Monday, 11 January 2010

The many faces of Sherlock Holmes

Yesterday there was a slight discussion (which might pick up or not) about the new “Sherlock Holmes” movie. The main argument against it is “there’s too much action in it.”

Now, most people who have seen the movies or TV-series might even agree to this. On screen, mostly Holmes’ high intelligence and ability to deduct have been show. Action did not really feature in it. Even “The Hound of the Baskervilles” isn’t exactly an action-packed movie. There’s the attack of the dog at the end, yes, but apart from that it’s showing us all the possible killers and then eliminating them by showing they either don’t have the capacity or the reason for it.

This leads up to an argument like “Holmes and Moriarty never really fought physically” (which is, of course, wrong as this happens in “The Final Problem”). On the other hand, the stories themselves show Holmes as a man who is both physically and mentally quite able. He is able to disguise himself as almost everyone he wishes to become. He’s a skilled fencer and boxer. He scales the sheer walls of a cliff after Moriarty has fallen into the waterfall (as we, and Watson, learn in “The Adventure of the Empty House”). In other words: he definitely has what it takes to be an action hero. (He has more than just what it takes to be an action hero, also being very intelligent.) If it becomes necessary, Holmes can definitely fight (and so can Watson, who was a military doctor, after all).

And he does have his dark sides, too. He’s an addict (even though he only indulges in cocaine when he’s bored) and he’s not always obeying the laws. It’s his personal idea of right and wrong he ultimately follows. That might mean to let a criminal escape, because his crime is ‘justified’ in a way. That might also mean to kill a criminal himself who cannot be touched by the law for some reason.

I’m pretty sure there will be parts of the movie (it’s not yet in theatres in Germany) which are not strictly correct with the stories (or with the way Doyle designed his character – whom he hated, by the way, for taking the public from the novels he thought to be better, his historical novels … which are dreadful, by the way). There will be a new character and at least one old one used in a new way (Irene Adler, ‘the’ woman, as far as Holmes was concerned). But that’s not the first time it happens and doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. Maybe it will be quite interesting and enlightening.

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