Monday, December 28, 2009

Holmes. Sherlock Holmes

What I'm reading: Fatally Flaky, by Diane Mott Davidson

Hope everyone had a great holiday. And congrats to Betina Krahn's winners. Please make sure you email her so you can get your prizes.

I'm a guest at Writers on Writing, talking about my writing process. Hope you'll drop by there, too.

I was unplugged for a lot of the weekend. Not by choice, but there was trouble with Twitter feeds, and more trouble with Blogger. As I type this, I'm hoping that one's resolved. If you're reading it, I guess it was.. I can't say I was particularly frustrated about missing out on everyone's holiday Tweets, but I did miss my blog crawls, and wasn't pleased that I couldn't respond to comments on my own blog. I wonder if this was a widespread problem, or something more local. Update - as of Sunday evening, Brighthouse finally admitted there was a problem, and they were 'working to fix it.'

Seeing Sherlock Holmes Friday gave me something to think about. I'm very much a character person. Give me a character I love and I'll forgive mediocre writing. But give me a mediocre character and the most brilliant writing isn't going to do it for me. I know there are those who have their own reasons for going to the movies, and a good-looking star is right up there. But for this post, I'm trying to look beyond the outward appearance of Robert Downey, Jr. Judging from Tweets and Facebook posts, I'm in the minority when I say I wasn't totally in love with the movie. I'm not saying it wasn't good, or that I didn't like it but....

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I hadn't paid any attention to previews or trailers for the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Hubby had picked it as our Christmas movie weeks in advance, and being a Sherlock Holmes fan since I discovered him in a high school reading assignment, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," and having watched the Basil Rathbone version on Netflix, and all the PBS variations, I gladly agreed, and went to the movie "cold."

(Minor digression to another reason we like Netflix. No need to sit through over 20 minutes of previews. The movie was scheduled to begin at 11:30. We arrived at 11:20, since it was the first show of the day and we had bought our tickets on line. We sat through ten minutes of commercials, and then the "movie" began. NOT. Preview after preview – long ones. The sort that make you think you've just seen all the good parts of the movie. Thank goodness I've learned to carry my trusty back-lit eBookwise)



Having read all of Sherlock Holmes, and having seen numerous television adaptations, I was a bit put off by the movie's "tampering" with characters I thought I knew. The pipe was wrong, no deerstalker. Sure, Robert Downey Jr was easy on the eyes. And according to Doyle, Holmes was fit—he boxed, and could handle a sword, as I recall. But the image still didn't ring true. I never saw Holmes as the action-adventure hero. A Victorian James Bond flick would have been almost the same. "Holmes. Sherlock Holmes."

Watson was probably more against "type", but I liked seeing him as much more sure of himself, and ready to confront Holmes. True to character, however, he was never fully able to resist what Holmes wanted him to do.

I got started writing in the fan fiction realm. I had many a beta-reader tell me "Duncan would NEVER do that." Readers have character expectations. If they deviate, there had better be a good reason.

The time in the movie spent on fights, chases, and Bond-type special effects didn't seem true to his character. One wonders how much Doyle the moviemakers actually read. Then again, movies made from books rarely ring true to the original beyond the title. But to me, this was a way to appeal to the younger set who probably has never read a Holmes story.

All in all, it was a moderately enjoyable movie. Definitely glad we went to the early, $5 show. A bit long, and probably because I saw little need for the extended "James Bond" marital arts/action/chase scenes. To me, it felt more like an author inserting scenes to meet some minimum word count requirement. Most of those scenes could have been cut by at least half.

And, as I spent much of the last few days further refining the final chapters of my manuscript, I couldn't help but compare the way Holmes resolved the mystery with the way I was trying to make sure I had all the loose ends tied up in mine.

In typical Doyle/Holmes fashion, Holmes merely "tells" how he deduced all the bits and pieces of the mystery. I would have preferred some of these discoveries to have been revealed as Holmes made them, as the film clearly showed Holmes zeroing in on the requisite clues. But the explanations had to wait until the bad guy was dealt with.

The other off-putting bit in the movie was the magic/supernatural theme. That seemed to be milking the current trend rather than sticking to Holmes canon. Granted, I expected Holmes to explain it all, but as above, didn't like that it all waited until the final few minutes of the movie.

There's a saying in writing that your first page sells the book, but your last page sells the NEXT book. This movie was a perfect example. It definitely left the door open for a sequel. Wide open. Almost dragging the viewer through it.

And, while looking for some images for this post, I happened across a reviewer who felt pretty much the same way I did.

Tomorrow, Blogger willing, my final guest of 2009 is author Tory Richards. Her topic: Adventure. And she has a commenter contest, so make time to stop by.

23 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is why I'm hesitant to watch the movie. I'm really a Holmes purist. I don't think I could get past the rewritten character. If it were a completely different premise with completely different characters....but I'm a Holmes nerd.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Terry Odell said...

I think I'm in the minority here, but I don't like all the lengthy car chases in the Bond films either. Even setting aside the pure physical differences between "my" Holmes and Robert Downey, Jr. -- the James Bond approach was a stretch for me.

Robert W. Walker said...

