Sherlock Holmes on TV

So, while everyone is speaking about the new Sherlock Holmes movie that recently came out, I’d like to take a moment and remember one of the best versions of Sherlock Holmes, on small and big screens, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett.

The series ran for a short period of time during the 1980s.  Brett arguably filled the role of the brilliant detective that seemed to satisfy even the most hardcore Holmes fans.  Unlike the recent movie with Robert Downey, Jr, Holmes is not supposed to be a sexy action star, but a hands on scientist who sees a world of information in the smallest detail.  The series in its excellence was not limited to the selection of Brett as Holmes, we had David Burke as Dr. Watson and my favorite version of the long suffering Mrs. Hudson played by Rosa Williamson.  The series would spend one hour (maybe two) on most of the Holmes cases, including the most interesting to me, The Final Problem (the death that Sir Conan Doyle wrote for Holmes and his nemesis Dr. Moriarity.)

The new movie, Sherlock Holmes, has some good points, including a fine portrayal of Dr. Watson by Jude Law.  His version of Watson is the one I wanted to see on screen, and though Brett’s TV series did not make Watson an absent minded imbecile, I still think the character could have improved upon.  People don’t realize that Watson was in the army, he was a distinguished and reputable doctor and deserved some respect from Hollywood who liked to use Holmes partner as a comic timing device.  It isn’t fair to Watson, and honestly it’s not fair to Holmes either who would never have put up with anyone that would be considered stupid in general.

I don’t like to post a review so much on a movie right after I’ve seen it; my initial reaction to the picture has more to do with the energy one experiences in a movie.  And this movie had many loose ends it needed to tie up, which it did, but basically all at once in what I can state felt like a blast of a shot gun pattern so walking away immediately I was left to try to digest everything so fast.  I’m told this is more of a Guy Ritchie (the director) tactic and while it might work for other movies, it didn’t suit Sherlock Holmes.  Yes Holmes will sometimes keep his inner knowledge to himself about certain clues he comes across, but I’ve never seen it take this long for him to reveal or more important, this many “clues” being revealed all at once.  It felt like an afterthought from the writers, like they were getting ready to roll the closing credits, and then remembered they had to explain how Holmes arrived at his conclusions and shoe horned some in the only two places at the end where it would go.

My other issue with the movie is in Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler.  Or maybe, it’s just the fact that Adler had to be in this movie at all.  I know there is much hoopla of the bromance between Holmes and Watson.  If I’m going to roll my eyes at this relationship and how contrived it is, I have to roll my eyes at the romance with Holmes and Adler.  First, McAdams is way too young to be Adler.  She’s already described in A Scandal in Bohemia as a woman who’s already had quite a past, and we presume some years have passed since that case.  Second, Adler was no more in love with Holmes than he was with her.  I think what is interesting about the couple is both really underestimated each other in their initial meeting.  For Adler to underestimate Holmes is not so notable, part of the fun of Holmes is how he is able to use what seems like an unassuming gift to capture some of the world’s most evil minds.  But Holmes being fooled by her is quite extraordinary.  It doesn’t happen very often and certainly not by a woman.  Holmes did keep Adler’s photograph but I believe he had it tossed in some drawer, not kept out in the open to see everyday.  Holmes was too much of an egotist to want to be reminded of any failure.

But overall I did enjoy the movie.  If I let my two issues above go, it’s fun to watch and I really think most of the public will be unaware of any problems in the story not reflecting the canon.  (I have no problems with alternate versions or remakes of my favorites, but I do not care that these new versions will interpret the characters outside their original personalities such as any romance with Holmes would).  I didn’t get into the portrayal of Robert Downey, Jr as Holmes because he will always fall short to the great and late Jeremy Brett.  I especially liked the slow down of action to help explain why Holmes was so adept at fighting his opponents.  That’s all I can really say without giving away spoilers.  What did everyone else think?


7 thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes on TV

  1. Pingback: Sherlock Holmes on TV - Television

  2. I can’t speak to the series as I didn’t watch it although the guy in the picture looks familiar so maybe I caught an episode here or there and just forgot. Wouldn’t be the first time.

    While I have read some Sherlock Holmes stories, I’m hardly a connoisseur of the series, so I went into the movie with no preconceived notions, other than the fact that I love RDJ. I mean, I really love RDJ. And I loved him here as well. I thought the mancrush on Watson was a bit overdone but I really loved his chemistry with Jude Law (who was fantastic). I didn’t have a problem with the pacing of the revelations but I have seen other Guy Ritchie movies so maybe that’s why. Or maybe it’s from watching Scooby Doo as a kid. hehe Either way, it was fine.

    I didn’t care one way or another about Rachel McAdams. She’s a fine little actress and probably too young for the role but that’s Hollywood for you. I liked that she kept Holmes on his toes.

    I can’t talk about anymore without going into plot but overall I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was fun and look forward to the inevitable sequels.

  3. Hee, Scooby Doo. I always loved how the disguiese were full fledged masked that could be ripped from the bad guy’s face easily and with great cartoon drama.

  4. Well . . . you already know how I feel, mostly. It was just too far outside of canon for me to really enjoy. I probably could have tolerated the ho-yay spin had they not ALSO tried to include a female love interest–pick one bad, out of canon idea and execute it clearly, don’t take two bad ideas and muddle them. I also didn’t like the Bond villain nature of the plot, so perhaps had the plot been more traditional Holmes I wouldn’t have minded the romantic/sexual pining aspects. Jude Law was the best part of the movie for me; he’s a Watson of whom I can approve, since as you point out Watson isn’t some bumbling idiot but a very valued help to Holmes, which he wouldn’t be if he were stupid.

    I haven’t watched old Holmes movies, preferring the books, but I’ve seen at least some of the Brett shows and I agree they were very good–that’s how I picture Holmes, though perhaps a trifle younger. But the quiet intelligence was there, and overall I thought his version was very faithful to the stories.

    After my initial reaction, I actually became more dissatisfied with the movie as I thought about it, and I’m downgrading my grade to a C- from the B- I originally gave it. Too many things that I just didn’t like, from Rachel McAdams to the scale of the plot.

    Though at least, thanks to WOH, I now know that Tower Bridge does not equal London Bridge. :p

  5. I was wondering whether or not to give this movie a chance. Maybe I should.

    I’ve only read few of the books but I think I’ve watched every single episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett and whatever followed Moriarity’s death under a different title. And I have to agree, his was the best incarnation of Holmes to date.

    Nole, if you are interested, there are plenty of clips you can watch via YouTube. For example: /watch?v=HApUHWKq1hI

    But as wary as I am to see Sherlock Holmes turned into a action hero (figurine), I do like RDJ and if the movie works, it works. I’ve learned to accept the differences between different media and what those do to a story.

    I can’t say more before watching it though 😉

  6. You’re like me Paxton. After thinking about the movie after awhile, it’s easier to find plot holes or remember things that did bug.

    Rameau, that link didn’t come all the way through. I didn’t want Sherlock to be an action hero either, however that part of the film actually didn’t bother me at well, and ended up pleasantly surprising me.

  7. Embedding of those clips is disabled so I thought I’d save some space since WordPress sometimes embeds youtube links automatically. Oh well… That link doesn’t work properly for me, but try this one:

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