Sep 4, 2010

Sherlock

Some days ago I discovered by chance a new BBC TV series, and as far as I know it has not been broadcast in Spain for now. It is a modern and updated version of Sherlock Holmes, the detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle between the end of the 19th and  the beginning of the 20th centuries, this time set on Modern Day London, and I must say that it's innovative in some aspects and can be considered to be out of the ordinary. For what I've seen so far it's something worth to give it a try because of its special style, not being anything like any investigation-oriented TV series that I have watched before.

TV versions of this character (or even those for the big screen, remember the terrible Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, a joke in which we could only connect the characters that we saw on the screen to Conan Doyle's work because of the movie title) are not usually very fortunate. It is clear that creating a faithful live action characterisation of  personages or settings and a similar atmosphere to those that we can find on the novels has never been an easy task. Holmes's case is especially remarkable in this aspect, as it's about depicting England at the end of the 19th century, which at a first glance doesn't seem to be an easy task due to the big budget needed, the finding (and creation) of appropriate location shots, etc. Well, it's not hard to notice the poor CGI on Downey Jr.'s version, really bad for such a modern movie. Mary Poppins' London looked more real to me, I think.
In this case BBC has not chosen the hard way to make an adaptation of one of the most famous British icons. By creating a modern version of the character they have skipped most of those problems, although they have inevitably created others. It's not a big leap to guess that the most hardcore Holmes' fans aren't going to be too satisfied by losing all the Victorian England elements which had such an important role in creating that special atmosphere to the written work, even when the character's personality is quite faithful to the original and some nods to it are found here and there, like for example the appearance of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, the place in which Holmes and Watson originally met for the first time in A Study in Scarlet.

Benedict Cumberbatch
I decided to give it a try anyway. I've always loved Conan Doyle's work and listening to British accent on TV these days is not that easy and it's always welcome. And of course London is a brilliant place as a location to shoot a series, as at least I am somewhat tired to see New York everywhere (not that I don't like the city, it's just some kind of NY saturation in American movies and TV shows). Everybody knows at least most of its buildings and significant places and has seen them destroyed several times and in several ways, so change is always welcome, don't you think?
The actor chosen to incarnate Holmes is Benedict Cumberbatch, of whom I had never heard before although he seems to have played lots of roles on TV, movies and also on stage. He represents a modern Holmes who can dress, has got a strong (and quite special) personality, a big number of contacts in the city among the oddest kinds of people, and possesses the same observation skills that the original character did in spite of being so sharp to understand people sometimes and at the same time so  unsuccessful some other times. However, that plays in favour of the brilliant complexity of the character through Cumberbatch's interpretation of the role. However, as he is being represented as a younger man than Conan Doyle's character was, he has been represented as being more impulsive and self-sufficient, something that will bring him more than one problem in these episodes.

Martin Freeman
We've also got Holmes' sidekick in the series, doctor John Watson, in this case the actor Martin Freeman. I did know Freeman from such different origins as the British version of The Office or from his brief role in the Hot Fuzz motion picture starring Simon Pegg -which isn't bad at all either. It's British and quite appealing, with lots of fights and shooting.
In Sherlock, Martin plays a very believable Watson that creates a very good match to Cumberbatch's counterpart, making them work well on screen. Watson has been a soldier in a modern war, Afghanistan now instead of the Boer Wars (logically) which were mentioned in the original novels. And, although at first he seems to be one of those people whom you wouldn't really notice when you pass him by in the street, from the very first episode we can see that he is an incomplete person who still carries problems from the past with him. Somebody who needs, somehow, the kind of life that Holmes offers to start growing again as a person. Something that, as we say, we witness to start happening from the beginning.
Well, I´ve already seen a couple of episodes (from a total of three that complete the first season). I´ve liked it so far and I really feel like watching some more. It would seem at first that they are too few episodes to start a series, but we must take into account that each one lasts for 90 minutes (they are as long as a regular movie) and they are not boring at all. The length of the episodes allows the writers to create a complex plot that is not constrained by time limits. In this manner the episode goes by at a normal pace as the plot unfolds and we follow the investigation in a way in which we never have the feeling that it's going too fast. That's a remarkable advantage, although for what I've read so far we won't be watching any more episodes until 2011. By the way, if possible try and watch it in HD because this series has got a really good technical and visual work and it's a much better experience to watch it at at least 720p. For the moment, if you feel like taking a look at it you can try this trailer with which the BBC has been promoting the show on TV:


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