I loved the film and the attitude taken by its director as it will reprieve Holmes for generations to come....reprieve him from relative obscurity among the young. Face it, we have created a "monster" of our youth thanks to the madcap explosion of technology, so now we have what two decades or more of "visual only" learners? This film will have young readers--boys even--seeking out Holmes in the original and for that I praise the film. I also liked the attitude the film takes as well because it is extremely close to the attitude I took while creating my own City for Ransom and its sequels with a deisere to drag readers back to a time period that was exciting and exotic in its way with the Industrial Revolution as backdrop along with such as The Columbian Exposition and this belief that mankind had come a long way! In point of fact, I can honestly say that if you liked the film, you'd love City for Ransom, so on a personal level I gotta say I loved this film and have already seen it twice. By same token, I understand the purist attitude and no one who is a true true dyed in the wool fan of Holmes or any character likes to see said character tinkered with to such a degree as in what they did with Spock in the last Star Trek movie when he kissed Ohura (unsure of her spelling)...

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for your take -- however, I think anyone who has never read Holmes and sees this movie will be sorely disappointed in the words of Doyle. However, if it does get them reading ...

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm glad to read your take. I've read only one review of the movie, which said it was a closer take on the character of the Holmes that Doyle wrote than any of the other movies had been.

Haven't seen it, and probably won't until it's available on DVD.

Terry Odell said...

Carol, thanks for reading - I normally shy away from reviews before I see a movie, because too often they're weighted with spoilers, and I prefer to go in with an open mind. Mine is a single opinion here (and hubby loved it -- but he loves action adventure movies.

But that one review I linked in my post felt the same way I did, and I didn't find that one until after I'd seen the movie for myself. So there are at least two of us on the planet who think the same way!

Ray said...

I loved Basil Rathbone as Holmes. I believe there were TV programs with other actors, but it wasn't the same.

Terry I read a review by a professional movie reviewer who didn't like the movie either, not the one you linked to though. I usually watch movies reviewers don't like, but with your input I am not going to see Sherlock Holmes until it comes on TV and like most evenings there is nothing else to watch.

Terry Odell said...

Ray - I hope you're not letting ME be responsible for waiting to see the movie! Then again, we watch most of our movies via Netflix anyway. It's rare that we go to the theater (part of which is explained in my aside in today's post).

Tamika: said...

Thanks for your take Terry. I plan on taking my husband to watch it, he is an action junkie. I'm not an avid Holmes reader, so I will likely not encounter the same misgivings.

Jemi Fraser said...

I haven't seen the movie yet. I love the books, but I think I'll be okay with the adaptation. I'm enough of a sci-fi and fantasy fan to be okay with changes :)

Elena said...

There has been a lot of discussion about the movie within the local Sherlock Holmes society - however, they got through all the pre-publicity and have decided to go as a group on Jan 3rd as part of their annual Holmes anniversary doings - I'm sure to hear more then.

For me, I'll wait, but that's because I can't handle movie theaters - I'm looking forward to it, think Downey was well cast, and I love action and cars. While I still have the complete Holmes my dad bought me when I was nine which started me on a life long mystery reading, I am not a purist. This sounds like fun to me.

Susan Macatee said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, just the sequels, but I remember saying to my husband that it looked like they were turning Sherlock Holmes into an action hero.

I've never really been a Sherlock Holmes fan, although I've read a few of the stories, but the scenes I saw just didn't look like my expectation of the man, either.

Terry Odell said...

Tamika - thanks for reading, and that's all it was -- MY take. And I didn't really dislike the movie, but I'd probably have liked it a whole lot more if it had been a totally new character, not MY Holmes!

Terry Odell said...

Jemi, Elena let us know what you decide. And Elena, I'm with you on theaters. We go a couple of times a year. Netflix for the rest; normally, we're not in a big hurry to see them.

Susan - yes, they did stress the action aspects.

Mary Ricksen said...

I'll wait for the rental. I hate to spend so much money on a movie!

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for posting the review, Terry. Everytime I watch the trailer for the movie I debate about whether I want to go see it. I think I like the older characterization of Holmes and am not sure about this take on him.

I was disconnected most of the weekend, too, although it was by choice. Had lots of company, so I didn't want to take away time for visiting by being at my computer. Although I did play a little with my new notebook. LOL

Terry Odell said...

Mary - that's why we hit the early bird special price. $5 isn't so bad.

Maryann - do you like your notebook? Hubby got one but the keyboard is so tiny, my fingers get tangled up (and I have small hands)

Jenyfer Matthews said...

You know, it sounds to me like this adaptation had some potential - because Holmes did know how to defend himself when necessary - but the director / producer took it a little too far. Too bad. I can only imagine that if seeing this movie does inspire anyone to pick up the original stories they will be disappointed by the lack of "action".

Terry Odell said...

Jenyfer - I've been looking at comments elsewhere and it seems many of the people who love the movie have never read a "real" Holmes story, or read them so long ago they have no way to compare the movie's adaptation to the original premise.

Elaine Cantrell said...

If it ain't broken, don't fix it. Holmes is magnificent the way he was portrayed in the books.

Gwyn Lacy said...

I haven't seen the Sherlock Holmes movie yet. And as a youth I read a few of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. If I remember right, Doyle's Sherlock was more about observation and deductive reasoning and using physical, tangible clues to solve his cases. I don't remember action/adventure as we think of it today. I as a girl who loved romance and action adventure couldn't get "attached" to Holmes or the other characters as a kid. Maybe I'll re-visit Doyle as an adult. I love action adventure movies-but was never much of a James Bond fan (no matter which Bond--give me Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones series (great character) or the insufferable charachter played and I think directed by Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino--and Fight Club (totally out of my comfort-zone)which blew me away (another great character). Anyway, Happy New year everyone!

Terry Odell said...

Gwyn - I love Indiana Jones and earlier James Bond before they were half chase scenes. To me, this movie is borrowing the name Sherlock Holmes, not sticking to the character. But then, what movie ever DOES stick to a book

hanum said...

I like this movie, really awesome, cool.