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Monday, December 28

Mark Strong – the baddie in Sherlock Holmes

The new film Sherlock Holmes opened in the US on December 25th. After years of classic adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s cerebral sleuth and his side-kick Dr. Watson on Masterpiece Theater and on the big screen, the movie was not what I expected. In a nutshell, this Holmes bare-knuckle boxes like Tom Lefroy, forgets to bath and shave, and his cluttered flat at 221B Baker Street looks like a cross between the Old Curiosity Shop in the Dickens classic and Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory after an explosion.

Anyone who has not read Conan Doyle or seen any of the traditional adaptations might like this film. Visually it is stunning. Victorian London never looked so disparagingly seedy. However, the costume designer should know better than to put a lady in a shocking pink satin sharmuse gown in the middle of the day, but I was probably the only person in the state of Washington to notice this faux pas. Primarily the challenge lies in the original book vs. the Hollywoodization syndrome that we have also experienced with Jane Austen’s novels. Both have merit, but not in comparison.

Many of the performances were outstanding. Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson make an interesting if not odd pairing and James Fox in a cameo as Sir Thomas Rotheram added old school class in a sea of younger talent. The baddie of the film, Lord Blackwood, portrayed by Mark Strong steals the film. Austen movie buffs will remember that he played an angry Mr. Knightley to Kate Beckinsale’s pert Emma Woodhouse in the 1996 television adaption of Jane Austen’s novel Emma by Andrew Davies. His interpretation of Austen's character is quite unique showing a disapproving side of Mr. Knightley that bordered on bad tempered during the dressing down scene at Box Hill. One wonders out loud if he loved Emma less, would he have been able to talk about it more nicely? Doubtful. Who would have guessed that his surly Knightley was a foreshadowing of a future career as villains? Maybe Miss Woodhouse?

A classically trained actor, Strong has really come into his own lately playing villains. He was in the recently released The Young Victoria, and will be seen as Sir Godfrey next year in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood with Russell Crow and Mathew Macfadyen. It will be interesting to see what other baddies he chooses, and if we will ever see him as a romantic lead again. Hope so.

Read an interview of Mark Strong on his performance in Sherlock Holmes and his blossoming baddie career.

Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose


ChaChaneen said...

I really like Mark Strong too. Emma sealed the deal and he just gets better and better!


I went to the movies full of prejudices against this Americanization of Conan Doyle's beloved detective but I must say I unexpectedly enjoyed the film. Victorian London was impressive, stunning; Downey JR,Law and Strong were brilliant;the action scenes were fun and accurately shot. I was so disappointed by my latest going to a theater and see an adaptation of a classic (Dorian Gray)that I could hardly believe I would like this new one but ... I did it. Truly.
My review at
By the way, I also liked the female characters, especially Kelly Reilly = Caroline Bingley 2005, as Watson's fiancé.

MarkStrongOnline said...

"It will be interesting to see what other baddies he chooses, and if we will ever see him as a romantic lead again. Hope so."

So do we!

Katherine said...

I hope to see him as a hero again as well! He was a great Mr. Knightley. I've not yet seen the movie and I don't plan to but if it's any comfort I too am from Washington and when I saw the fuchsia dress on the right thought that is definitely not a color a genteel lady of the victorian era would wear and especially not in satin!

Nonna Beach said...

Mark Strong was in a T.V. movie called "A Hazard of Hearts" with Helena B.C.,Diana Rigg, Edward Fox, Christopher Plummer and many other great actors & actresses. That was the first time I ever saw him onscreen ( a Barbara Cartland novel ) I like him as a romantic lead but he is a great baddie as well !

Christina Hicks said...

I'm really excited about seeing this movie (we're going tonight!), I know it will be a far cry from the books but from what I've read it's not even based any of the original text but rather a graphic novel. So it's an adaptation of an adaptation? Just makes sense for it to feel topsy turvy and alternate universe-y. Well, to me anyway. :)

Anonymous said...

The stylization didn't bother me so much. Except for Mary's bangs.

Here's an interview with Jenny Beavan, the costume designer, about the movie:

She's no slouch when it comes to historically-accurate clothing. She's done A Room with a View, S&S '95, Cranford, Amazing Grace, Remains of the Day, so on and so forth. Somehow, it doesn't bother me that she and the director chose to "push" the colors. I know she knows what accurate clothing is, and that makes all the difference.

Jana said...

I think they were going for more of a steampunk feel than historical accuracy. That film is yummy.