Sherlock Holmes v. Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is ok so long as you are expecting a comic book adventure along the lines of Captain America or Iron Man (natch) and not a detective-mystery ala Sherlock Holmes. A smart character requires smart writers and in this movie the producers saved the money for special effects.

In contrast, the British TV series Sherlock is a must see. Sherlock reboots Holmes into our world. Yet despite advancing in time some 130 years when Sherlock first meets Watson he says, exactly as in the original, “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.” A shiver ran down my spine.

Sherlock is fast-paced but clever. It’s written by two Doctor Who vets who invest Holmes with wit, originality and intellect, rather than the quasi-magical powers found in the aforementioned movie. The chemistry between Holmes and Watson is  clear – one understands in this version what is lacking in many others, these two need each other.

The first season has only 3, 90 minute, episodes but a second season just ran in Britain and I expect it will soon be available in the U.S.

Comments

The second season is also comprised of three 90 minute episodes. They are every bit the equal of the first season.

Except... they aren't.

The first season has a very good first episode, a frankly kind of insulting second episode, and a good-to-very-good third episode.

The second season has a good-to-very-good first episode, a kind of forgettable second episode, and a third episode in which Sherlock does very little detecting, very little thinking ahead of his opponents, and then has a cop-out ending. Moriarty is good every time he appears, but Sherlock is rather terrible in the final episode. I bought their first battle of wits -- Sherlock loses some and wins some, but it's neck-and-neck the whole way and furthermore you actually see Sherlock deducing. In the final episode, it's just "Moriarty leads Sherlock around until an unexplained yet predictable third-act turn."

The grand, fun thing about Sherlock is that he's supposed to explain his (absurd) deductions, put a bunch of pieces together into an enormously complex puzzle. They almost entirely forget that in the second season. Even the first episode of the second season, by far the best, is somewhat low on Sherlock being superhumanly clever and explaining his plots. In the second episode, he blunders along to something the audience worked out about 30 minutes before he did, and in the third episode, there's just NONE of that from Sherlock himself.

The series also positively surprised me.
And made me read some of the old Sherlock Holmes stories again.

After the first movie turned Holmes into a ninja, I decided to skip the sequel. I'll probably watch it on NetFlix, on one of those nights when I want to watch a bad movie just to see how bad it can be (current front runner in that catagory, M Night Shyamalan's Last Airbender).

Sherlock sounds good. I just put it on my instant queue.

That's the important point--Sherlock is available for streaming on Netflix. Subscribers needn't follow Alex's link.

When Benedict Cumberbatch said in the first episode, "My name is Sherlock Holmes and I live at 221B Baker Street," I was blown away, even though I knew exactly what was coming.

The books are forgettable. They persisted because of a popular tv series which invented the catch phrase "elementary my dear" and gave a signature hat and pipe. The movies are refreshing for dumping that and giving the characters more substance (Sherlock as a closeted homosexual).

If you are not just a troll and you are sincere, not just in insulting the greatest popular fiction of its age but also in suggested the movies have deepened anything, then seek medical help. Seriously. Stop reading blogs. Go to doctor.

Ah.. it's certainly great stuff, but maybe not overwhelmingly the greatest. It'd be nice to see a similar serialization of Buchan's novels featuring Sir Richard Hannay.

I thought the conversation in the first episode made it clear Sherlock wasn't a closeted homosexual, but probably asexual.

By the way, the look was created by illustrator Sidney Paget in the magazine serializations and the catch phrase comes from the movies, not a TV show. Sorry to intrude on your blather with facts.

"Sherlock as a closeted homosexual"

One of the episodes in the second season disproves that assertion very thoroughly.

To quibble, Holmes says "Afghanistan or Iraq" in the BBC's Sherlock.

The second season of Sherlock was available for (free) streaming from the BBC website to UK residents. Residents of other countries may or may not have ways of accessing the BBC shows using various Internet/software tricks, so I've heard from my friend...

Good call on Sherlock. With each episode being 90 minutes, they're really more movies than TV. Wicked good stuff, though.

Agreed, Sherlock is definitely TV's highlight in 2011

I was happy to see that they armed Watson in the series and he uses the gun in defense of his friend. That was something that came from the books, but would be illegal in Britain today. That's why Holmes covers it up in the first episode.

"...something that came from the books, but would be illegal in Britain today."

