Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sherlock Holmes trailer

I'm aware that, as someone who just recently used JJ Abrams' "Not-Your-Father's-Star-Trek" as a jumping-off point for taking swipes at the practice of retooling cerebrally-oriented older material into flash-first/brains-second "tentpole" action movies; I'm expected to hate the idea of Warner Bros "reimagining" of Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. has the title role, Guy Ritchie is directing, and the new-spin places a heavy emphasis on Holmes as a rougish, action-oriented tough guy.

Well, I don't. Hate it, that is. I'm skeptical as all hell - mostly of Ritchie, a wildly uneven filmmaker who's thus far failed to prove he has anything to offer beyond superficially-amusing British gangster films - but the premise itself doesn't bother me all that much. In cinematic terms, Holmes occupies the same rare space as Dracula and Christ... characters that have been done to death a hundred times over to the point that no "departure" could concievably be radical enough to do any kind of "damage." Hell, the image most people have of the "classical" Sherlock Holmes (deerstalker cap, opera coat, "elementary," etc.,) has very little to do with the original literary version to begin with.

So, basically, my mind is WIDE OPEN for this movie. This first TRAILER for it, on the other hand... yikes.

The first troubling thing about this trailer, right off the bat, is that it looks like a joke. Not a "comedy." I mean it looks like a parody... like something "FunnyOrDie" or whoever would cook up as a brutal SATIRE of the idea of Sherlock Holmes as an action franchise - right down to the quippy one-liners, slapstick partial-nudity, fireball-dodging, absurb "bullet-time" fistfight and the "S!! H!!! E!!! R!!!! L!!!!!" title-countdown bit - not something that's supposed to be the genuine article. I mean, for our introduction to the new-and-improved Holmes he delivers a dry-cool quip, dodges a gunshot and then takes an olympic-style dive from a 5th-story window into The Thames River. Wow. Look, the "traditionalists" were going to be DREADING this thing no matter what... but I bet even they didn't expect they'd be laughing at it.

But, whatever. Like I said, this character has been reworked and reshaped so many times nothing they seem to be doing here can really be called a "desecration" or any such hyperbolic nonsense. Bare-knuckle boxing? Fine. What appears to be two-handed baton fighting? Sure. Bantering-while-gunfighting opposite Watson like old-timey "Bad Boys?" Works for me. The production has been right up front about going for a kind of Pirates of The Carribean-style Victorian-dress adventure vibe, and so far that mission looks accomplished.

No, what's raising my red flag here is that the trailer A.) seems to cover a lot of ground and B.) is almost entirely action-oriented. This is character you can add to or subtract from nearly endlessly, but at the end of the day it ALWAYS has to be about one thing: Smart. Holmes is smart. Ridiculously observant, probably the point of what we'd now call OCD, solving mysteries through deductive reasoning via details so small "normal" minds don't even notice them, much less connect them. We get NO sense of that here. Not one scene shown seems to indicate anything about how Downey is playing (or how the film is visualizing) this central aspect of the character and the franchise. In fact... we don't really see him doing anything that looks like detective work save for futzing with some old-school lockpicking tools and what looks to be a trick involving dust and hidden draft-sources. Hell, if you look at this divorced from prior knowledge of who this character is supposed to be, it looks as though The Authorities have sought Holmes' help primarily for his martial-arts and acrobatic skills.

Granted, it's a trailer and it's going to go heavy on the action anyway, but... "worrisome," to say the least. Also, that last bit with the guy and the hammer? Did anyone else get a weird "Wild Wild West" kinda feeling there?


Jabrwock said...

I suspect that the reason that they don't show much more than a few "thinker" clips (like the bit about the dust) is that action grabs the eye. Especially right now when it's competing with summer films for attention. I expect to see some more focus on the "cerebral" aspects as the summer winds down and we see more fall drama films roll out.

The other reason may be that we ALL know that Sherlock is a thinker. What is less known is that he was also a brawler. He was a fan of fist-fighting, sword-fighting, and "Bartitsu" (essentially british martial arts designed for the cane-wielding gentleman, with grappling for when a cane is not present).

