Sherlock Holmes

1. Analysis of the Book. Sherlock Holmes is a genius. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is pretty smart too, but Sherlock Holmes is, hands down, one smart cookie. Holmes’ genius is one of the defining characteristics of Doyle’s series. Written in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the short stories and novels which comprise the Holmes series were known for their main character’s brilliantly deduced logic, fantastic cases, and amazing abilities (disguises, observational skills, etc.). The stories were set in Victorian England, and narrated by his close, personal friend Doctor Watson. The stories are reflective of the time period in which they are set,
and mirror many of the epitomized, asexual, gentlemanly ideals of Victorian society. Likewise, his relative asexuality, neatness, cocaine/opiate habit and gentlemanly financial independence lends a characteristic nod to the belle epoque era of which it was contrived.

2. Analysis of the Film. The film was created in 2009 by Guy Ritchie. Theses two aforementioned features of the film (its date of premier and its director) speak to the majority of its characteristic styles. First, Guy Ritchie is the same man who created Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. He is an action film kinda guy who likes, “to make cool movies about cool guys with cool stuff” (AO Scott, The New York Times). This film is no exception. What Ritchies created is, essentially, a steam-punk reinvention of a Victorian era story. (It would fit nicely with Wild, Wild West the series and Briscoe County Jr.) Second, every decade seems to seek to reinvent Sherlock Holmes in its own image. The last decade is no exception. Gone are the  epitomized Victorian values & stylings, relative asexuality, and cocaine/opiate habit. These are all replaced with the telltale action of our short attention span dictated times, and a sanitized anti drug (cocaine and opiate habit deleted) theme.

3. Analysis of the Adaptation. This is a non-canonical remake which is not based on any particular previous Holmes story. As previously mentioned, it is a steam-punk remake in many ways. The only real homage to the original Sherlock Holmes seems to be the Victorian setting with its stunning backdrops, imaging, and recreation of 19th century London. Guy Ritchie seems to have exchanged the elegance of Holmes for the brash cockiness of the modern era. Additionally, the scale of the mystery case seems well beyond the traditional scope of what you might find in most novels. In the movie he is out to save the world instead of some of his more minor cases in the original novels. The movie is much more massive, and lacks the suleties and genius that is Sherlock Holmes. It is not a faithful adaptation, but rather a hip, cool, trendy, yuppie remake with two trendy, bad boy stars (Robert Downey and Jude Law).

4. On-line Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to Sherlock Holmes include: which basicically pans the film and points out dis-similarities such as, “he wears clothes that do not fit and exhibits horrible manners, something an Englishman of his class and in that era would never do.” She discusses the fact that the movie is an action film, but that it lacks the substance of the original novel. Her observations concentrate o the differences between the novels and movie, and generally tends to conclude that it is not a faithful adaptation. which gives high praise to the innovative and imaginative retelling of a nineteenth century calssic. At the same time he points out the outstanding work done on the cinematography. This review concntrates heavily on the cinematic style of Guy Ritchie, and points out many of the scenes and styles in the movie which are characteristic of Guy Ritchie’s style.

5. Critical Analysis. We see twice in the film Holmes’s clinical application of violence. It shows two different sides of Holmes (equally) which were not previously exhibited in the original stories: Holmes’s brilliant intellect, and his masculine physicality. It show both equally well. First, the fight scene is one of the few parts of the film which illustrates Holmes amazing intelligence. It begins with his precognitive analysis of how to win the fight. This is a nod to Holmes analytical skill, and blends it with Guy Ritchie’s slow motion style. It is a very Ritchie-esque scene reminiscent of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Second, the application of violence in both scenes lends a new depiction of Holmes as a masculine, lithe, energetic, and powerful masculine presence. This is in sharp contrast to the pasty physicality with which he was portrayed in the original novels. Both of these elements combine to create a very different representation of Sherlock Holmes. It is radically different, and creates a new interpretation.



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One response to “Sherlock Holmes

  1. I agree that Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes is a pretty clear-cut difference from any other interpretation of Holmes, whether it’s in the novel or in other films or television series. The filming techniques that Richie uses in his films (slowing down and speeding up filming speed, etc.), along with Downey’s own acting skills and personality he puts into all of his characters, help to create a more modern Holmes. The decade that the film is produced does influence the type of interpretation as well, and since this decade is more interested in the action and the special effects, these were influences in the movie that helped gain a larger audience.

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