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[personal profile] sarcasticwriter
At work, between the frequent, constant interruptions of eleventybillion guests, I watched the recent Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes, and boy, was I underwhelmed.

In case you don't read past my spoiler warning below, I'll say this: The movie sucked, but Sherlock, the BBC miniseries which places Holmes in the modern day, is fucking genius. Not only is the writing and characterization more true to the original source material, but the camera work and production design is more interesting. It's slick, modern, and fast-paced - all three 90 minute episodes combined felt shorter than Sherlock Holmes tedious 90 minute running time. Sherlock's on Netflix streaming. Go watch it now.

Spoilers for Sherlock Holmes, I guess.

I get that it's a classic Holmes motif to expose the supernatural as the craftily natural, but in order to do that, the story has to take place in reality - our reality - the one that we all recognize as free of the supernatural. There was no drug available to Victorian England that simulates death to the degree that a competent doctor would be able to make a mistake after checking two pulses and respiration.

Also, a doctor that certifies a hanging execution would know there are two methodologies of death by hanging; a broken neck, or asphyxiation. Both of them leave pronounced effects on the corpse, effects - or lack thereof - that would be noticed while checking a neck pulse, by the way.

Apologists will at this point say that I'm being nitpicky, and, for some stories, they'd be right. But not for Sherlock Holmes. The point of Sherlock Holmes is the details; it's the process of watching a brilliant man observe the world around him and make factual conclusions based on that observation. Sherlock Holmes is the ultimate symbol of rational observation and thinking. To drop him into a setting that isn't at its core perfectly rational is both insulting and pointless.

That's the biggest hole, but there were plenty of other holes and unlikely coincidences. The film opens on Blackwood - who is himself aware he's only pretending to use black magic - chanting over an "innocent woman" (as she's later described and as we have no reason to disbelieve) writhing on an alter (unrestricted, by the way). At one point, he speaks in some kind of tongue and the woman reaches for the dagger laying beside her. It's clear she's going to ritualistically plunge it into her own heart, by Blackwood's command.

Except - what the fuck?

There isn't anything you can say in a foreign, occult-sounding language that will compel an innocent victim to drive a dagger into her own heart! Maybe certain kinds of modern-day drugs might lead to a high degree of suggestibility and compulsion to do grievous self-harm, but probably not enough to convince a kidnapping victim to kill themselves. Certainly Victorian England didn't have any drug that would cause an innocent young woman to writhe around and then stop writhing just in time to stab herself with a dagger.

So from the opening frame of the movie, it's nonsense. Modern Hollywood took one of the most sensible characters in literature and trapped him in an nonsense setting. What a disappointment.

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Christina

July 2012

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