As would be Holmes' cocaine habit.
Predictably, the heroic amount of tobacco consumed by the literary originals is not so evident, either.

As someone who has read a lot of Sherlock Holmes (as perhaps my moniker suggests), I have been delighted at the constant and well-done references to the old stories in the Sherlock series. Most reinterpretations (i.e. 'original' Sherlock Holmes stories or translated settings tend to suck, and I keep wondering of the rigor required by these constant homages helped them avoid that fate.

I loved the BBC show and couldn't stand the first Robert Downey Jr version, so I abstained from the second. The thing that I really hated about the Robert Downey Jr. one was 100% corrected in the BBC show. You never heard what Sherlock was thinking or knew what he was investigating and why. He described some stuff at the end of the film, but no one would have even known what he was looking at. In the BBC show, you're more a part of the thought-process. They sometimes even show names of the things that he's looking at. You feel like you're a part of it. Way better than the movie.

The Robert Downey Jr. movie was just a pure action film. Any decent mystery story should be setup in a way that an astute viewer could figure out who-did-it before the reveal. The Downey movie had no real mystery setup at all - just a bunch of action scenes and a climax kind of thrown in there.

If you can't wait, the dvd from season 2 is out in the UK and can be ordered from amazon.co.uk. My copy should be arriving any day now. Of course you have to have a DVD player capable of playing it.

The comparisons with Doctor Who are inevitable, but welcome. Benedict Cumberbatch feels like the guy who came in runner-up for the role of The Doctor.

The RDJ movie was decent, but any episode of season 1 completely blows it out of the water in terms of Holmes-ness.

Jeremy Brett, forever and ever, amen.

Brett is awesome, but Cumberbatch has a little more edge and perhaps feels like less of a ham. I loved the sets from the Granada production.

I highly recommend the new Sherlock.

People overrate Bret. He would have been the greatest Holmes but for two things:

1. He was way too old for the plot. Sherlock Holmes was in his late 20s to his early 40s throughout the period described by Watson. Brett was over 50 at the first season.

2. Brett got quite ill soon after filming the first season, so in the remaining five he is both too bloated to play Holmes and utterly lacking in the character's extraordinary physical energy.

You could easily believe Cumberbatch was suspected in a child disappearance. He's got a bit more of the weirdness I want to associate with Holmes.

Cillian Murphy could also carry the role.

I just watched the first episode of Sherlock on Alex's recommendation. It was pretty good, and certainly better than the Robert Downey Jr. movies. I was first taken aback at why they would cast such a strange-looking guy as Cumberbatch for the lead role, but by the end of the episode I was liking him.

I really liked "Sherlock", but it's not fast paced at all. Far more Conan Doyle than the hollywood version.

That's one of the factors that makes it such a good adaptation! The stories are often anything but fast-paced. (In fact, one criticism I have of the series is that there's a little too much action.)

Game of Shadows is great, it is the Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law show. Guy Ritchie is the best for this kind of kinetic banter movie (and for going with the flow and letting them do whatever).

Sherlock the TV show is also great, because for once the scriptwriters of a miniseries use all 90 minutes instead of stretching a half hour TV script out to fill the hour and a half. Lots of fridge logic, though. (Meaning you are standing in front of the fridge at midnight, grabbing a snack, and you think, hang out, but why X have decided at Y point to do Z? She didn't know about R until S....)

Google the second season and watch as soon as possible anywhere you can find it. Episode 3 season 2 is a masterpiece.

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is ok so long as you are expecting a comic book adventure"

This is essentially what short stories and serialized novels were in the 19th century. Because they're old, we elevate them (the good ones at least) to literature now, but when published, these were massed produced entertainment for the masses. In that light, I found the last two movies to be more faithful to the original stories than most other film and television interpretations are even if the creators took some liberties.

Re Sherlock, I liked the first season, but it was not without its flaws.

I enjoyed both versions. I particularly enjoyed the Mycroft appearance in The Downey Jr. film.

Stephen Fry was the only saving grace of that movie.

Making Sherlock contemporary felt truer to what Sherlock Holmes stories ought to be. Doyle didn't write them as historical period pieces.

And modern London is the hero of the piece, as Victorian London was of the original.

The first episode of the Sherlock TV series tried to have a mystery, but they botched it. The rest more or less haven't even tried. Like Dr. Who, the series is plagued with sloppy writing and is very poorly thought out.

