Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Elementary by Dear Buddy-Cop Film

I saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie last Friday. Last year, when they showed a brief coming-soon for the movie after the Oscars, I was very excited about it. Robert Downey Jr. was a perfect choice for Holmes. But then as its release drew nearer, the clips I saw made it seem more and more ridiculous. Then when it had a tie-in with 7-11, I was done. There are few things as un-Sherlock-Holmes as 7-11.

Why did I go to see it then? The start just seemed to align that way, and part of me still did want to see it. While I've only read a few of the stories, I was a big fan in my youth of the Jeremy Brett PBS adaptations, the old Basil Rathbone black & white movies (I had a stuffed animal named "Rathbone" in his honor), and the 80's film Young Sherlock Holmes.

While it's not without it's flaws, I quite enjoyed it, and the experience has improved with time and distance. I find myself as the days pass remembering parts of the movie and thinking "that was good," always the sign of an enjoyable film.

Yes, the film is a modern action film, but it doesn't pretend to be anything else. It never claimed to be a costume drama. In fact, it's a modern buddy-cop film, but that's the genius of the film. At it's core, the Sherlock Holmes stories are the origin of the buddy-cop dynamic. The film just takes that core and updates the relationship to match the modern milieu.

That's what I enjoyed the most, the dynamic between Holmes and Watson. In the books and previous adaptations, Watson is almost universally a jolly buffoon who exists solely to give Holmes an excuse to explain his line of reasoning. To use terms we talk about a lot in improv, Holmes is nearly always higher status than Watson. This gives their relationship a strange distance that plays as an example of Victorian era reserved values. As improv guru Keith Johnstone often points out, strangers leave each other statuses alone while friends play with their statuses. That's what Holmes and Watson do in this film.

They have a camaraderie that's largely missing from the Holmes/Watson dynamic. They are constantly effecting each other, and we see how they both appreciate and need each other. Holmes doesn't condescendingly explain things to Watson, he pretends that he doesn't already know the answer to allow Watson to catch up and figure things out on his own.

They have a straight-man/funny-man relationship, like all modern buddy-cop films, and its refreshing to see that in Sherlock Holmes.

Aside from that the beginning moves too slowly, and the female actors are weak. But otherwise it's a solid buddy-cop film.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.