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Why Didn’t I like Sherlock Holmes

Looking for the UnExpected

One of my most anticipated activities, during extended times at home, is going to the movies. Alas, I am always surprised with how busy I become, and so, I haven’t been able to see as many as I’d hoped — which means that I have more to look forward to.

Brenda and I drove up to the Regal last night to see Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Junior. The movie was all that I’d hoped it would be. It was visually rich, the characters were real, the script was fine, the action was almost overwhelming, the audio was loud (even for me) but effective, and the special effects were as transparent as I’ve seen. Yet, it was missing something. The movie wasn’t very interesting. Walking away from the theater, Brenda and I both agreed that we were bored — a mystery to me, because I couldn’t think of why.

Getting back home a little too early for bed, I posted comments about my disappointment on Twitter and Facebook, and just now (6:50 AM) scanned through a surprisingly large number of responses. Many people agreed, but just about as many people seemed to love the movie, mentioning the attributes I have already listed, especially the FX.

Then my friend Gail Lovely hit it.

We found it to be boring… I think part of the problem was they forgot to include the audience in the mystery and in solving the mystery. There was no way you could watch the movie and say “why didn’t I see that clue?!”

For an icon of “mystery,” there was no mystery. You knew the villain the first time you saw him, and regardless of his court-ordered demise, you knew — well enough spoiler. I agree with Gail’s observation. I was not a part of the show. I was not invested. I was merely a spectator, and for that, I felt short-changed and wondering why.

It reminds me a bit about some research I explored a while back (can’t find the blog post) showing that we learn well, what surprises us. It’s the unexpected discovery that impacts our memory.

No impact in this movie. Though Robert Downey Junior, Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams are all three memorable visions — no surprises will, no doubt, leave no lasting impressions.

Surprise your learners!

Today? Avatar!


  • http://quoteflections.com Paul Cornies

    I also think that many movies these days are compromised by the almighty jolt which includes tight editing, loud soundtrack, intense action, provocative situations. What is often lost is the mystery and wonder for the viewer to become more intimately engaged in the story. Subtlety and nuance are missing.

    ‘It’s the unexpected discovery that impacts our memory.’ Great point.

  • http://cfllearner.blogspot.com/ Todd Wandio

    Avatar: Like a week in Vegas visually. Story is Pocahantas. James Cameron spent the bank on the visuals, and the digital meshes with the live action seamlessly. Happy New Year!

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  • Milena Streen

    I felt exactly the same way about the movie. I found it to be a bit too loud (it must be a generational thing because my husband shared my opinion, but my son thought it was just fine). I found Sherlock Holmes lacking ‘something essential’ to a mystery. I think back to Apollo 13 where we knew the outcome of the movie in advance, but that movie worked because it had the mystery of seeing how they figured out the problem of getting the astronauts home. We became a part of the process and the excitement. In Sherlock Holmes, I felt like I was just an observer.

  • http://historytech.wordpress.com Glenn Wiebe

    Like your reference to learning what surprises us. Reminded me of Dan & Chip Heath’s “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” In their SUCCESs formula, the unexpected is essential.

    (Saw Holmes with my daughter and we both enjoyed it. And while she’s also a big Monk TV show fan, she noticed the similarity of both needing to “explain” how everything happened rather than letting us figure it out.)


  • Chris Corey

    I have heard similar complaints from several other people I know in regards to feeling “left out” of the mystery. While I can find fault in not arranging the plot in such a way as to keep the audience invested no matter what the outcome (ala Apollo 13 or any other true story drama), it is hard to find fault with being left out of the mystery to me. Mostly because that is exactly how the original stories are, you might be shown or given bits of information (or in some cases you aren’t even given that), but in the end Sherlock is the only one in the room smart enough to decipher everything and put it together. So to me it pretty much works like the stories did, now whether or not it is smart to translate that literally into a movie with an audience instead of a reader is another question entirely…

  • http:/rekhatech.info Saurabh Datta

    “why didn’t I see that clue?!”
    You can’t coz’ you are not supposed to. That’s coz’ then you’d be called in to solved the case instead of sherlock Holmes.

    The storytelling was exactly like the writing style in the novel narratives.

    People with a finer eye (including me) were a bit questioned by his behavior at the crime site, and people knew that Holmes was up to something…

    So don’t blame the movie. It was an excellent piece of directorship and storytelling.

    Although, when the character of Sherlock Holmes is brought alive, his psychology should have been explained better.

    1)Could listen to his inner self : That caused him to follow his pursuits wildly and hence, the shabbiness of his ‘armory’ and his neglect for hygiene.

    2)Fine Analysis: At the hotel, a glimpse of his thinking about the world as an imperfect entity with imperfect beings was shown with a sort of adrenaline rush. The sights and sounds that he heard created inferences due to his involuntary ability of deductive logic and fine analysis. The same happened to Einstein and the same fine sense drew Newton crazy during the last years of his life.

    3) Romance: Creative people, just as Sherlock Holmes and Einstein have proved to be quite colorful in respect to their love lives.

    4) Emotional Imbalance: Being highly critical shows out as irritative nature. Such people have huge emotional swings as depicted in the film.

    In short, if Sherlock Holmes were to ever exist, he would be on the verge of going crazy. Happens to all good men….

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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