Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Amusing (Long-Awaited?) Sidebar:

Okay, I think I'm finally ready to rhapsodize about Sherlock Holmes.

Upon multiple viewings, I've hit upon an unexpected surmise: I think there might be a subtle social commentary in this flick. You see, it's Reardon, the ginger midget (not dwarf; there's a difference), who is the real genius in the flick, but it's Lord Blackwood -- a paragon of money and power and stature -- who causes all the fuss.

Sure, it could be said that since it was all Blackwood's idea, it was all his genius. But all Blackwood did was present a series of problems to Reardon, then sit back and reap the rewards (until he overreached, or course). It was the foreshortened person -- more likely considered a circus freak than a scientist -- who made the real magic.

But, of course, in the location and time period of the story, Reardon wouldn't have been able to so much as pull a rabbit out of his hat in front of the privileged world Blackwood wanted to run. Because Blackwood had birth (shadowed though it may be) and a title and wealth, Blackwood was able to stand on the ginger midget's meager shoulders and proclaim himself not only returned from the dead, but supreme lord of all humanity.

But enough with social commentary.

I know a lot of Holmes afficionados will brangle that this film is just a stylized, action-stuffed, bloated, smelly fishbelly of a flop. They couldn't be more wrong.

I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, I also soaked up more than my fair share of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but hey. I'm from a small town. We did well to have as diverse a library as we had.

At any rate, I saw nothing in this movie that rang false to me. In the original stories, both Holmes and Watson were in their respective primes. Their shenanigans involved a certain amount of derring-do, and, yes, Holmes was something of a martial artist. Also, in several stories -- I'm particularly thinking of the Hound of the Baskervilles -- their cases involved debunking superstition as well as defeating disbelief on the part of authorities. And I can't tell you how many locked-door murders Holmes and Watson have solved.

In fact, my first thought as I strolled out of the theater (even that first time when I didn't get to see all of it because I had to go to work early) was that this flick had rekindled the sporting spirit I remembered from my youth.

You know, before Holmes wore a deerstalker and Watson was a portly old fussbudget who spent more time being confused than actually helping to solve anything.

This is a return to the roots, and I bless Guy Ritchie (and Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law and the fabulous Mark Strong, of course) for bringing back the intrepid heroes of my youth. Sure, mysteries are fascinating.

But be honest. Aren't mysteries set against gigantic or shrunken foes and unfettered half-ships on the roll and hidey-gun-toting professors and fancy-togged, magic-weilding nobs more fun?

Do I even have to ask?


In addition to being fun to watch, this flick is beautifully shot. The scenes showing old London are full of both the grime of the times and a certain wistfulness for how grand a city London has always been. Yeah, they're CGI renderings, but someone with a lot of love obviously put a lot of work into them.

Plus, the analyzation scenes where Holmes internally plots his every move to disable an opponent? Pure gold. I'm seriously. Not only in their step-by-step slo-mo but in their real-time follow-through. Beautiful stuff.

And poor Holmes. Both a beneficiary and a victim of his great intellect. It makes him a valuable asset to his kingdom but the very devil in a social situation. Gives him miles of foresight, but leaves him wallowing in friendship muck when it becomes clear he's losing his grasp on the one person he upon whom he can depend.

Downey plays him superbly. Hate to resort to an adverb, there, but seriously. Heheh.

But I think the biggest payoff is Jude Law's Dr. Watson. By returning to a Watson freshly home from the wars, a Watson in his prime both in health and in practice, Law opened the door for a stellar performance that showed just how important Watson has always been to Holmes, both as a friend and as a partner.

Okay, maybe the biggest payoff was Dredger. BIG. But not the slow, lumbering, stupid big that would have been outmatched by this Watson and Holmes any day of the week. Naw, that'd be too easy. Ol' Dredger was huge, yes, but quick on both his mental and his physical feet. Definitely a worthy adversary.

Even if he's French.

Sorry! I had to do it! I had to bring social commentary back into it!

Heh, you gotta admit that Blackwood chose his cronies to be genetic lottery winners. A speedy giant and a brilliant midget.

Or maybe that's why they agreed to serve him. On their own merits in this day and age, either could make a fine living for themselves. In fact, considering that they're both in a movie, you could argue that they have. Ha.

But in 1890s London? Not so. If they hadn't stumbled into Blackwood's sphere of influence, their various talents would have been completely wasted. Reardon, for certain, would have been far better off in a raree show than as a midget genius. And Dredger? Well, he might have found work as a laborer -- perhaps in the ship factory where he and Holmes threw down -- thanks to his very great strength, but he would never have even come close to position in society.

No, in old London, like in so much of the world, position makes might. And, if you can get away with it (unlike Blackwood), might makes right.

Oi. Anyway.

As you can tell, I've thought entirely too much about this movie, so I'm stopping now. Heheh. It's an excellent blick, and I plan to use the soundtrack as background music while writing my steampunk novel. No, Sherlock Holmes isn't quite steampunk, but it does have that feel to it, thanks to all the nifty methods Blackwood and his minions employed to recreate magic.

Plus, I just love that broken piano and the ragged violin sawing. It should sound irritating, like a cat shrieking while kids bang on a wrecked xylophone or something, but it doesn't. It's perfect.

Of course, Lorekeeper is first, but hey. A girl can plan ahead.


At 1:31 PM, Blogger Sherri said...

And did you catch Holmes calling Watson 'Jude'? LOL

At 1:44 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Actually, I didn't. When is that?

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Sherri said...

They're walking through an alley, right after Watson bought the ring, I think, and Watson has some extra coins he's fiddling with. Holmes asks, "Can I hold that for you, Jude?" Watson shakes his head. One of the vendors was doing a game of chance or something and Watson was tempted. LOL

At 4:38 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

I remember that scene! I'll have to watch it when I get home from work. You'd think the editor would've caught it!

At 4:32 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Aw, he's just saying, "Shall I hold it for you?", though if you're listening for it, it does sound like, "Shall I hold it, Jude?" Ha!


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