Movies

Movie Review: Enola Holmes (Spoiler-Free)

Enola Holmes (2020) - IMDb

Movie: Enola Holmes (2020)

Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I found out that there was a movie about the teenage sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, I was skeptical about it. How would it compare to other renderings of the Holmes family?

The answer: it doesn’t. While entertaining enough to be fun watching once, it failed to measure up. Read on to find out why.

Background

Enola Holmes was released in 2020 as a Netflix original. It is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer.

The film stars Millie Bobbie Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, and Louis Partridge.

Summary

Enola Holmes' Trailer: Millie Bobby Brown Is Sherlock Holmes' Sister |  IndieWire
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The plot revolves around 16-year-old Enola Holmes, whose mother goes missing. When she becomes the ward of her brother Mycroft and he tries to force her into an oppressive finishing school, she escapes and concocts a plan to find her lost mother.

She stumbles across the missing Viscount Tewkesbury and becomes immersed in two mysteries: Who is it that is trying to have Tewkesbury killed? And where is her mother?

The movie Enola Holmes is both a mystery movie and a story of self-discovery.

Pros

  • Unique take on the Holmes family
  • Creative pop-up book illustrations
  • Costumes interesting, had a lot of thought behind them
  • Enola had a fascinating childhood
  • Enola is good at cracking codes, self-defense, hiding/disguises, memory
  • Will likely be appealing to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls

Cons

  • Constant breaking of the fourth wall
  • Henry Cavill is a terrible Sherlock
  • Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter
  • This is definitely not going to satisfy Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Enola is not much of a mystery solver

Review

Concept

It is safe to say that movies and shows about Sherlock Holmes are overdone. But ones that focus on his family? Not so much.

This is not Sherlock’s story; it is 100% Enola’s story. The name Holmes is important in the title because of the legacy it carries of mystery, ingenuity, and creativity – not because Sherlock is a significant character.

This is a new take on the Holmes’ family – one that has not been overdone, and one that could create a worthwhile series of its own.

Pop-up Art

The choice to include pop-up animations to introduce the family was creative. These were also used throughout the film, along with journalistic illustrations that made the movie feel like Enola’s personal diary.

Costumes

Netflix's 'Enola Holmes' Quotes to Use as Instagram Captions
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The costumes were designed by Oscar-nominated Consolata Boyle. According to Boyle, Enola’s red dress was chosen to represent courage. She also utilized ivory, as it is a color associated with the suffragette movement. Each costume was carefully chosen. To learn more, check out this article

Characters

Enola Holmes is a likeable character with many skills. She is good at cracking codes, self-defense, and disguises. Her memory for details is impeccable. Her courage and generosity is also notable.

Enola is not much of a mystery solver, however. She did not solve either mystery mentally, but instead by courageous action and being where the action was happening.

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Sherlock is an ineffective character primarily because it seems like the actor is trying to be two things at once: the friendly, compassionate big brother and the emotionally detached detective. For instance, Sherlock says:

You’re being emotional. That’s understandable, but unnecessary.”

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Yet he is so emotional that, according to Screenrant, Netflix was sued by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who claimed that this emotional Sherlock was based off Sherlock stories still under copyright.

Sam Claflin interview - Millie Bobby Brown is a "powerhouse"
Mycroft from Enola Holmes

Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter who continuously fails in his attempts to control Enola. He has no redeeming qualities.

Breaking the Fourth Wall

I know this is a legitimate storytelling technique, but it was excessive in this movie. It strained one’s suspension of belief to the breaking point. Enola looks at the camera all the time, reminding viewers over and over that this is just a movie and that it’s all fake.

If you are looking for the escapist qualities of a good film, you won’t find them here. The constant reminder of the camera’s presence ruins any chance of the sort of realism that allows one to be absorbed in a story.

Conclusion

I gave this movie a 6.8 because it was better than the average movie. However, I would not be interested in watching it again.

While this movie is not for everyone, it is likely to appeal to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls.

Sherlock fans are likely to be disappointed. If you go into the movie without comparing it to other media that depict the Holmes family, you’ll be better off.

My Rating System

If you want to know how I rate movies, check out my rating system for movies.

Books

Book Review: Still Life by Louise Penny

Louise Penny: Still Life | D.K. Wall

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to leave a comment.

