i went and saw the new sherlock holmes movie a couple days ago, and i have been thinking a lot about it ever since. not because the story was so amazing or the acting so fantastic… i’ve just been pondering the ways in which translating words into images is so difficult.
i have more knowledge than the average joe about sherlock holmes as a character because i’ve actually read a few the books, as opposed to passively absorbing the myth like the general public. it’s one of those things, like the character of scrooge from a christmas carol, that permeates the culture and doesn’t require a firsthand knowledge or experience to understand its meaning. so i think that i was naturally inclined to be more critical of this film because of that, and also because it’s a movie that’s based on a book, which are generally not very good.
why is it so difficult to translate a story made of words into a story made of images? probably because words can stretch so much further than images can. and there is so much that images can’t express when it comes to thought and the subconscious, topics that can be expounded on with infinite number of words. and a book doesn’t need to be crammed into a two-hour time limit so as to be viewed in one sitting with enjoyment. so much of the essence of sherlock holmes was left out of the movie, and so much was created to keep viewers interested. for one, the movie was a lot more about physical action and fighting than the books (sherlock was a thinker, not a cage fighter!); for another, sherlock’s relentless addiction to opium, which added dimensions to his character in the books, was left completely out of the film’s plot. sherlock’s misanthropic attitude was toned waaaaaay down in the film, because audiences don’t like a character who hates everyone else. and there had to be a female romantic interest thrown in there, even though sherlock had no interest in women because he believed that emotions were detrimental to reason, because audience wouldn’t be able to understand the depth and complexity of a relationship between two men (sherlock and his partner in crime, dr. watson) unless there was a female to counterbalance it. and i won’t even go into how odd i thought the casting was, except to say ‘really? jude law?’
i was talking to my sixteen-year-old brother about it, and he told me (wise child that he is) that instead of seeing it as a film based on a book, i should view it as a separate entity and judge it by its own merits. but that’s really hard for me to do, because i’m a book person. i guess i could say that the film was an interesting interpretation of the story of sherlock holmes, modernized and adrenalized through guy ritchie’s highly-stylized filmmaking; but i think that ultimately, this film is an attempt at creating a franchise that will rake in millions of dollars from pseudo-intellectuals and teenage boys who dig the action sequences. it’s always about the money.
i will say, though, that the musical score was fantastic. gotta love hans zimmer.