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Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes?

No. Sherlock Holmes is not in the movie Sherlock Holmes. I’m surprised no one has noticed. John Griffin of the Gazette gave it five stars and seemed thrilled by it. It is thrilling as an action film, but Sherlock Holmes is not in it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle doesn’t do action films.

Let’s get basic. Sherlock Holmes is a gaunt, sharp-eyed detective who depends on applying his superior reasoning ability to elicit subtle clues he alone is able to observe. His style is super cool, his demeanor smooth and almost silent, his face angular, with a long nose that he sticks into everything with the aid of his round spyglass.

He wears a “deerstalker” hat, made of tweed, with flaps, which may be lowered over the ears when it’s cold or windy. When he has a free moment, he is puffing on his pipe, which is no ordinary briar, but a calabash, a kind of squash that forms a curved yellow bowl that goes tawny when the pipe is smoked for a while. At the short end of the calabash is the bakelite mouthpiece. Seated on top of the calabash, sealed in place with a ring of cork, is a meerschaum insert that contains the bowl for the tobacco. This type of pipe ensures a very cool smoke because there is a chamber between the bowl and the calabash.

I know because I’ve owned one for many years.

Another characteristic of the “real” Holmes is that he is very non-PC, for he is a dope addict, his drug of choice being cocaine. To complete the picture, he is not much of a dresser, favouring bland clothes that allow him to blend into the background.

Contrast this description with how he is portrayed in the film. Robert Downey Jr. is a handsome lad, no question. But he is much too pushy for the role, sporting a modern mop of thick hair teased up a storm, with a fashionable three-day growth on his chin and moustache. His clothes are stylish and much too “Flash Harry” for the role.

As an action hero he’s marvelous; as a Sherlock Holmes, he’s a complete dud.

Now how about the love interest? Both male leads have female friends. They are superbly dressed in the bustles of the period. They both appear to think that’s enough, so they come over as modern American women in fancy dress.

Holmes’s sidekick, Dr. Watson, is similarly badly drawn. Admittedly as an MD, one expects him to be elegantly attired, but they went over the top again, making him look like a toff or a fashion model just off the runway. And he had no presence. He should be renamed “Whatson?” or “Whereson?” or “Witlesson.”



At February 12, 2010 at 4:04 PM , Anonymous Darth Hat said...

Holmes only wears a deerstalkr hat because that's the way he was drawn all those years ago.

The Guy Ritchie film is entirely consistent with the Conan-Doyle universe. The stories themselves, as written by Watson, are somewhat fictional. They are not a literal description of what happened. Watson had to rearrange events and names and places to protect the innocent, as it were, and to make better stories for publication. Holmes himself complains that the stories are too wild.

Also it is likely that Watson made up a description of Holmes for publication. Wherever he goes, people know who Holmes is, but never recognise him before being told who he is.

We also know that Holmes spent countless hours in the underworld, gathering intelligence. Although Watson never wrote about him getting into bar-fights, how would he have known about them? He was surprised to find him in an opium den once. It is clear Holmes got up to things that Watson had no idea of, and it is clear he knew things about the darkest underbelly of society. That's why he had the books: he would hear things, and write them down, without knowing what use it would be, and so he could keep his mind clear of flotsam.


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