Background

Quick facts about Louise Penny:

  • She is a Canadian author who lives near Montreal.
  • Her husband of 22 years inspired her to write the character of Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector in her novels.
  • She was in her 40s when her first book was published.
  • You can learn more at her website.

Still Life is Penny’s fascinating debut. The story is set in Three Pines, where the elderly Jane Neal is found dead from an arrow wound. Most suspect that this is simply a tragic hunting accident, but Chief Inspector Gamache suspects it is murder.

Pros

  • Strong sense of setting
  • Rich character development
  • Suspenseful yet nuanced storytelling
  • Effective use of quotes and literary sources
  • Well-written poetry included
  • Did her research

Cons

  • Somewhat scattered beginning, a little hard to get into at first

Review

The Beginning

The book starts like this:

Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round…”

“She had fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.”

Still Life by Louise Penny
photo of dried leaves on soil

I enjoyed Penny’s language. I was bemused at the caricature of death she made by comparing a woman’s position at death with the idea of children making snow angels.

Then the story goes back in time to when she was supposed to meet her friend for coffee. After that, it explains how a group of local boys pelted a gay couple with duck manure.

It goes on to explain that Jane Neal is a shy artist who is just finally willing to show her art to the public eye. Only problem? Her masterpiece, Fair Day, is like a child’s drawing, or an ancient cave drawing.

All of that happens before 10 pages are up. Now, I am no great reader of mysteries. In fact, this is probably the first mystery I’ve read in 10 years. But I was thinking, hey, let’s go back to the snow-angel corpse instead of this odd series of occurrences that I’m frankly not interested in.

But I was wrong. Every detail of those first 10 pages was absolutely integral to the story. I just didn’t have the perspective of the whole story in mind.

As a result, I will say that it was not a novel whose beginning gripped me, but I will concede that these pages were necessary to the development of the drama of the novel.

Setting

The story is set in the village of Three Pines, which is compared rightfully to Narnia. There is certainly something magical about the personalities of the characters who live there. They have the glint of life about them, the engaging complexities of truly well-developed characters.

Olivier and Gabri’s Bistro and B & B are my favorite places in Three Pines. Each piece of furniture and decor in the Bistro has a price tag attached to it. People can buy the table they are eating at, the coat rack, the chairs! It is such a creative place for the characters to spend their time.

Antiques signage

“Each piece looked as though it had been born there.”

Still Life by Louise Penny

Character Development

Each of Penny’s characters has many facets to their colorful personality.

Gamache, for example is careful, pushy, kind, stern, intelligent, ignorant…

Clara is a woman who grieves for the loss of Jane but has an edge of steel in her at times. Her husband, Peter, can be cold as ice or warm and loving, easily offended but loyal.

Ruth is a toughie who raps her cane off the ground to shock people to attention, isn’t afraid to let her opinions be known, and has a penchant for poetry.

There were many more complex characters, but these were some of my favorites.

Storytelling

The storytelling was remarkable because of the way seemingly unrelated events and pieces of information came together in the end. Penny is clearly a master at foreshadowing without giving away the mystery, at providing both depth and forthright depictions.

This is not a thriller – the suspense of what might happen at any moment is not sharp. Instead, the book draws you into Three Pines, where the action is happening, and invites you to stay awhile. It promises a good story, without car chases, without shootouts, but with a certain compelling sense of danger and turmoil lurking just below the surface.

Quotes and Literary Sources

Penny is clearly well-read. She uses a host of references and direct quotes from Auden, Melville, and John Donne, as well as several others. One that stuck out to me as particularly well chosen was this one:

“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”

W. H. Auden

Poetry

Ruth Zardo is a poet in the novel, and Penny has included poems she has written for the character. I will say that they do give the impression of being by an actual poet. It’s convincing, that’s what matters.

Research

man holding archer statue

Penny did her research, and that’s part of what makes the novel so intriguing. This is notable in the section of the book where Gamache is trying to figure out the details of hunting with a bow. Penny uses Gamache’s ignorance as an excuse to reveal beginner’s hunting mistakes, the differences between bows, common myths about hunting with bows, and all the little details of this topic.

Final Comments

This book is one of the best I have read in recent years, which has earned it the rating of 9.8 out of 10 stars.

Books

Book Review: Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

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Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Background

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel is based on the novel Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Andrew Donkin created the illustrations for the graphic novel. It was published in 2007, six years after Colfer published the first Artemis Fowl novel.

