Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Watching The Detectives
Sherlock-mania has gripped the nation, and such is the severity of my Sherlock-fever, in the past few weeks I’ve watched Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and, a few minutes ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes aka The One With The Fat One Out Of Torchwood In It.
Have to say, the version I enjoyed least was the Guy Ritchie version. I fell asleep twice, and whoever Robert Downey was playing, it wasn’t Sherlock Holmes. I don’t know whether he was into bare-knuckle fighting in the books, but it seemed out of place in Victorian London somehow. Plus the script was utterly garbled, Downey’s dialogue was utterly garbled, and in fact the only one to come out of the project with any credit was Jude Law, miscast as Doctor Watson but at least giving the producers’ their money’s worth. The rest of it just felt like a Comic Strip parody of what a bad US attempt at Sherlock Holmes would be like a la The Strike, GLC and Churchill: The Hollywood Years.
Anyway, what about The One With The Fat One Out Of Torchwood In It. Just how bad is it – and is it so bad that it’s good? Well, it certainly passes the time, it’s entertaining. It’s utterly derivative to the point of being brain-dead, but what it says on the tin, it does. It has a giant squid, it has a dinosaur, it has a man in a robot suit, and it has a flying robot dragon. Why a dragon? Why, because the dragon is the symbol of London, of course. Who can forget the famous Dragon Of London, the London Dragon? The tale of Dick Whittington, going to London to seek fame, fortune, and kill the Dragon?
The dialogue is abysmal, but fortunately much of it is muffled, and all of it is irrelevant, so it doesn’t matter too much. It’s all cod-Victorian speak – at one point, Lestrade warns a criminal not to ‘do a scoot’ and later opines about ‘bloody guns’ – I imagine all of the writer’s time was spent researching the legend of the London Dragon to bother with any accurate vernacular.
I mentioned the robot suit earlier, and one of the most notable and compelling things about this film is the number of silly walks featured therein. The robot suit guy walks around like an embarrassed gimp that’s had an unfortunate accident, whilst Lestrade opts for the arms-behind-back, stomach-out saunter of your typical Victorian Inspector. But the best walk of all is that adopted by The Fat One Out Of Torchwood, an awkward, strutting lurch, accompanied throughout with what I can only describe as a constipated scowl. He spends the whole film looking as if he Really Wants To Go But Can’t.
You may think I’m being cruel in referring to The Fat One Out Of Torchwood as The Fat One Out Of Torchwood but, like most people, including quite possibly the actor himself, I can’t remember the name of the character he played. He was the guy who made the coffee, phoned out for pizzas and who had a Kylie Minogue backing dancer locked in the Torchwood basement. To be serious, he’s not a bad actor, but obviously his ‘Costume Fitting’ was anything but, as he spends the whole film in a bulging waistcoat, the seams of his trousers in a constant state of being-just-about-to-explode.
He’s not too bad in it, though – as when other professional actors appear in what are essentially ‘fan films’ – I don’t think he’d count it as his greatest ever performance. However, he shines with the brilliance of a thousand suns compared to the guy they’ve cast as Sherlock Holmes. He looks like Rob Newman, who almost everyone has forgotten because he’s the one out of The Mary Whitehouse Experience who isn’t on television any more (no, not Steve Punt, the other one) but that’s not the problem. The problem is that he speaks with a fey, high-pitched nasal whine, with all the gravitas and authority of a competition winner. Again, I’m sure this project hasn’t shown him at his best, but I never thought I’d see Sherlock Holmes as played by Joe Pasquale.
The film was shot in Wales, doubling as Vancouver, doubling as London, and from the making-of documentary you get the impression it was a troubled and extremely rushed shoot. The similarity with other Wales-based productions doesn’t end there, though – the film’s climax is pretty much a steal of the end of Doctor Who And The Christmas Cyberman. And apropos of FA the film ends with the revelation that Sherlock’s first name is actually Robert. Robert Holmes? Who’s he?
In the film, Sherlock deducts that there must be a link between the giant squid and the dinosaur because they are both so improbable; later we learn that the squid attacked a boat transporting gold in order to pay for dinosaur, which was used – not sure how – to gain control of the water supply – which is forgotten because the bad guy – and I won’t reveal his identity, because you’ll guess it within the first five minutes, I wouldn’t want to spoil the lack of surprise – wants to blow up London using his robot dragon. Because to destroy London with a Dragon would be the greatest irony of all!
That said, you could argue that this is very much in the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and that gaping plot holes, moments of convenient idiocy, and incredibly circumstantial deduction are part and parcel of the adventure genre. The Guy Ritchie film has someone running through a sewer from Westminster to the southern end of Tower Bridge; this film has TFOOOT managing to out-pace a train on horseback. (And even the mind-bogglingly fantastic and beautiful BBC Sherlock had a head-slappingly stupid bit about the world’s top forger accidentally including an anachronistic supernova in the sky of a forged painting. Apart from that it was stunning, though.)
So would I in all honesty recommend you add this film to your LoveFilm list? Yeah, go on. If enough people do it, they might make a sequel.