you have a grand gift of silence, watson…

…too bad Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg and Guy Richie don’t.

Who are they? The writers and the director of the latest film incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, titled – cleverly enough – Sherlock Holmes, due out on Christmas Day.

Of course I’d heard of the coming film for some time, but hadn’t checked out the trailer until GruvLoungeGoth (who, I’m thinking, needs a new nickname – it’s never quite sit right with me, but I’m too creatively bankrupt to come up with a new one) asked me via Twitter if I had seen the new trailers. His question stirred up an inadvisable curiosity within me that had to be sated. And so I viewed this:

Oh, how painful it was. And how painful it still is, especially for a long-time Sherlock Holmes fanatic like myself. I briefly considered harakiri to erase the memory.

Unfortunately the release date is almost upon us, which means that marketing for the movie has significantly increased. Billboards, bus shelters, sides of buildings have sprung up all over the city, the charmingly weathered visage of Robert Downey, Jr. painfully reminding me of that which is to come. Not to mention such logical tie-ins as:

7-11 breakfast sandwiches
7-11 breakfast sandwiches (though, to be fair, Holmes was known to slap together a quick (cold) sandwich and stick it in his pocket for later when on the trail of a criminal)
7-11 white chocolate caramel lattes (because Holmes and Watson were famous for ordering such drinks when dining at Simpson's)
7-11 white chocolate caramel lattes (because Holmes and Watson were famous for ordering such drinks when dining at Simpson's)


scratcher lottery tickets (because if they gambled with their lives for England, surely you can gamble a measly $2)
scratcher lottery tickets (because if they gambled with their lives for England, surely you can gamble a measly $2)

The weird thing about this is, I would normally be excited (though slightly weirded out) about all this marketing if the trailer promised a good movie. I love me some Sherlock and think it would be great for the characters and stories to have another resurgence.

So…what is it about the trailer that has got me so twitchy? Not what you would think.

It’s not all the action. I actually don’t have a problem with Holmes and Watson being plopped into a big budget action flick, as long as the action feels natural to the story and the characters (though, yes, it does feel a bit too action-y). As originally written by Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes was a boxer, fencer, single-stick expert and master of baritsu. It was his knowledge of baritsu that saved him from Moriarty’s clutches at the Reichenbach Falls. Watson was also a man of action, ready with a pistol or a fist when needed, as well as being a veteran of the Second Afghan War. Much as I hate to say it: Nigel Bruce, he wasn’t.

Speaking of which, Jude Law looks like an acceptable Watson to me. A man who spoke of having “an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents” (The Sign of Four) was bound to be handsome (the appropriate Watsonian mustache lessens Law’s distracting prettiness, making him more manly), plus he seems to have a nice bit of non-stodgy gravitas which suits the character, as does the twinkle of intelligence and mischievousness in the eye.

I reserve judgment on Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. She looks far too tartish, to be honest, and relies on a kick to the groin where I believe Irene would have used her admirable brains, charm and wit. But as this is a re-imagining, I’ll wait.

Okay, so I don’t have a problem with the action or with Watson and am willing to play wait-and-see with the femme fatale of the piece. Just what is my problem?


Yep. Robert Downey, Jr.

Never mind that, frankly, his nose is too small (so was Jeremy Brett’s, who is my favorite Holmes of all, narrowly edging out Basil Rathbone, who had a proper Holmesian aquiline nose).

What gets me is…I don’t see Sherlock Holmes. I see Tony Stark with an English accent in sloppy Victorian clothes. There’s no real difference between the two characters, except that Downey’s Holmes looks less mentally and emotionally tortured than Downey’s Stark. Also, Holmes was described by Watson to be as meticulous in his personal grooming as he was messy in his housekeeping (I can’t find the exact quote right now, but that was the gist of it). Looking slovenly and unshaven was never something Holmes would be.

Downey just looks…wrong.

Recently CuteFilmNerd and I saw Nine. In the very first scene I was taken aback by how completely Daniel Day-Lewis inhabited his role, as he did in There Will Be Blood and, my favorite film of his, In the Name of the Father. Instantly I remembered the Robert Downey, Jr of Chaplin and wondered where that immersive actor went. Because I sure didn’t see him in that Sherlock Holmes trailer. I’m sure that Ritchie is a big reason for that – he’s known for flip characters and fast action and I will have no problem heaping the proper amount of blame on his head for any Sherlockian misfiring. Still, it would be nice to have Downey be strong enough to overcome the flippancy of his director and the potentially poor writing of one of the men responsible for X-Men: The Last Stand.

Perhaps I should just chill out until I see the movie. And yes, I will be seeing the movie, though I may have to have CuteFilmNerd gag me and tie my hands to the chair arms to keep me from flailing and screaming. As a member of his employer’s film society, CuteFilmNerd can get into a screening of the movie the weekend after Christmas for free. I will, of course, be his guest, for I feel compelled to watch the damned thing but I have no desire to pay my hard-earned money for it.

I just wish that I wasn’t dreading it so much.


