Monday, January 4, 2010

"The Da Vinci Holmes" / "The Sherlock Code"

This is a note I first posted to FaceBook motivated in part by the recent Guy Ritchie film Sherlock Holmes.  I am re-posting it here also so that it can appear with my other film essays. It is a commentary on a genre of insipid, hyperkinetic action-mystery movies that has - sadly - been growing in popularity in recent years.

Egad, Watson, I could write one of these movies.

Essential Ingredients
- Pick a hero sleuth, an academic or intellectual outsider who knows how to throw a punch.

- Pick a sidekick, a loyal friend or brother and / or, perhaps, a woman of mystery.

- Pick a friendly cop on the inside, someone whose superficial disdain for hero sleuth masks a burgeoning respect.

- Pick a villainous cabal led by an evil master as an adversary.

- Pick a setting, cities with recognizable / picturesque locations work best because they are compact, making scurrying (see below) very practical; large amounts of money can be poured into period recreation and location shooting and the cost of writing the screenplay can, thus, be kept to a minimum.

Once these elements are in place, set the plot in motion with some requisite crime, the murder of a tertiary character or the theft of a something of historical or artist value, and let the scurrying begin!

Scurrying 101
- Have hero sleuth and sidekick scurry from recognizable / picturesque location to recognizable / picturesque location, ostensibly to nab evil master or thwart the progression of his nefarious, yet inscrutable, scheme.

- Have scurriers arrive too late at said locations - too late, that is, to nab evil master, but not too late to avoid a dust-up with members of villainous cabal or their brawny minions, allowing scurriers to demonstrate feats of derring-do and their not inconsiderable talents at punch throwing.

- Have friendly cop, optionally, arrive at said locations even later than hero sleuth and sidekick - too late that is to help out with the dust-ups, but not too late to demonstrate growing respect for hero sleuth and, occasionally, to place him under arrest.

- Have hero sleuth surmise something or other as a result of each visit to a recognizable / picturesque location, not to advance the plot in any significant way, mind you, but to insure that the selection of the next recognizable / picturesque location on the agenda can be announced so that the scurrying can continue uninterrupted.

- Repeat.

Planning Ahead
Make sure that recognizable / picturesque locations geographically form the outline of some sort of geometrical figure or hokey religious symbol so that hero sleuth can divine - from a hastily drawn map - the last the recognizable / picturesque location to which to scurry for the climax and denouement.

Climax and Denouement
- Have hero sleuth, sidekick and, optionally, friendly cop, whose undying respect for hero sleuth is now firmly established, converge on the final recognizable / picturesque location where they engage in an urgent battle with evil master and / or members of villainous cabal and / or brawny minions as the objective of the nefarious scheme is announced and some sort of doomsday clock ticks away.

- Have hero sleuth, sidekick and, optionally, friendly cop vanquish evil master, but not necessarily all members of villainous cabal; there are, after all, sequels to be considered.

- Have hero sleuth deliver three-minute extemporaneous just-so-story speech, accompanied by flashbacks of scurrying to and from recognizable / picturesque locations, that explains evil master's nefarious scheme in excruciating scientific and scholastic detail so as to dispel any notion that magic or supernatural forces were implicated in its execution and to seal hero sleuth's reputation as the renaissance man extraordinaire who can throw a punch.

An Alternative Recipe
Invest a small fraction of the not insubstantial production budget for the film in hiring writers who can develop characters fully, can write dialog that is more than an exchange of a handful of quips, and understand that the art of presenting a mystery lies in enlisting the audience as witnesses to its being solved and not as a classroom of schoolchildren to be assembled for a final lecture.

Creative Commons License
"The Da Vinci Holmes" / "The Sherlock Code" by Marc Merlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
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