.

Original rating: Seven out of ten.
Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. onscreen at the same time: One point.
Final rating: Eight out of ten.

You may also want to check out the other Sherlock Holmes review from Cholo Mercado, or you may want to watch the trailer


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