The titular character, Artemis Fowl, is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl wants to expand his family fortune by getting his hands on fairy gold.

To do so, he seeks out and finds a book of fairy secrets that he uses to exploit the People (a name for fairykind). He kidnaps a fairy officer named Holly Short to use as leverage.

Along with his bodyguard Butler and Butler’s sister Juliet, Artemis attempts to pull off the amazing feat of separating fairies from their gold, which few have managed to achieve before.

Pros

  • Mostly faithful to book despite being shorter
  • Strong storytelling
  • Color themes matched mood and tension

Cons

  • Ugly artwork
  • Unnecessary changes to character appearance
  • Inconsistency in fairy culture

Review

Any fan of the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer will notice upon reading this graphic novel that it is faithful to its source. There are even sentences that are word-for-word copies of sentences in the original novel.

The storyline likewise remains unaltered. There are no nasty surprise changes in plot like in some novel adaptations. That’s a relief.

As a result, even in this truncated version of the original, the storytelling is vibrant and engaging. I was hooked from the first page and read the whole graphic novel within an hour.

To provide a sense of mood, Donkin created color themes for different scene that reflected the atmosphere. This was unrealistic, but I recognized that it was an artistic choice that added rather than subtracted from the narrative.

Some of Donkin’s other artistic choices were poor ones. The artwork was ugly. It just was. I get that he has artistic license with how he can portray the characters and scenes, but this was too much.

For example, look at Foaly.

Foaly | Artemis Fowl | Fandom
Foaly from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

He’s blue and looks elderly. He’s not wearing his customary tin hat. Nothing is right about this picture except that he is still a centaur.

If you read the original novel, is this how you pictured Foaly? It’s not how I did. He came off to me as young and geeky, and somewhat comical. Not geriatric.

Butler is even worse. He looks like a disproportional mountain of flesh. In the original series, he was described as a “man mountain,” so I understand where Donkin was coming from. But he looks horrible, and I imagined him as a large muscular man with some style, not just sheer immensity.

Artemis Fowl | Epic Heroism for the 21st Century: a Multimedia Web ...
Butler and Artemis from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel)

Also, can I just say that Artemis’s eyes are supposed to be blue? Not brown. Blue.

10 Best Artimus Fowl images | Fowl, Artemis fowl, Artemis
Holly Short from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

Also, Holly is supposed to have “nut-brown” skin. Instead her skin is this sallow shade of white. Why? That was an entirely unnecessary change. There was not a single person of color in this novel, to its detriment. There was no need to whitewash the novel.

Also, I will explain why I think the fairy culture in the graphic novel is inconsistent. In Haven City, the billboards were all written in English rather than Gnommish even though fairies look down on humans. The fairies would never have adopted English for their advertisements and daily life. It’s a silly little mistake, but worth noting.

Conclusion

Based mostly on the story and on some (very few) good artistic choices, I rated this graphic novel a 7 out of 10. Artistic choices including character appearance were its biggest downfall, but I was able to stomach that because of the rich storytelling.

Books

Book Review: Artemis Fowl

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Rank: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Background

Artemis Fowl was written by Eoin Colfer and published in 2001. It has been translated into 40 languages and was named a Puffin Modern Classic.

The titular character, Artemis Fowl, is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl wants to expand his family fortune by getting his hands on fairy gold.

To do so, he seeks out and finds a book of fairy secrets that he uses to exploit the People (a name for fairykind). He kidnaps a fairy officer named Holly Short to use as leverage.

Along with his bodyguard Butler and Butler’s sister Juliet, Artemis attempts to pull off the amazing feat of separating fairies from their gold, which few have managed to achieve before.

Pros

  • Fantastic storytelling
  • Complex worldbuilding
  • Well-developed and intriguing characters

Cons

  • The translation from Gnommish to perfectly rhymed English is unrealistic.

Review

Storytelling

Eoin Colfer knows how to tell a story. This story is told in third person omniscient, but focuses primarily on the characters Artemis and Holly. Keeping it omniscient is an effective choice because it reveals the way the characters think. If first person point of view had been used, so much of the narrative voice would have been lost.

Colfer’s book has a strong connection to setting. Whether it is a wedding party in Italy, a meeting with a contact in Ho Chi Minh City, or Fowl Manor in Ireland, Colfer makes sure the story is not existing in blank space.

