Back in 2009 Sherlock Holmes staring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude law graced our theaters but despite the growing interest from the trailers I never brought myself out to see it. Naturally upon its release to DVD I immediately sought out to view for the first time, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish it all the way through. Bored with the pacing and not interested in anything that was going on story wise, I called it quits and moved on. Flash forward to 2011 where its sequel Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows, again staring Downey and Law, graced the silver screens once more. Let down by the first installment I never allowed myself to get excited for the movie until it was announced that the theatrical trailer of The Dark Knight Rises would be shown along with the other trailers. Noticing a trend here?
The only logical thing to do at the time was to force myself through the first movie and prepare myself to see A Game of Shadows. Though the last half of the first Holmes movie is extremely better than the first it still wasn’t enough to get me amped up for A Game of Shadows. Expectations were low but upon exiting my trip to the theater I was quite happy with the way A Game of Shadows turned out. Better story, better antagonist, and extremely awesome slow mo scenes shot by Gavin Free (Roosterteeth affiliate and youtube channel director) made for an entertaining movie going experience and left me wanting to indulge myself in the original Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So with a hop skip and jump across the parkdale mall parking lot I made my way to Barnes and Nobles where I managed to pick up a beautifully bound collection of all the Sherlock Holmes stories. Three weeks later I’m still only on part two of the first story, however, I was turned on to a wonderful series by my cousin Jude who noticed my new found interest for Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock, a three part television series created in 201o by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and is conveniently streamed on Netflix. Each episode is an hour and half long and are extremely well made. Although this is more of movie blog I couldn’t help but write about this series due to its movie like structure. As stated, each episode is essentially an hour and half long movie that sets up nicely like a trilogy with still room left to spare for a second season. More on that later.
The thing that sticks out the most is its updated take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories which are now placed in current times. It’s remarkable how close they’ve stayed to the stories with such a huge time gap between the time in which the stories are written and the time the show takes place. It was a weird feeling in which it all felt natural. It never seemed to stick out of place that Sherlock Holmes was out and about taking in evidence with his camera phone and blogging about his deductions on his personal website instead of snooping around with his signature magnifying class. Nor did it ever stand out that Dr. John Watson was blogging his adventures instead of chronicling Holmes and his adventures in his journal, which is the very way in which the stories are presented. It all flowed, and flowed very well.
One of my favorite things about this series was the stylistic editing choices. When a character would receive a text message or a phone call, instead of cutting to a shot of their cell phone, text would pop up near the character displaying what would be displayed on the phone in simple white text. Concise and to the point without anything flashy and to me seems cleverly done. Especially with the first introduction of Sherlock Holmes that I’ll leave for you to see for yourself. As well as text messaging being displayed in white text, clues found along the way also dance around beside Sherlock. Bouncing around him as Sherlock stands mulling over his latest cases give an excellent feel for just how complex Sherlock’s mind really is. Transitions are also another product of the stylized editing that I really enjoyed. A character would be standing in one scene on the left while another character would be opening a door on the right leading straight into the new scene. The show makes clever uses of this throughout the show and it gives it almost a signature feel. Also the quick shots of a crime scene, a person’s clothing, or the very room in which they’re standing flash in and out as Holmes quickly disassembles the current area and explains each detail he’s spotted to his peers and the viewer but it never feels as though it’s leading us by the hand.
At its core it’s another crime drama series. I’ve done my best to shy away from this genre as of late due to the ever growing catalogue on t.v. however with witty banter and perfectly executed suspense Sherlock stands above the rest. Of course it helps that the two characters are so interesting to begin with, however even the most interesting characters would fall flat were it not for the actors depicting them. Luckily this show has casted two extremely talented actors to fit the bill of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.
When describing Sherlock Holmes a lot of words come to mind but nice, considerate, and sympathetic never do. With the only positive comments coming from Sherlock’s mouth either being of himself or in a condescending tone towards his peers, it’s much easier to say that Sherlock is brash, rude, and egotistical. So it seems as though finding a person not only to portray this character on screen, but to portray him in a way that makes you care for him would be impossible however Benedict Cumberbatch brings this character to life. With a constant indifferent tone, Cumberbatch delivers his lines with boredom and hint of sarcasm that never irritates but sparks humor. Even some of Sherlock’s stranger quirks are delivered by Cumberbatch with an effortless portrayal that never feels as though he’s trying too hard. Whether it’s shooting at walls or whipping dead bodies to study the time in which it takes to bruise, as Sherlock Holmes often does, Cumberbatch displays these scenes as though he were the man himself. Despite all this, the most impressive talent displayed by Cumberbatch is ability to let you in and see the inner workings of his and of course Sherlock’s mind. You can see the puzzles being worked out and the clues being reevaluated all through his eyes. It’s in this moment you can see his love for his craft and his passion for solving crimes displaying that deep down he actually cares, despite his facade of a bored man going through the motions humoring those around him. It may not be the traditional sense of compassion towards a fellow human but it’s uniquely his own and Cumberbatch mirrors the man within the pages. However the thing that brings his character all together is his counterpart, Dr. John Watson.
Played by the lovable and hilarious Martin Freeman, Dr. John Watson follows his new found flatmate with a blind faith that keeps coming back for the love adventure no matter how much he’s put through. The whole purpose of of Watson’s character is to fill in what we don’t know that Holmes so eagerly skips over due it being such common sense to him. Thus making Watson the character we are to associate with the most, and lucky for us as the viewers Freeman’s performance makes it so easy to connect with. With subtle body language Freeman leaves us feeling not alone when Holmes is out running about deducing things the common man misses. The frustration is always close to boiling over on Freeman’s face but you can sense the attachment he’s grown to Holmes and his adventures. Often times Dr. Watson takes a stab at evaluating the crime scene around him and Freeman does so with such confidence and forwardness that you can’t help but feel sorry for him as his balloon his popped. His comedic timing and sarcastic remarks add a comic relief to the serious nature of Holmes. Of course this can be credited to the writing of Doyle but the dynamic between Freeman and Cumberbatch sells it.
The three part series Sherlock is fantastic and wonderfully well made. The average viewer may appreciate it even for its crime drama nature, a popular genere that seems to flood the market, but Sherlock Holmes fans may find themselves pleasantly surprised to see how close to the original stories the show gets despite its modern take. The hour and half long episodes are steadily paced that doesn’t leave you feeling bored and often times leaves you on the edge of your seat with its ever building suspense. The character dynamic between Holmes and Sherlock is an anchor well made between Cumberbatch and Freeman that holds the show down well enough to keep you coming back for more. It’s easy to blaze through the three part series so that may be a draw back to some, however season 2 is currently airing in The United Kingdom with a DVD due out on the 23rd. No word on an American release date yet however if they stay true to the previous release plan the blu-ray dvd should be region free and you can order it online if you can’t stand the wait.
Notable observations: Martin Freeman also stars as Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey due out December 2012.
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