The View from Sherlock Peoria
The $65 Million Dollar Christmas Present
We saved the big present for last on Christmas this year. The trusted companion, the beekeeper, the logician, the Holmesian archeologist, and I all loaded up in a hardy four-wheeler and headed out to the theater with the largest screens in the area, a 450-seater, to see our friend Sherlock Holmes.
It had been a long road since I first came to know of Holmes on the screen of the Strand Theater in 1970, via a preview of Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Almost a full forty years, in fact. Holmes had made a few notable appearances on the big screen since that time, but nothing that thrilled me as much as that original encounter.
Many a friend has hear me say that I have the sensibilities and tastes of a thirteen-year-old, and it may well be that is was that thirteen-year-old teased by Private Life whom I’ve been speaking of all these years. And that thirteen-year-old got a really great present this year.
We expected a big movie Sherlock Holmes. We expected Sherlockians to weigh and measure the film. But what I didn’t expect was everything surrounding this new movie.
The title is simply “Sherlock Holmes.” If you ask to buy a ticket, you say, “Sherlock Holmes.” At the end of the credits is the title, “Sherlock Holmes.” When all is said and done a whole generation who barely knew the name will once again recognize the sound of those syllables and go, “Yeah, Sherlock Holmes! He’s great!”
Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr., et al, have given Sherlockians a Christmas present better than any of us could have hoped for . . . an acknowledgement that there might be a reason for Sherlockians to exist in the new millennium.
Admittedly, all the press so far hasn’t been great for the classic Sherlockian community. A couple of articles on CNN.com seemed to insist upon referring to the B.S.I. as “the invitation-only literary society” and calling one member “a self-designated Sherlockian.” Both phrases seemed a little distancing toward new fans looking for a herd to join, as if the reporter was taking a “look at these oddballs” line. (Of course, I could be a little over-sensitive.) But a large enough Holmes push in the culture as a whole can’t help but benefit Holmes fandom in the end.
After seeing the movie a second time in a twenty-four hour period, this time with that rascalliest of Lascars who gave his blessing to it, I came to the realization that I did not want to review the movie, as one would expect of a blog like this. It reminded me of Avatar in giving a cinematic world that I didn’t want to leave behind, but unlike Avatar, which came out a week before, Sherlock Holmes was actually affecting my world outside the theater.
I was reminded of an interchange in a recent issue of Adventure comics between undead Alexander Luthor and Superboy Prime (the Superman mythos is not the simple thing of days of old), Alexander is talking to Prime about his comic collection, saying “Others find hope and inspiration between these pages. They find a community to belong to. But you’re not like the others. You claim ownership, but you have no control.” In that simple statement, writer Geoff Johns sums up the good and the bad sides of any fandom. The best of us find inspiration and community. The worst try to assert ownership over something beyond their control.
I’ve seen both in my days in the Sherlockian world, but the phenomenon of a truly well-done motion picture starting out with a $65 million opening weekend . . . that is a delightful reminder that Sherlock Holmes doesn’t belong to any cult, invitation-only literary society, or even the most ardent of fans.
Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world.
As that idea began to wash over me this weekend, I found I couldn’t even think about reviewing Sherlock Holmes. Eventually I may decide if it is my first or second favorite Sherlock Holmes movie next to The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, but that is for another day. (And should give you a clue as to my general feelings about it.) But for now . . . for now, I’m just going to sit back as I did in that movie theater on Christmas Day . . . just enjoy the ride.
Your humble correspondent,
Past 2009 Columns