I’m a movie buff. I admit it. When I’m not reading, writing, or working, I’m sitting in a darkened theater, soaking up some new release. Not any new release, mind you. Anything with the noun ”Saw” in the title or pictures of bloody surgical weapons or tear jerkers will keep me home with my trusty laptop or a good book faster than you can say “cinema”. But give me a rousing good adventure or a light comedy, and I’m there.
The movie I’ve enjoyed the most so far in 2010 is Sherlock Holmes. True, Robert Downey, Jr.’s chocolate brown eyes and surprisingly buff body may have more than just a little bit to do with that, and the twinkle in Jude Law’s smile might have added a bit more, but the rich period flavor and the character of Sherlock Holmes himself were probably the biggest draws for me. The character of Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring in literature. Undoubtedly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation has inspired many other detectives in literature and the movies over the past one hundred twenty-three years.
Sherlock Holmes was first introduced in a short story that appeared in 1887 in Beaton’s Christmas Annual titled A Study in Scarlet. All told, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned fixty-six short stories and four novels with the lead character of Sherlock Holmes between 1887 and 1927. Throughout the course of these novels and stories, he is aided by Dr. John Watson, who also serves as the narrator of most of his adventures. Like Conan Doyle, Watson has experience as a physician, and saw wartime service as an army surgeon in Afghanistan. Watson is loyal, rugged, and apparently, a good shot. He serves as a practical contrast to the intellectual, moody Sherlock Holmes.
When one mentions Sherlock Holmes, the villain Professor Moriarty springs to mind. The new film makes a point to include Moriarty and obvious sets the stage for a sequel featuring this villain. I was stunned to discover while researching Sherlock Holmes that Professor Moriarty only appeared in one story. In The Final Problem, Professor Moriarty is dubbed a “Napoleon of Crime” by Holmes. Moriarty is a criminal mastermind, a godfather of sorts to the criminal underworld of Holmes’ day.
The character of Sherlock Holmes is multi-faceted and flawed; perhaps that is the reason for his enduring appeal. He’s brilliant, a master of disguise, eccentric, prone to depressions and addiction, and often seems cold and unfeeling in his personal relationships, even with his good friend, Watson. He’s also intensely physical, with an interest in bare-knuckle fighting and the martial arts. The contrast of the cool intellectual with superior deductive reasoning with a man who enjoys bare-knuckle fighting and a variety of weaponry created a fascinated, multi-dimensional character.
Throughout the years, Sherlock Holmes has been the subject of numerous films and has appeared as a character in many literary works. Holmes has been portrayed by dozens of actors in more than two hundred films. The recent Sherlock Holmes film was a great success, virtually ensuring a sequel. Rumors have already started to swirl regarding the casting of Moriarty. I’d vote for Russell Crowe or Johnny Depp…either could play a diabolical villain and hold their own with Downey. Of course, I’d probably hyperventilate during the movie if either of these men were on screen with Downey and Law, but that’s the chance I’d have to take.