I’ve gotten to the point of my life where all I feel is primarily anger. Dull anger, at just about everything. So I ramble.
I wanted to rant about Ukraine for a while, about Putin, about the jet, about Crimea, about… about…
Ah, fuck it. I’m going to rant about “Sherlock” and “Elementary” instead.
I keep hearing “Elementary is crap!”, “Give us Sherlock and take that shit away!”, and “It’s a cheap rip-off!”. And the last straw was the Blockbuster Buster’s rant on the subject. And you know what? I disagree with all of these people. Here’s why.
Before I get started, I want to clarify a few things. “Elementary” is not an exceptionally great show. It feels like it has a rather low budget, low production value, it has third-rate actors (with a few exceptions), it has CSI-style storylines. It has Lucy Liu, for crying out loud, and I absolutely hate her.
With that said… I like it.
I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan. Back in the USSR books were kind of a commodity. Especially good books and classical foreign literature. I remember the time when finding “Lord of the Rings” was all but impossible. My only copy was bought from a street-dealer. It was used, it didn’t have the paper cover, it didn’t have the Appendix booklet, and it cost like a freaking gold bar. Let that not make a false impression that we couldn’t find ANY books… I was loaded with them, I spent days reading. And my grandfather’s library was a god damn treasure trove. It had the complete works of Jack London, Jules Verne (I had that back at my home, too), and the complete collection of books by Conan Doyle. So I grew up on “Sherlock Holmes”. It had basically shaped my preferences for fictional characters. Mind over matter, brain over brawn.
But as for a good film adaptation… well, I was tougher to please. We have a Russian version, an 11-part movie series, and I am not a fan. I don’t hate it, it is quite close to the original, it’s okay, for the most part… It’s just… too Russian. It’s like Basil Rathbone’s version is too American… Jeremy Brett is excellent, though. He may be a tad over the top, but everything else – just right. Plus, it has an intelligent Watson character, who finally masters at least in some basic form the art of deduction.
Anyway. I’ve always had trouble finding good Holmes movies, but that has changed. Guy Ritchie’s “Holmes” is actually quite good. I don’t find Downey Jr. to be of any resemblance to the character, but he makes it up by just being cool.
And let me first explain what I mean by a “good Holmes story”. It has a character who behaves like Sherlock Holmes, or at least in the realm of probability. It has Watson, who is integral to the story. It has a strange and unusual crime. And, most importantly, Holmes solves the mystery USING HIS FUCKING BRAINS.
And here comes “Sherlock”.
Now, “Sherlock” has all the makings of a great Holmes story. It has a good cast, it has an interesting take on the matter, it is fun. Its production values are much higher than those of “Elemetary”. It is simply better by default… And yet, by comparison, it loses to “Elementary” in a fucking landslide. In my opinion. Why?
Because of two important factors.
The first is Watson. I hate Lucy Liu, did I mention that? I mean, not as a person, I’m sure she’s okay, but as an actress. She’s just not a very good actor. I guess, she has grown since the Angels, I’ll give her that, but she is still no Meryl Streep. Freeman is a better actor by far. And yet, her Watson is smart. His Watson is as dumb as a brick. Her character is a doctor, and is an apt student of Holmes. Her character is a great sidekick, a good friend. Kudos. I still dislike her, severely, but her Watson doesn’t make me cringe. And Freeman’s drooling idiot does.
And now the big problem.
In the two seasons that I have watched, “Sherlock”… well, he was not a very bright detective. Out of the first six episodes, Sherlock had managed to solve only ONE case using his intellect (the fifth episode). In the first one he had valiantly deduced that the killer had a lighter instead of a gun (wow!)… and then he got suckered into a “chicken” game worthy of Marty McFly… The second episode ended in a brawl with the bad guy (or girl) escaping, the third episode was a deus-ex-machina, a blunt one at that. The fourth episode… really? He managed to get his ass to Iran and nobody noticed that?! And here’s the most damning thing of all – Moriarty had him beat. Moriarty had caught Sherlock in the very same trap that failed to catch Guy Ritchie’s Holmes. There was no magic, no secret mcguffin, it was all a sham. Everyone was bribed, everything was staged, and Sherlock absolutely failed to see through this. And at this point my interest for the series had evaporated. When I hear “Holmes”, I don’t think of two guys being the butt of every gay joke in town. I think about a person who solves mysteries and foils the bad guy’s plans. And Sherlock has a very poor record in that regard.
So, “Elementary”. It gets flack from all over the net, and I understand why. But the moment someone says “It’s a “Sherlock” rip-off!”, I feel like comforting that person and saying “No, no! Don’t worry, it’s not. Miller’s Holmes actually SOLVES CRIMES USING HIS INTELLECT.” Jonny Miller’s Holmes is okay, I guess, and he even comes as a much human character that the “Sherlock” one, although that might be attributed to the significantly larger number of episodes to expand on the character. But one thing is certain – at the end of the day, Miller’s Holmes gets the bad guy, he solves the crime. He wins. He is not the victim in a “choose your fate” game, he arranges the game for the villain. And at least that is the Sherlock Holmes that I know and remember.
In every other aspect “Sherlock” beats “Elementary” soundly. But I don’t care anymore. Never even watched the third season. Do not intend to do so.
A friend of mine once said that he prefers “Sherlock” because he doesn’t want to see crimes being solved. Well, it’s his party. But I keep remembering what the villains in “Batman Beyond” told Terry: “You are not Batman”. Well, Cumberbatch’s character may be Sherlock, but he is not Holmes.