Trying REALLY Hard to Withhold Judgment

Mr. A sent this to me with a question: Why is it that people need to make Sherlock Holmes into the 19th Century’s Batman? Granted, Holmes had his disguises and his moments of derring-do but this looks like the Wild Wild West:

I want this to be good because I’ve been starved of Sherlock Holmes on screen since forever, and because I love Robert Downey Jr. and think he’s not the worst actor they could have chosen. I’ve seen some actors who are physically unlike Holmes absolutely kill the part, like Frank Langella in the William Gillette adaption and this red-headed kid I saw years ago in a play, who managed to get me past his looks with his acting. I’m willing to be charmed and seduced by it.

And I’m not a total canon snob, I’ve read and enjoyed some pretty horrible pastiches ranging from Holmes investigating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to time-travel absurdity and the Phantom of the Opera to Holmes being Jack the Ripper himself. But I may have to draw the line at campy sex hijinks with Irene Adler and the maid. Just … no.


20 thoughts on “Trying REALLY Hard to Withhold Judgment

  1. What the…?
    Agreed. No. Just…no.
    (That said, I must say, Jude Law did *not* look like Jude Law–I totally didn’t recognize him.)

  2. It’s one thing to change or enhance or reimagine as long as the character is recognizable. But in Holmes’ case, I’d argue that he is intrinsically immutable in many ways, and also of a certain place, no matter where he finds himself.
    So don’t fuck with that.

  3. The real shame is that it would be somewhat true-to-the-original for Watson to be something of an action hero, instead of merely the befuddled tagalong. A combat veteran, who always has his trusty revolver close at hand (which Holmes relies on, never carrying a firearm himself). Sure, Holmes can bend fireplace pokers, and was able to stop Moriarty with some sort of exotic hand-to-hand, but you’d never expect to see him brawling. Too indolent to bother.
    Now, if it weren’t for the fact that “Wild Wild West” has already sort-of covered the territory, one could have a steampunk variant with Watson the dashing fighting man and medic, and Holmes the practical chemist, master of disguise, and brains of the outfit. Which is obviously not this film. So if one must spoof, go watch Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley in the slight Without a Clue instead. Better yet, get some of the Grenada productions with Jeremy Brett, and pretend this trailer never existed.

  4. mds beat me to recommending Without a Clue as a spoof. And the Brett Holmes; I compare all others to him (and not to their advantage.)

  5. yes, brett. it’s victorian. he may have been an addict, but he was civilized.
    hollywood did the same to the scarlet letter. SO contumacious of them.

  6. virgo, agreed, it’s the characterization that matters.
    mds, oh, I loved the Jeremy Brett series. Dark, dark, dark, all the way down. Great stuff.
    I can’t do spoofs. I take my Victorian Nerd Stuff waaaay too seriously.

  7. As noted above by astute commenters, Jeremy Brett will never be bested as Holmes. Just like Joan Hickson will never be bested as Miss Marple, particularly by the supercilious moron Geraldine McEwan they have playing her now.
    From the look of the Holmes trailer, I think I’ll take a pass until it’s on free TV.

  8. Now, if that wasn’t for a Sherlock Holmes film I would totally go see it; it looks like a lot of fun. But as HOLMES? No, no, no. Not even Robert Downey Jr. will get me to pay to see that in the theatres.

  9. If you’re looking for a good Holmes read, try the series written by Larry Millett, former architecture critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. My personal favorite is:
    Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders
    Regarding the movie, this doesn’t look good.

  10. [braces for flames]
    I loved Jeremy Brett’s performance, but I always felt he looked to sickly to play Holmes. In fact, I wish there was some way to graft Brett’s performance on Basil Rathbone’s body.
    And I’m OK with the action; Holmes was a tough mf-er. I wouldn’t mind seeing that aspect of his character portrayed as long as it isn’t at the expense of his deductive skills. That is, after all, what made him remarkable. London was full of tough mf-ers.
    Oh, and those shades? Need.

  11. ok, it could be worse. it has been, because once they had George C Scott play Holmes.
    That said, Ian McShane’s got the face, the voice, and the fists. Not the height. Not the breadth of shoulder. Holmes wasn’t just a tough mf-er, he was a BIG s.o.b. physically, for the time. I loved Jeremy Brett in the part, but he might’ve been a touch cadaverous in the 3rd series.
    He had one damned fine Watson, though — the second chap in the role, Hardwicke. Damned fine.
    If you go back and read the original novels you’ll find Watson fancies himself a bit of a ladies’ man, but he’s actually, yes, the veteran and a bit more apt to be successful in combat. The wound is troublesome but not really debilitating.

  12. Ian McShane. Wow. Oh, mds – Holmes did carry his own revolver from time to time. He’s the one who shoots the Hound of the Baskervilles.

  13. If you want to read a really superb Holmes homage, try Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by John H. Watson, by Lindsay Faye. She gets the Ripper stuff right and the Holmes stuff right as well.
    And Robert Downey — no. Just — no. The NY Times wrote an article about this movie a month or two ago, and reading it convinced me that I did not want to see this movie in any shape or form.

  14. “Oh, mds – Holmes did carry his own revolver from time to time. He’s the one who shoots the Hound of the Baskervilles.”
    That’s why I wrote “almost never.” No, really, I did. Let’s move along. (Hey, it’s the world-famous writer, dan mcenroe! I hear you got quoted in a major commencement speech, or something.)
    McShane would be an interesting reversal after decades of guys built like Gillete, Rathbone, and Brett. If we ignore George C. Scott and Edward Woodward, and we do. Dunno if I could see him intensely thinkering, or stretching out his long hand for the cocaine bottle, but what the heck.
    I would also agree that there would have been a lot less wrong about this film if it hadn’t been “Sherlock Holmes.” In fact, I would wholly endorse a movie version of “The Difference Engine” with jokes added. But LEAVE HOLMES ALOOOOOOONE!

  15. Oooh, Nora, I need a new book for when I get done with Watchmen. Thank you!
    I am woefully behind on my Sherlockian reading. I used to read everything; now I’m lucky if I get through the fanfiction.

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