Sunday, April 25, 2010


A Sunday morning rant by Earl Staggs

My wife and I stopped by our friendly neighborhood video rental store yesterday and picked up a couple movies for the weekend. We don’t do that often, but they had a Rent One Get One Free Offer. We found a fairly recent mystery and a thriller we hadn’t seen. On the way out, I saw a poster for the new Sherlock Homes movie starring Robert Downey, Jr.

Sorry. I have no interest in seeing that one.

Don’t get me wrong. Downey is an excellent actor and I’ve enjoyed him in other films. My problem is I think there’s something all kinds of wrong with what they’ve done to Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes has always been the epitome of literary crime-solving heroes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created him as the ultimate gentlemanly, educated and brilliant sleuth. You only have to mention the name “Holmes” to any mystery fan and an image springs to mind. In the image, Holmes is fully dressed in a long-tailed suit of his time, wearing a deerstalker hat, smoking a pipe, explaining an elementary plot detail to his sidekick Dr. Watson in a perfectly articulated British accent worthy of the Royal family.

One poster for this new movie shows Downey bare from the waist up, muscular and sweaty, looking like he’s involved in a Fung Fu fight.

Now, I’m a die hard fan of fight films. Give me Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Van Damme, Jackie Chan (especially Jackie Chan), and I’m a happy couch potato. But please don’t give me the greatest icon of sleuthing throwing Karate punches and flying spin kicks.

One critic summed up my feelings with this:

"The makers of this film are mainly interested in action; that, they believe, is all that gets young audiences into cinemas today. They may be right, but they have ridden roughshod over one of literature's greatest creations in the process."

While this version of Sherlock Holmes may be a good movie and millions will enjoy it, I won’t see it. Instead, I’ll be wondering what’s next. Maybe Sam Spade will star in a traveling magic show. Raymond Chandler will become a song and dance man. How about Nero Wolfe hosting a TV talk show?

Sorry, but some things should be left alone.

Or is it just me being a resolute fuddy-duddy?


Mark Troy said...

Earl, Earl, Earl. In the Sign of Four, Holmes is described as a formidable bare-knuckle amateur boxer. And when he finally gets around to telling how he threw Professor Moriarity over the falls, he attributes it to his knowledge of martial arts, including the Japanese style known as baritsu.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Earl, I bought the DVD and was disappointed in the way Sherlock was portrayed. I didn't think the film did him justice, or Dr. Watson for that matter.


Earl Staggs said...

Mark, I'm sure you're right. I've read many of Doyle's stories, but not all. In none of them do I recall him having Holmes actually use the skills you mentioned. That's my whole point. Doyle did not write the kind of hero depicted in the Downey movie. It's a matter of personal preference, I suppose. I prefer the traditional Holmes over this new one.

Earl Staggs said...

Hi, Jean. Sounds like you're a traditionalist Holmes fan as I am.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I've not watched it either for the same reasons you all stated. Robert Downey Jr. just doesn't fit how I see Sherlock Holmes and I probably am an old fuddy duddy.


Maribeth said...

Poster and book covers, two things that have enticed and repelled me.
I admit that the ads alone for the Holmes movie have kept me from seeing it. I don't see how you can make Holmes any other way if you have bothered to read about him at all.
Once you've seen him played by Brent no one else can do it. (For me any way)
Giggles and Guns

Dana Fredsti said...

I loved Christopher Plummer as Holmes in Murder By Decree... James mason as Watson. I'm okay with filmmakers utilizing different aspects of beloved characters, but I'm quite tired of reimaginings catering to short attention spans...

Kevin R. Tipple said...

First, if you have not seen the movie, you don't have a leg to stand on in commenting about it. If we can start commenting with authority about movies we have seen, the same would be true of books and that would make my TBR pile vanish over night.

I have seen it. It is pretty good. Drags a little in the first half, but overall, the film works. I guess you won't be seeing the sequel either.

The film is also fairly faithful overall to how Holmes is depicted in various works. As Mark noted, Holmes does fight and I think that is mentioned in a number of works.


The Daring Novelist said...

Yes, the movie is much more Holmesian than the trailers make it seem. When I saw the ads I thought 'Oh, Sherlock Holmes playing Robert Downey Jr." and there is a little bit of that.

But for the most part, it is in the spirit of the books, and what is implied in the books, even though it is polished differently.

IMHO, it's not for strict purists, but it is not bad for people who love Holmes, and also like humorous and clever action.

(It doesn't hurt to go in assuming that it will be a comic book that has nothing to do with the books - and then you can be pleasantly surprised at how much better than that it is.)

Morgan Mandel said...

I have yet to see the movie. It's on reserve at our library. I'll be watching it not for the content. (g)

Morgan Mandel

Earl Staggs said...

Kevin, you're right about not judging a movie without seeing it, like not judging a book without reading it. I do, however, decide which films I want to watch by what I see in the the blurbs and promos. Please note my comments are not about the film itself but about the concept of drastically changing the image I've always had of Holmes and Watson. I'm a big fan of action films and would probably enjoy this one -- if the main characters were named Jones and Smith. Or Tipple and Troy, even.