For example:

We have a woman who is a victim of a serial killer, and she writes a word in the floorboards by scratching it out with her fingers. Something that takes awhile. Are we supposed to believe that the killer sits there and watches her do it for 10 minutes? Or that he leaves before she has succumbed to the drug?

The police describe the killings as "serial suicides". How would they determine that they are suicides? The writers know the people have been forced to take a drug, but all the police would have is a dead body. Autopsy would show poisoning, and three people would all have died of the same poison. They might conclude there's a bad batch of some illegal drug on the street. Not suicides, and not "serial suicides."

Dr. Watson has a limp at the start of the show, but it's gone by the end. It was all "psychosomatic". Barely believable if he'd been shot in the hip or leg, but he later says he was shot in the shoulder. Are you kidding me?

Then they have Sherlock text messaging all the phones in a conference room. Aside from the technical difficulty, how is he listening to the press conference, and how can he send even a single word "wrong" within the one second response time shown on the show? It takes longer than that to do your mystery dial-all-the-phones technique, key in the message and hit send, have it received by all the phones, etc. It's just "oh, he's a technical wizard, so he can do things like this." Just stupid.

The whole series has been like that. If you actually *like* mysteries, and want to use your brain, give the show a pass.

We have a woman who is a victim of a serial killer, and she writes a word in the floorboards by scratching it out with her fingers

ARTHUR: But if he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve"Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh". He'd just say it.
BROTHER MAYNARD: It's down there carved in stone.
GALAHAD: Perhaps he was dictating.

You had to wait two years for something we got in Canada last year ( and dubbed in french to boot)?

The _second_ season. It just aired for the first time. It wasn't even filmed until late last year.

The Beeb commissioned a 1 hour pilot, liked it enough to rewrite episode 1 as 90 minutes and to commission 3.

Launched it in the summer doldrums with all expectations it would disappear without sight.

Instead the critics loved it, and it built up a huge following. A second series was inevitable, but Cumberbatch's film success makes further series problematic.

Rebooting the characters, particulalry Dr. John Watson, as younger, was a stroke of genius.

The key to that series is always that it is about heroism, and it is about friendship. It's like 'Master and Commander' (the Patrick O'Brian naval novels) it's a reverie on a friendship between 2 unusual men.

The series captures that.

The overwhelming virtues of the Sherlock series are:

- the rehabilitation of John Watson to something close to the original character. Physically courageous. Self sacrificing. Loyal. Gallant towards women (a woman kidnaps him, and he asks her for a date). Appalled by Holmes but also his true friend. A man of action, decisive in the ways he has to be.

- the use of modern London settings. Watson is sitting in Russell Square when he begins his first adventure by meeting Holmes. The flat is in Bloomsbury in a house of the right date, and close to the original Baker Street. One episode hangs on Holmes knowledge of the Soho one way system. (the use of the service pistol is anachronistic: losing one of those is a court martial offence, possession by a civilian is a number of years in prison, you can't fire a 9mm automatic at a wall and not bring down the plaster on both sides, and the Met flying squad a few minutes thereafter).

- the knowing post modernism of it. The assumption by outsiders that Holmes and Watson are gay, because they live together, to Watson's constant embarassment. The use of mobile phones. The line where the policeman calls Holmes 'a freak' and he replies 'no. A high functioning sociopath-- do your reading'. The 'Blog of Dr. John Watson' rather than writing for The Strand Magazine. Irene Adler's profession

Watson as the disabled veteran of Afghanistan. A man searching for a meaning, for a role. And he meets the irritating and outrageous Sherlock Holmes, who provides him with it.

Heroes for the 21st Century. But still, heroes.

This is a series about Watson, as much as it is about Holmes. And Martin Freeman plays him with brilliance. That scene with Mycroft and the shaking hand.

The minor characters are also well played: the beset Inspector Lestrade. Mycroft.

The plots, like the original stories, are sometimes ludicrous and improbable or contrived. But the characters. Oh the characters.

Modern London doesn't do fogs 'the Great Smoke' was, in fact, the product of sulphur dioxide from coal fires, now banned. But it does do dark and dangerous. And at the end of those dark and dangerous alley, hot in pursuit of evil, are Holmes and Watson.

Comments for this post are closed