Sherlock (2010)
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Sherlock (2010)

Series 1

Series 2

Series 3

There are many fictional characters that find themselves in a constant state of reinvention. Among this long and illustrious list one name stands out as arguably one of the most frequently utilized as the template for interesting main characters, Sherlock Holmes. From his initial appearance in 1887the most famous invention of author and physician, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes has been frequently cited as the world’s greatest detective. Originally set in Victorian London Holmes has traveled through time more than any British fictional character with the possible exception of Doctor Who. In the thirties the franchise was famously brought to the movies with Basil Rathbone in the lead. This character is so well crafted that when World War Two broke out Mr. Rathbone brought Holmes into the fight against the Nazis. There have been variations of Sherlock Holmes set in the future, immigrated to the United States and retooled as a curmudgeon diagnostician named Gregory House, M.D. In 2010 two new variations of the master sleuth; ‘Elementary’ here in the states and ‘Sherlock’ over in England began both brining Sherlock Holmes and his faithful partner Dr. John Watson into the twenty-first century. Usually when such a synchronicity occurs some may think either there was some collusion or corporate espionage. Happily for all the fans of Holmes both are entirely different and unique twist on a literary classic.

In this version Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) live in the shadow of London’s Millennium Wheel squarely placing it in the modern city. This Holmes works his traditional profession as a consulting detective. Although he takes on number private clients he is frequently engaged by the London Metropolitan Police Service. On those occasions his official liaison Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) finally gaining a realistic degree of professionalism typically denied the character. In most incarnations the character of Lestrade was the buffoon employed as a contrast to the epitome of deductive reasoning that is Holmes. Like many major cities London has gained entry to the group of locations victimized by terrorists and their police have gained a well-earned reputation for professionalism and efficient law enforcement organizations in the world. It would not be realistic to portray a man that has risen to the rank of Detective Inspector had to one that was highly successful at his job.

Naturally the technology involved in law enforcement has changed considerably since the late eighteen hundreds but not the nature of the criminal. The intensity of emotions and psychological elements that motivate the criminal remain constant; greed, lust, power and hatred will always remain the top motivations to consider when tracking a perpetrator down. This is here the genius of Sir Arthur shines and hoe it retained its brilliance for so long. Holmes is a character not bound to the constraints of a particular period of time or level of technology. He is a steadfast constant in the flow of time and progress. London might be one of the most recorded cities in the world with an incredible proliferation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the world but for this regeneration of Holmes they are at best a simple tool, more often a distraction. Benedict Cumberbatch is, simply put, extraordinary in his interpretation of this iconic character. He has transmogrified Holmes into a man of the 21st century without sacrificing the timelessness that made him great. This is an actor possessing an amazing ability to wear the mantle of Sherlock Holmes adding his own distinctive nuances to the famous character. In many ways Mr. Cumberbatch’s rendition of Holmes is as an anachronism to his own time. His presentation places his staggering intellect juxtaposed to a world that has delegated too much to advanced technology. The police are geared to depend on modern forensic science permitting read outs to steer their investigation. The way this Holmes is presented as a man surrounded by people grown overly dependent on technology eschewing the power of the human mind. This Sherlock, like all others, is secure in the knowledge he is always the smartest man in any given room. When the room contains computers and analytical devices his distain seems to border on an odd sympathy one might have regarding a perpetual loser. it might seem strange that a man with a general distain for most technological shortcuts would so wholeheartedly embrace texting as a preferred means on communication. Actually it epitomizes his fundamental character. text are impersonal, can be targeted to a sharply defined group or single individual and is highly conducive to the brief, direct communication of a thought, idea or command. it is the most efficient way to communicate with inferior minds.

Cumberbatch highlights the trademark misanthropic attitude in Holmes portraying him as a blend of arrogant genius, perfect observer and polymath extraordinaire. These qualities are excellent for gathering the pieces of the crime and deducing what is necessary to apprehend the criminal but there is one element that Holmes cannot master. What makes him the greatest detective come at a price; he’s unable to function effectively in a social environment. This is where his best and only friend comes in, Dr. John Watson. Martin Freeman provides one of the more interesting interpretations of this pivotal character. In some renditions Watson is presented as a dolt in constant awe of Holmes. This would not be consistent with the personality of Holmes, a man who will not tolerate a fool. To be his best friend Watson has to be someone that Holmes can respect, an aspect that Mr. Freeman brings perfectly to this production. There is chemistry between the two men that survivor despite the inequalities in intellect. Holmes has the deductive skills Watson gives this team the humanity and social graces necessary to interact with the people that are inevitably part of every investigation. Holmes realizes this and has come to rely on Watson in these circumstances.

The writing is brilliantly sharp. The drama has threads of dry humor woven throughout. In this scene the style of the original literary classic is preserved better than most versions I have encountered. In typical BBC fashion the format of presentation is different from what audiences might be accustomed to. Each season, or series as they are referred to across the Atlantic, consists of three episodes running about 90 minutes. One case is presented per episode with some common points to provide continuity. The end of series one did contain a cliff hanger to bring the audience back but the usual gimmicks to ensure return viewers is hardly necessary here; the sheer quality will suffice. The third season was just announced and the network is preparing to begin broadcasting series four. There have been a myriad of renditions of Sherlock Holmes and this stands out as an amazing variation.

Posted 02/03/2014

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