He does his research. He lives in Ireland and uses Ireland as the main setting for his story, but does not let that stop him from using places he is less familiar with and doing it well.

For example, he is specific.

“They [Artemis and Butler] were sitting outside a curbside cafe on Dong Khai Street, watching the local teenagers circle the square on mopeds.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

The language he uses also contributes to his storytelling. Rather than saying that Artemis’s bodyguard Butler is armed and dangerous, Colfer cleverly uses a detailed list.

“…a Sig Sauer in his shoulder holster. two shrike-throwing knives in his boots, a derringer two-shot up his sleeve, garrotte wire in his watch, and three stun grenades in various pockets.”

Artemis Fowl to Nguyen in the book Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

This list not only makes Butler seem even more dangerous, it also paints a precise picture. Even not knowing what the items look like does not take away from the sense that Butler is a skilled bodyguard with an in-depth knowledge of weaponry.

I had to look up most of these items to know what they looked like, but I don’t think that is a problem because Colfer’s imaginative storytelling compelled me to do so.

Garrotte wire, for example, is used for strangulation.

There are so many advanced vocabulary words in this book that Vocabulary.com has a list of difficult words just for Artemis Fowl. I believe that this does not take away from the storytelling, because Colfer uses precise words that convey a specific meaning.

World-building

The world-building is phenomenal. Colfer bases it partially on Irish fairy tales, but with a sci-fi twist.

LEPrecon basically refers to police officers and their commanders in the fairy world. Get it? Leprechaun? The LEP stands for Lower Elements police.

Like in Irish mythology, “fairy” is a catch-all term that includes elves, pixies, dwarfs, trolls, etc.

Fairies live underground and use magma flows and pods to reach the surface. There is technology such as iris-cams and finger darts.

The finger darts are hilarious. They meld to slip on, look exactly like your finger, and do not feel unusual. This has led to the incapacitation of some officers who forgot they were wearing them and picked their nose, setting off the dart.

Character Development

Colfer’s strong point is definitely his characters.

Artemis Fowl is not your ordinary twelve-year-old. He’s a criminal mastermind. One who looks as pale as a vampire in sunlight because of long periods of time spent in front of a computer, hiding away indoors.

Artemis exhibits both the qualities of a child and an adult. According to Colfer,

“He still retained a childlike belief in magic, tempered by an adult determination to exploit it.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

When he does something out of character, his own thoughts let readers know that it is unusual. For instance, he makes a joke twice (not very funny ones because he is unpracticed) and it is more amusing in that he had the inclination toward a sense of humor for once. He even notes this himself.

Butler is loyal to Artemis, but occasionally is disapproving of Artemis’s more dangerous plans, especially when he puts Butler’s sister Juliet in danger.

Colfer doesn’t just tell us Butler is dangerous, he shows it. The “man mountain” carries an assortment of weapons and demonstrates his martial prowess against shielded fairies. Even he can be caught off guard – but those times are comparatively few.

Holly Short is stubborn and resentful. She is a rule-breaker with both a temper and a compassionate side.

Her superior Commander Root is a short-tempered fairy who cares for his officers and despite being blatantly rude and domineering toward them.

Foaly is a centaur who is witty and intelligent. He is indispensible to the LEPrecon team because he rigged up a lot of their technology and is basically the resident genius on the team, so no matter how many snarky remarks he makes, Commander Root can’t afford to fire him.

There are an assortment of other characters who are well-developed and intriguing, but I won’t go into more detail here. Read the book for yourself

A side note

By the way, this is completely out of context, but my favorite line in the entire book is this:

“I don’t like lollipops.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

It just made me crack up. To see why, read the book.

Translation Issues

My only complaint in this book is that when Artemis translates the Book that is written in Gnommish, it becomes perfectly rhymed English.

Anyone who has ever tried to translate anything from one language to another knows that something is lost in translation, and this is especially true of poetry.

Words that rhyme in one language rarely do in another. And why would a language whose closest kin is Egyptian show such remarkable resemblance to English by being translated into perfectly rhymed poetry?

Another thing is he had Gnommish written on the bottom of the pages that could be translated letter by letter with English. That was completely different from the way it was described in writing, where it was like an almost unbreakable code.

Conclusion

I would recommend this book both for a young adult audience and for adults.

If you like Fantasy or Sci-fi, or have a penchant for fairy tales, or just want to be immersed in a good story, I fully recommend this book.

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