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"But he never says Elementary, Dear Watson!"

Written by Steven Walker

Iconography is important to me.  The Darth Vader mask.  The Indiana Jones whip.  The Superman symbol.  These things are burnt into the public conscious for at least a few more generations.    

When given the chance to re-imagine Sherlock Holmes, Guy Richie has inexplicably decided to ditch the iconography.  No distinct look, no signature pipe, the violin is almost completely underplayed, and he never says the catch phrase of  “Elementary, Dear Watson.”

This disappoints me greatly, because I feel that a lack of iconography will prevent the character from clicking with the public the way he deserves to.  This world needs a hero who values science and reason above all else.  Sadly I fear Robert Downey Jr. will make a more lasting impression with Iron Man because of that character’s visual appeal.  At least Holmes did say “The game’s afoot!” 

With that out of the way, I love this version of Holmes.  He is far more loyal to the source material than some less-literate movie goers seem to realize.  It is the tone of the tale that is contemporary, not the details.  Some purists seem to resent the fact that Holmes has been turned into an action hero, but I don’t mind because it is not done so at the expense of this intellect. 

This film is built on the Holmes/Watson relationship, which is pitch perfect.  I look forward to a long series of Holmes films just so I can watch these great actors bounce off each other.  Their on screen chemistry is so strong that it somehow compensates for the inane plot.

The plot is…wait for it…Lord Blackwood wants to Take-Over-The-World!  Really?  A lame-ass Roger Moore era James Bond plot has no business in a Sherlock Holmes story.  It is yet another one of those villainous schemes that is so convoluted and relies on so many forced coincidences that it could never possibly work in real life.  This is a problem because the Holmes character should represent a strict adherence to reality.  And even if you really wanted to do a Take-Over-The-World story, shouldn’t something of that scope be saved for a sequel?  By having the plot be so epic here it will make the plots in all subsequent Holmes films feel insignificant, since there is nowhere to go but down.

Lord Blackwood is very well performed by Mark Strong, but he is a miserably underwritten character.  He is the Bad Guy.  We are never told why and I get the feeling we are not supposed to ask.  Just like we’re not supposed to ask how an improvised 19th century Taser (seriously) packs enough punch to throw a grown man straight through a wall.  How can a movie be so reverent of science in one scene and so disrespectful of it in another?  At least they didn’t go the supernatural route.  I was thankful that the story climaxed with a Holmes monologue explaining that there is no such thing as magic.

I also love the way they set up Professor Moriarty.  I hope they cast an actor that can believably compete with Downey Jr. unlike, say, Rachel McAdams.  I’m really supposed to believe this woman out-smarted Holmes?  Twice?  Maybe if it was Cate Blanchett.

All in all I think this is a solid effort, but it would be better if the whole sorry plot didn’t sound more like a Scobby-Doo mystery than anything Sir Author Conan Doyle would write.  Plus, he never said “Elementary, Dear Watson!”      

 

 

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