Monday, January 11, 2010

Kissing the Hand of Steampunk - Sherlock Holmes

Warning: Spoilers
(spoilage factor: about the same as a roast chicken spattered with red wine that had been thrown at a famous detective)

We went to see Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr as the great detective and Jude Law as his only somewhat faithful sidekick, last weekend and while this aint your typical, staid BBC evening special, on the whole, it's a fun romp.

The story pits Holmes against the sinister Lord Blackwood, a man claiming to have supernatural powers who is bent on taking over the world. England's finest (and probably grimiest) has to connect the dots between a series of murders and chase Blackwood and his minions from the dirty underbelly of London (where Holmes is quite at home) to the halls of high society before his nemesis can execute his fiendish scheme.

Downey does a wonderful job playing the dishelveled Holmes as distant, calculating and occasionally cruel, as well as slovenly, depressed and needy to the point of being pathetic. Again, not your run-of-the-mill portrayal of Holmes, but one that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would probably have approved of if his rumoured dislike of the character was true. It's also a rendition that certainly works for a modern audience not interested in being shown the exploits of a Data-like robot, but rather a fallible genius who has to claw his way to success.

Kudos also to Law for his portrayal of Watson - steady, eminently Victorian in his demeanor, thoroughly fed-up with Holmes and his antics, and yet still unable to seperate himself from the man.

So where does steampunk come into play? Only very slightly through the appearance of a hand-crank-powered taser during a cracking good fight scene, and a radio/electronically-controlled bomb at the end. Certainly not over-the-top League of Extraordinary Gentlemen retro-Victorian high-tech, but just the same, and not enough to throw mainstream viewers off the rails, but enough to give SF fans a bit of a giggle.

If one were thinking of attending the cinematograph of an evening, one could certainly do worse than to witness Sherlock Holmes.

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