24 March 2013

Movie Adaptations Part 1

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes
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By using the title 'Movie Adaptations', I'm mainly talking about films that have been adapted from books. I will start with the film adaptation of Sherlock Holmes (2009). I had originally seen this film in the cinemas and...hated it. Well, maybe 'hate' is too strong a word. I just know that I immensely disliked it on first viewing. It may have been a combination of a number of things but I now put it down to the broken heating in the cinema (end of December) that made me grumpy, therefore I was in no mood to take this film in and enjoy it in the way it was meant to be enjoyed. On second viewing, I discovered something that was rare for me-actually enjoying a film I disliked on first viewing.
   Originally appearing in 1887, Sherlock Holmes was a character conceived by Arthur Conan Doyle. In the majority of the 60 short stories and novels, the character John Watson serves as first-person narrator, letting the reader get a glimpse into the adventures of him and his long-term friend Holmes. These books have been adapted several times, all with Sherlock Holmes displaying the same instantly recognisable characteristics - the magnifying glass, the deer-stalker hat, the stiff upper lip. And yet none are displayed in the film directed by Guy Ritchie. How can this be a faithful adaptation when it leaves out all the common features associated with the books? This is where most of the audience had a problem with this recent big-screen adaptation, with people thinking the director was doing just another typical 'Guy Ritchie' action- slow-mo action sequences, gritty London setting, fight scenes, explosions. And yet, what some audience members missed entirely was actually, this film seemed to be the most faithful adaptation so far. After viewing the film a second time, I decided to indulge in reading the books. I discovered not only was the overall tone of the film faithful to the books, but the mannerisms, the speeches and the relationships were all true to the original short stories. It has only been with past adaptations that people have come to associate the character with the deerstalker hat, the magnifying glass, the cape, etc-things that are both absent in the books and the film. I have heard people complain about the film's character's representation, saying that Holmes would rarely leave the house, that he would never engage in boxing matches (all featured in Ritchie's version). And yet, on reading the books, it is clear that Ritchie has done his research well and all his choices included in the film are not just there purely to make this a blockbuster.
  Next are the actor choices. Some may argue the choice of casting an American to play a British icon. But as long as he nails the accent (which Downey does again, after successfully attempting an English accent in Chaplin [1992]) and as long as he is faithful to the character, why does it matter where the actor originates from? Hey, it could be worse-they could have hired an Australian to play another significant British icon...It is Downey's on-screen partnership with Jude Law's Watson that shines through here, playing each character as if they are squabbling brothers who are yet still fond of each other. Law's version of Watson is far from the bumbling side-kick we've seen in other adaptations and is written how he is portrayed in the books-as a former war hero doctor who can stand up for himself and is not afraid to challenge Holmes. Rachel McAdams is perfectly cast as Irene Adler, the only woman who can outsmart Holmes himself. McAdams does the role justice, allowing the audience to see an independent girl who can look after herself without the assistance of a man as was common in the 1800s. The main villain is Lord Blackwood, a role that is acted with relish by Mark Strong, an actor who is able to match his adversary with Downey's hero.
  Overall, a film that is actually a surprisingly faithful adaptation, more so than people like to give it credit for. I give this film as a whole 3.5 out of 5 ***1/2.

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