Saturday, December 5, 2009

Some thoughts on a movie I haven't seen

The following is a rant, and like all rants, it's intention is to please the ranter and no one else. Therefore, I highly recommend not reading it.

In general, I don't have a lot of animosity toward movies. There are good ones and bad ones, and the bad will always outnumber the good. And I rarely worry about a movie wrecking a book, or a comic book, or the movie that it's remaking. The Phantom Menace did nothing to alter A New Hope, just as Clueless did not change one word of Jane Austen's Emma. If you don't like the direction that someone takes with source material then don't go see it. It's simple. If you think it can be done better then try and do it yourself.

So I've wondered why the trailer and images that I've seen for the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson have bothered me so much. Although I love the character of Holmes, I have certainly enjoyed many bastardized versions: the Basil Rathbone films are not faithful and I love those. My favorite Star Trek-Next Generation episodes involve Data impersonating Holmes, and I have a near-devotion to the woefully-underseen Young Sherlock Holmes in which Holmes and Watson meet as schoolboys and battle an Egyptian cult in the heart of London. So I shouldn't really care if Holmes is going to be recast as a sexy, shirtless street brawler. I won't go see it but that doesn't mean it shouldn't exist.

So why does it bother me? I was thinking about this and it hit me. The problem with this movie, or the apparent problem with this movie, since I haven't seen it, is that Robert Downey Jr. and his particular Downey-Jr.-quality has entirely swallowed the character of Sherlock Holmes. It's like they're saying: Hey look, it's Tony Stark as Holmes. Don't worry, you don't need to know anything about Sherlock Holmes but if you know Robert Downey Jr. then you're going to love this movie. It's not about an actor interpreting a character, it's about an actors on-screen personality taking over that personality. This is basically the kind of crap acting that Jack Nicholson has done in several over-rated performances. Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Batman! Jack Nicholson as a psychopath in The Shining! Or, as another example, Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey as The Grinch. Or Robin Williams in almost anything. I have nothing against Jim Carrey, for example, as an actor. He was great in Christmas Carol this year but that was because he was acting, not just projecting his brand of personality. What makes me sad is that Robert Downey Jr. is a truly astounding actor and ten years ago I would have loved to have seen what he did with Sherlock Holmes. But now I look at him and I see a movie star whose own personality is about to become bigger than his characters.

Hey, maybe I'm wrong and Guy Ritchie has made a serviceable Holmes film, but its highly doubtful. Sherlock Holmes, of course, will survive any crappy movie that's thrown at him, but I'm not sure Robert Downey Jr. will.

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh. Did you see a commercial for "Sherlock Holmes" right as that egg nog was hitting?

    "Sherlock Holmes" is different. He has a British accent. Acting!