Walking back from seeing the movie Sherlock Holmes – I got into an argument with friends who loved the movie. But they were not Sherlock Holmes purists. I insisted that as much as I enjoyed the movie (and whatever they spent on that spectacle is on the screen) and as much as I enjoy Robert Downey Junior – this was a combination of super-hero meets Charlie Chaplin meets The Brain. It was really just another geek-warrior. Half-brain and half-brawn. The whole point of the Sherlock Holmes stories (as a rule) was that the police or Watson could be called in when brawn was needed and that Holmes was all brain. I’m not giving anything away here since every clip shows a half-stripped Holmes doing martial arts in a boxing ring. Is there any hint, in any of the stories that Holmes was in such good shape. Maybe, but I can’t remember it. Whatever, the case Holmes was a cocaine user and a morphine addict (which was legal at that time in England) and I just don’t remember many stories in which he beats the heck out of the bad guy.
In other words, what had once been a cerebral endeavor has become, for the first time – a physical adventure story. As I say, that’s fine – but why now? I couldn’t quite figure out why all the movies were essentially comic-bookish, with clear bad guys and super heroes of one sort or another to save us from evil.
When I got home and turned on the t.v. – there was the answer. The guy from Nigeria had tried to blow up a plane. His father had told the U.S. that his son was not stable and a threat to the U.S. He paid in cash. He had explosives in his underwear. He was on what they call a watch list that no one can watch because it is too long:half a million names on it; and no luggage to check in. So with all the security in place, this guy slips through. What we need is a super hero. What would be best would be a very intelligent super hero that can put two and two together. Sherlock would easily have spotted something like this if he were only on the case. And if he couldn’t deduce his way through the problem, he could beat the living crap out of the villain.
This has always been the underlying idea of Holmes, that the authorities were imbeciles, and that Watson, was nothing more than a story teller. Certainly not a real helper, though if there was anything physical to be done, such as using a firearm, it was usually left up to Watson.
And so, somebody should write a paper on how Sherlock Holmes has been used as a reflection of the fears of society. Of course, it isnt’ easy these days to find a politically correct enemy – so Holmes goes for the mystical dangerous evil genius that is part of the ruling class.
One of the problems with Holmes (not to mention Robert Downey) was that they would both (at various times) fail drug tests – so we would have to do without their official help. Remember, it turns out, that the really brilliant minds work outside the confinement of the current social moires; and in the case of Mr. Holmes are able to out-deduce, or out-fight the mortal enemy. Fortunately, although Holmes will only be around briefly before he goes to disc, there is a second Iron Man on the way, and I suspect that we won’t run out of geek-warriors for some time and we won’t run out of administrative foul-ups either.