Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Elementary, my very very very dear Watson

I haven’t been nearly sociable enough lately. That’s pretty much the way I am in person, too, always the wall flower. I’m more sociable online than off. I don’t tend to talk at length in person, as I do here. Here I can ramble on without any interruptions. One-sided conversations really suit me. Aren’t you lucky?

So, let me begin. I saw Sherlock Holmes the other night, the one with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. Thank you, Redbox, for cheap entertainment. When I first saw the trailer for this I was horrified. Honestly, Robert Downey Jr? Puhlease. And what was all this jumping and fighting and general Indiana Jonesish folderal? Who was this wise-cracking, tattered creature and where was the severe, cold detective? Oh, desecration!

But you know what? It was awesome.

What I had at first dismissed as a cheap attempt to transform Holmes into an action hero I finally decided was an astute interpretation that aligned very well with the fictional character. Sherlock Holmes was a boxer with an interest in the martial arts. Boxing is brutal, and you have to be very strong, muscular and aggressive. Portrayals of SH have usually focused on his mental prowess, but he would have to be a very physically fit and powerful man. I was used to thinking of him as purely cerebral, and in those old illustrations he seemed so gentlemanly. I imagined him as rather calm. That’s really off base if you consider that he liked to shoot bullets into his wall when he was bored, and he was shooting up cocaine (I didn’t notice any direct mention of cocaine in the movie, but he was definitely high a couple of times). As a young reader, I didn’t really know about the effects of cocaine. I found out later -- SH would have most likely talked non-stop and been climbing up with walls with energy. So I was willing to accept Downey’s more exuberant SH, particularly as the writers left him with his brain intact. Of course I had to reconcile myself to Downey’s overwhelming American-ness. His accent bothered Dear Husband. I didn’t really notice. Either his accent was very good or it wasn’t there at all and I simple accepted the default American one, or I was too busy admiring how rather fine he looked both in and out of clothes. He wasn’t very arrogant though.. He was almost cuddly. SH was not cuddly. In my memories of the story, Watson came across as something of a hero-worshiping amateur and sometimes bumbler. In the movie he is far more astute and skilled at forensics and detection, and he's a top-notch fighter. Even Lestrade shows some unexpected skill, which seems out of character. I was a little disappointed in Irene Adler. Who wants a softer, gentler Irene, anyway? She needs to contact her inner bitch.

The plot was rather silly, but heavens, why not Scooby Doo goes Victorian? It was perfect - like one of the penny dreadfuls. Victorians loved that paranormal stuff. Doyle became a great enthusiast of séances and spiritualism, and a number of stories were about seemingly supernatural events that concluded with rational explanations. The explanation was nearly as loopy as the fiction, but, well, you got to see some really good explosions and top-notch fights, concluding with a fantastic scrap on top of a bridge, and the bad guy is punished and justice prevails, hurrah. I half expected the villain to say, “And I would have gotten away with it except for those pesky kids!” Great choice of villain, too. I didn’t know Victorian clothes could make someone look so much like a snake.

The directors and writers seemed to enjoy queering the relationship. I gather Downey mentioned something to that effect in an interview and caused all sorts of squeeing. I thought his Holmes was most definitely in love with Watson, and Watson seemed rather domesticated. (Sure Holmes is fond of Irene and Watson has a fiancé, but there seemed to be a time when British men bonked each other until it became inconvenient. Then they got married and ran for Parliament, producing more heirs to fill Eton and carry on the bonking.) Holmes and Watson bicker like a married couple, and Holmes is testy and irritable because Watson is getting married and moving out of their shared digs, and he does what he can to sabotage the relationship.

Ah, Victorian bromance.

Everyone knows from the trailer the scene with Downey handcuffed naked to a bed with a pillow over his privates, telling the chambermaid where to find the key. Funny, yes, in a broad way. Very broad. The film was peppered with slyer innuendos and low-key sexual banter aimed at Watson. When, for instance they are all about to be sliced open by a band saw, and Holmes unbuckles Watson’s belt, chiding him to not get excited. It goes by so quickly (I mean, hey, band saw approaching) it likely barely registered with the audience. Or when Watson and his fiance find Holmes hanging from the rafters, demonstrating how the villain survived his execution. “Please, Watson, my tongue is going, soon I will be of no use to you at all.”

I remember when reading the stories how happy I was when Holmes finally revealed an emotional attachment to Watson. Watson was pretty much floored himself. I didn’t like the idea that SH might just like having someone stupid around to make him look even more brilliant. I know Doyle wrote Holmes as an asexual Babbage machine, but an asexual hero is rather dull, so as a young girl I reimagined him as having untold passionate depths. Why not have him in love with his best friend? Oh, and by the way, both Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law look mm mm good. Who knew Jude Law could rock a stache?

Soon another Sherlock is coming to PBS, a retelling of the stories in a contemporary setting. From the preview Holmes seems appropriately acerbic and arrogant, sort of like Gregory House (who was himself based on Sherlock) but with even fewer social skills. I’ve heard good things about it, and I find it difficult not to like an actor with a name like Benedict Cumberbatch. I had to look that up, by the way, because I can never remember his name. Camberbatch, Bandercatch, Bandercrutch - and I can guarantee that tomorrow I will once again have misplaced all the syllables. I keep thinking of cummerbunds.

Ah, yet another post with no nutritional value. Just candy.


  1. Just candy, and I enjoyed every word. So there.

  2. delicious. I look forward to seeing that Sherlock Holmes, one of these days....

  3. I, too, was surprised at the choice of actor, but he definitely played Sherlock well.

    It's good to have a post from you again.

  4. Thanks:)
    I've got the DVD of the movie (bought it last year) but haven't watched it for the fear of destroying the images of Sherlock Holmes and Watson that I've been carrying around in my mind since my childhood...
    but after reading your post, I think I am going to watch it:)

    Warm Regards,