Steen: Sherlock lacks self-centredness

Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows

I really wanted to like this film.  I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan.  I have been a member of the Sherlockian Society, I have been to 221B Baker Street in London, I have seen just about every Sherlock movie made and I have read every book I could find about Holmes.

It’s not that Robert Downey Jr. isn’t a good actor, I think he is…but he’s not a good Sherlock Holmes. There have been close to 70 actors who have played the great detective; some of the most notable are John Barrymore (1922), Michael Caine (1988), Stewart Granger (1972), Charleton Heston (1991), with the most famous likely being Basil Rathbone, who played the character 14 times.

While everyone has their take on Holmes, many played the character better.

Sure, it’s not a bad evening when you can spend a few hours with Jude Law, who plays Watson, but even that didn’t make the show wonderful.

Professor Moriarty, Holmes’ nemesis, is played by Jared Harris and while his character has moments of cruelty, he is not mysteriously scary enough for this pivotal role.

Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, is played by Stephen Fry, who some of us long in the tooth types will remember as Jeeves in the comedy Jeeves and Wooster.  (Bertie Wooster, by the way, was played by Hugh Laurie, presently the lead character in the TV series House.  But I digress.)

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, Mycroft Holmes, a genius himself, rarely left the confines of the Diogenes Club. Yet, in this film, he shows up all over Europe. OK, so they didn’t stick to the original, and while I may not like anything less than the traditional Sherlock, I do think the character should have some semblance of the familiar.

Watson has always been a good foil to the brilliant Holmes; however here we have a Holmes who is not nearly selfish, obsessive, sarcastic or self-centered enough, so Watson actually seems to be, not so much a foil, as an equal—sad really.

Sure there were some moments—a weak chuckle here and there, a slight twinge as Holmes gets assaulted, but the moments were so outnumbered by the boring and the banal that they were almost non-existent.

I would have even enjoyed idiotic and stupid.

Look, the old Sherlock would never have got his friend Watson to his (Watson’s) wedding on time. The Sherlock we know and love disliked the institution of marriage and was so self-absorbed that getting to the wedding of his closest friend would never have entered his mind.

Which brings me to one of the best lines: “Who’d have known that honeymooning in Brighton was such a dangerous idea.”

And another was (speaking of horses): “They’re dangerous at both ends and crafty in the middle.” (Well I thought it was funny.)

Directed by Guy Ritchie (who knew), the film is long and fairly boring and while I’m still a big Sherlock fan, I’m not a fan of this one.

Two reels

Wishing you the best of the season and a terrific 2012.

Susan Steen is a local non-profit executive and a movie buff.




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