Euler d'Moogle said...

I am afraid, very afraid. I can forgive them for pissing on Transformers, since it never was more than a well made 22 min. toy commercial, and I can forgive them for missing the point with Star Trek since the movie wasn't bad by most measures, but Sherlock Holmes, like Shakespeare, is almost sacred. Pissing on that would be terrible.

CrunchyEmpanada said...

Yes! I literally said to myself "This is Wild Wild West, Part 2." Not that that's bad, I just completely separate the movie from the show and I'm good to enjoy the movie. Because I'd never seen something like it before.

I don't think this movie is going to have that little saving thing about it.

Bob said...


"What is less known is that he was also a brawler. He was a fan of fist-fighting, sword-fighting, and "Bartitsu"I'll admit that I've not read the ENTIRE Holmes canon (a condition which I expect to have rectified by Summer's end) but I know my way around it and thus far I'm finding some of this oft-repeated claim to be a bit... embellished, to say the least.

Doyle's original Holmes wasn't the aloof clinical scold the movies have been "used to" using, fine... but he ALSO wasn't Hugh-Jackman-as-Van-Helsing, which is the vibe I get from this project so far (the character, not the quality.)

Frankly, it looks less like a "back to concept" take and MORE like they decided on the type of film they wanted (Mummy/Pirates four-quandrant "period" actioner) pre-script and then went through the text with a highlighter picking out every shred of detail that would "justify" the stuff they wanted (gunplay, kung-fu, chases, etc.) And like I said, I don't think it's an incorrect approach - IN THEORY. The trailer, however, looks ridiculous.

Jabrwock said...

I see your point, but hopefully this was one of those "focus on the action" trailers, and we'll get to see more over the next few months. They may very well have just taken a few seconds from every fight scene in the movie, or it may have been one long fight in and around the docks. The "hammer man" may just have been the bruiser they brought in when he finished whupping the other guys with the sticks, after the attempts at lockpicking failed. Fits the usual formula. Try to sneak in, fail, bust in, beat up the lackeys, get butt kicked by behemoth, escape and/or outwit the opposition, explosions, followed by witty quip while lying in a street covered in plaster dust.

Actually, it almost seemed as if Watson's rash behavior was messing with Holmes' attempts to be clever. Almost a reverse WWW, with the main character as the thinker, and the sidekick as the impatient "oh get on with it already and shoot someone!"

Bass said...

"Did anyone else get a weird "Wild Wild West" kinda feeling there?"

After watching the trailer, I felt as though I'd either seen the trailer to the next INDIANA JONES or the next WILD WILD WEST.

Maybe it'll be as inoffensively charming as MAVERICK.

Could go either way.

Anonymous said...

The trailer looks horrible. A kissing scene with Sherlock Holmes? Excuse me? Where is the cynical, misanthropic, extremely thin character I know from the stories. You could replace this actor by a pandabear and it would not make a difference.

It looks like a typical Hollywood movie: extremely shallow story, not true to the original character and loaded with effects to make the movie pallatable.

By the way, this is supposed to be Watson ... interesting. I got a different impression from the books.

On a side note: Holmes was experimenting with a lot of drugs (Heroin, Opium etc.), but I have my doubts they will use it in the movie. :) ;)

tyra menendez said...

i agree with jabrwock.
will wait to cast judgment. for once.

Justin said...

Erm...no.. I'll stick to watching my old Jeremy Brett VHS tapes and watching House episodes. This looks like it could actually make me want to rewatch 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.' No thanks.

Nick said...

The One True Sherlock Holmes has been found, and he is Jeremy Brett. I will accept no substitutes.

Okay, I'm not THAT much of a purist (although the Brett episodes do follow the original stories much more closely than any other adaptation... and they don't get bogged down by that faithfulness, either), but yeah, this trailer looks a little weird...

And why Guy Ritchie? I loved "Snatch," and to a lesser extent "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," but those are so far removed from Sherlock Holmes that it'll make the Basil Rathbone versions look faithful by comparison.