  1. I’m unlikely to see it, tho’ it’s not necessarily one I’ll boycott, either. I think I’m okay with alt-portrayals of Holmes–I remember liking Young Sherlock Holmes and Without A Clue although neither one is really that great a movie; the former being sort of actioney-adventurey and the latter portraying Holmes as a good bit worse than a mere slob. Both, of course, take considerable liberties with canon. But then again, so did a lot of the Rathbone films, several of which had Holmes in a (then) contemporary setting far removed from his Victorian roots (c.f. this Wikipedia entry on the WWII-era Holmes films).

    So I can cope with a non-canonical, deconstructed, reconstructed Sherlock Holmes, particularly one in the hands of a talented cast and crew. What’s a bit harder to deal with is Guy Richie, who is a really hit-and-miss director, and who’s come off as a bit clueless in the few interviews about the film I’ve seen. (E.g. he’s been asked about leaving Holmes’ cocaine problem out of the movie; there are good reasons you could leave it out, but Richie’s vague explanation about it being a distraction just doesn’t seem like one fo them.) And the marketing of the movie is just irritating for its generic-ness as much as anything. Does every movie have to have a poster with the main character(s) standing against a blue, cloudy sky pierced by ominous buildings (a la The Dark Knight and a thousand other movies)? And, I know it’s a rhetorical question (because the answer is actually “yes” because of the effed up way the Hollywood economy works these days), but does every big movie have to double as a vehicle for selling sandwiches? It’s now completely possible to be utterly sick of what might be a crommulent or even excellent movie months before it even hits theater screens (don’t even get me started on Avatar, a movie I feel like I’ve already seen six or seven times despite the fact it’s not even out yet).


  2. I don’t have a problem with alt-portrayals as a rule. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Young Sherlock Holmes. To this day my then-heavy crush on Nicholas Rowe persists, though now it’s more an affectionate fondness (his stoner role in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels actually got me to see a very good Guy Ritchie movie). The conceit behind Without A Clue makes Michael Caine’s version of “Holmes” logical, so I don’t have a quibble with that fun piece of fluff. Hell, one of my favorite alt-Holmes is George C. Scott in They Might Be Giants (from whence the band gets its name) – that’s pretty damned alt! But it’s also a lovely, sad little film with Joanne Woodward as a marvelous Watson (another interesting alt-Watson was Margaret Colin in “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”). Hell, there are ultra-purists who consider Jeremy Brett to be an alt-Holmes because they found him too histrionic, whereas I felt that he brought an appealing complexity to an already fascinating character.

    Also, no quibbles with Holmes and Watson being transplanted to WWII-era England, because the essence of the characters (well, the essence of Holmes – much as I love Nigel Bruce, he was not Watson) and the stories felt relatively intact, despite the conversion into propaganda. Seeing as Holmes was transplanted to contemporary times in earlier incarnations, such as the Arthur Wonter and Clive Brook films, I don’t feel I can really fault Universal for its decision.

    So, yeah, it’s not the altness of the movie, or even the character that bugs me (except for the slovenly thing – that’s just wrong). It’s that the bit I’ve seen of Downey as Holmes hasn’t got even a sliver of relationship to the Holmes of the books. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

    I haven’t seen any of Ritchie’s interviews regarding the new Holmes movie. I actually don’t want to know any more about the film than I already do, since I developed an aversion to spoilers of any kind a few years ago, thanks to a Buffy episode. But yes, the marketing is bugging the crap out of me too, even though the prevalence of Sherlock Holmes everywhere I turn secretly tickles me just a little.

    Hopefully the new movie will have people turning to the books, just as the movie adaptation of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution turned me to the stories when I was young, not realizing at the time that it wasn’t an original Conan Doyle story but not caring once I found out because I fell completely in love with the Canon. And, just as hopefully, the young’uns that check out the stories won’t be disappointed by the singular lack of explosions.


  3. I agree with you – Jeremy Brett was the best Holmes. One of our PBS stations is running his Holmes series again and it is still wonderful, even as many times as I’ve seen it. Sigh.

    I’ve seen the trailer for the new movie…meh…haven’t seen the massive marketing tie-ins yet at this juncture, but that may be because we don’t have 7-11 store hereabouts. I suspect the other products will surface here soon enough.

    And as I’ll be on my own for Christmas Day this year, a movie might be an option! (depending, as always, on the availability of public transportation on a major holiday)


  4. Wendy, I don’t know yet if Sherlock Holmes will be a good Christmas movie (I’ll be seeing it that weekend), but I have seen Nine, which opens on Christmas Day and is an interesting movie. I don’t know how you feel about musicals, and Nine isn’t as good as Chicago, but Daniel Day-Lewis alone is so fascinating to watch that it’s worth the price of admission. Plus it has Sophia Loren (who still looks phenomenal – I should look so good now, let alone at her age) and Judi Dench (who is fantastic, as usual).

    Tonight CuteFilmNerd and I will be seeing Terry Gilliam’s latest, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which also opens on Christmas Day. I love Terry Gilliam, so it’s bound to be interesting at least, but I’ll report back about whether it’s worth your Christmas Day dollars.

    I don’t recommend The Lovely Bones. While Peter Jackson tries to recapture the melding of stunning fantasy and jolting reality that he did successfully with Heavenly Creatures, it ultimately doesn’t work. Lovely moments do not a movie make.


  5. Thank you CE, I’ll await your recommendations.
    May be limited to open theaters on available, and limited, holiday bus routes, but if the weather is good that may not be a problem.


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