I’m aware that, as someone who just recently used JJ Abrams’ “Not-Your-Father’s-Star-Trek” as a jumping-off point for taking swipes at the practice of retooling cerebrally-oriented older material into flash-first/brains-second “tentpole” action movies; I’m expected to hate the idea of Warner Bros “reimagining” of Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. has the title role, Guy Ritchie is directing, and the new-spin places a heavy emphasis on Holmes as a rougish, action-oriented tough guy.
Well, I don’t. Hate it, that is. I’m skeptical as all hell – mostly of Ritchie, a wildly uneven filmmaker who’s thus far failed to prove he has anything to offer beyond superficially-amusing British gangster films – but the premise itself doesn’t bother me all that much. In cinematic terms, Holmes occupies the same rare space as Dracula and Christ… characters that have been done to death a hundred times over to the point that no “departure” could concievably be radical enough to do any kind of “damage.” Hell, the image most people have of the “classical” Sherlock Holmes (deerstalker cap, opera coat, “elementary,” etc.,) has very little to do with the original literary version to begin with.
So, basically, my mind is WIDE OPEN for this movie. This first TRAILER for it, on the other hand… yikes.
The first troubling thing about this trailer, right off the bat, is that it looks like a joke. Not a “comedy.” I mean it looks like a parody… like something “FunnyOrDie” or whoever would cook up as a brutal SATIRE of the idea of Sherlock Holmes as an action franchise – right down to the quippy one-liners, slapstick partial-nudity, fireball-dodging, absurb “bullet-time” fistfight and the “S!! H!!! E!!! R!!!! L!!!!!” title-countdown bit – not something that’s supposed to be the genuine article. I mean, for our introduction to the new-and-improved Holmes he delivers a dry-cool quip, dodges a gunshot and then takes an olympic-style dive from a 5th-story window into The Thames River. Wow. Look, the “traditionalists” were going to be DREADING this thing no matter what… but I bet even they didn’t expect they’d be laughing at it.
But, whatever. Like I said, this character has been reworked and reshaped so many times nothing they seem to be doing here can really be called a “desecration” or any such hyperbolic nonsense. Bare-knuckle boxing? Fine. What appears to be two-handed baton fighting? Sure. Bantering-while-gunfighting opposite Watson like old-timey “Bad Boys?” Works for me. The production has been right up front about going for a kind of Pirates of The Carribean-style Victorian-dress adventure vibe, and so far that mission looks accomplished.
No, what’s raising my red flag here is that the trailer A.) seems to cover a lot of ground and B.) is almost entirely action-oriented. This is character you can add to or subtract from nearly endlessly, but at the end of the day it ALWAYS has to be about one thing: Smart. Holmes is smart. Ridiculously observant, probably the point of what we’d now call OCD, solving mysteries through deductive reasoning via details so small “normal” minds don’t even notice them, much less connect them. We get NO sense of that here. Not one scene shown seems to indicate anything about how Downey is playing (or how the film is visualizing) this central aspect of the character and the franchise. In fact… we don’t really see him doing anything that looks like detective work save for futzing with some old-school lockpicking tools and what looks to be a trick involving dust and hidden draft-sources. Hell, if you look at this divorced from prior knowledge of who this character is supposed to be, it looks as though The Authorities have sought Holmes’ help primarily for his martial-arts and acrobatic skills.
Granted, it’s a trailer and it’s going to go heavy on the action anyway, but… “worrisome,” to say the least. Also, that last bit with the guy and the hammer? Did anyone else get a weird “Wild Wild West” kinda feeling there?