Island Packet — Having seen nearly a half-dozen movies in the past year (with a 5-year-old at home, this figure is astonishing), it’s not like I’m naive about what’s required to bring familiar franchises to movie screens, be they reanimated comic books, defrosted video games or long-dormant toy franchises marketed entirely to Twitter-addicted white-and-nerdy thirtysomethings, not that I’m naming any names, “G.I. Joe.”
Such films tend to require the same little toybox of ingredients: explosions, fire, fiery explosions, Megan Fox caressing truck engines, an editing philosophy that suggests the entire thing was cut by 30 glue-sniffing rhesus monkeys, the computer-generated destruction of one of the 7 Wonders of the World and, if there’s time, a talking Rasta frog, or maybe like an anthropomorphic hip-hop guinea pig.
Sure, many of these are simply basic prereqs for making money with your silly movie. I’d rather be fully submerged in an Olympic-sized pool filled with ranch dressing than see the new “Transformers,” but I understand that it fills people’s needs to watch action flicks, as well as 28-year-old women pretending to be high-schoolers fleeing things sweatily in their underwear to blankly angry-sounding music performed by cupcakes such as Linkin Park. But doing it with Sherlock Holmes seems, to use a word I first learned from my English professors, redonkulous.
I caught this trailer for the new Guy Ritchie-directed “Sherlock Holmes” before “Harry Potter” last weekend, and I am not lying when I say I whined about it all the way through Quidditch. In two minutes, the trailer showed a floating corpse, some devil worship, several explosion-fires, Rachel McAdams shedding clothes (which was actually not a very big problem), that “Matrix” super slow-motion effect from 1999, a hammer fight, someone leaping out of a building into a river and, it goes without saying, a gag in which Holmes is caught naked, all of which suggests this film has about as much in common with the classic stories as it does the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Now, I realize two 1890s London gentlemen sitting around a cluttered parlor smoking pipes, crime-scrapbooking and introducing each sentence with the word “Pray” would make for a pretty sucky movie; there are a handful of Holmes stories in which the arrival of the mail is the most exciting thing that happens for days. But this is what defines Holmes stories: that laconic, almost automated nature by which they unfold. Holmes is a machine, a comfortingly, reassuringly static presence. He is not Optimus Prime or Wolverine or Steven Seagal. Well, maybe, like 45% Seagal.
But if this trailer is Sherlock Holmes, then I’m Lou Rawls: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that it was necessary for Watson to never so much as make a joke in the books; in about 12 seconds of trailer he whines three times and punches Holmes in the face. In the books, Holmes expresses interest in a woman maybe twice; in the trailer one kicks him in the crotch, because it was evidently too difficult to just go with the football to the groin.
I am taking this way too hard not just because I enjoy getting irrationally excitable about movie trailers, but because I have gradually been working my way through the complete Holmes collection for some embarrassingly ridiculous span of time: over a year, at least. (This is thanks to my having to read at night, because my being on the couch with a book sets off an instinctive signal in my son’s head to come over and drop a train on that soft fleshy part right below my kneecap or, on good days, leap directly onto my face. It’s tough to get a lot of reading done when this is going on. So I save it until he goes to bed, when I retire to the couch, recline with a book and pass out within minutes, exhausted by spending part of my night defending myself against a small boy leaping directly on my face.)
So as someone who could logically count himself upset about this for nearly 24 whole hours now, I’m out. I do not want a zippy “Pirates of the Caribbean” version of Holmes, or hypertensive fight scenes and supernatural silliness (note to purists: the vampire story was a fake, and the Hound of the Baskervilles doesn’t count either). You can keep the puffed-up silliness. You may, however, leave Rachel McAdams.