Basil of Baker Street

I don’t know why, but I went through a phase recently critiquing plans to usurp royalty.  It’s why I chose to write about Three Musketeers, and this week it’s Great Mouse Detective. Look, if you’re going to try to take on the throne, you’ve gotta be smart about it. And there’s no room for this “make a treaty with a foreign power for no reason” or “create a robot Queen” nonsense.

Ratigan is supposed to be a the rodent equivalent of Moriarty, but I don’t see it. Moriarty is a criminal genius whose plans span years. He masterminds heists and plots coordinating the entire criminal underworld, he’s the only criminal smart enough to match Sherlock Holmes in a battle of wits. Meanwhile Ratigan’s big plan is to abduct a skilled toy maker, create a robot version of the Queen, and use that robot to grant himself  executive powers. What? This is nonsense.

Much like Cardinal Richelieu in Three Musketeers, Ratigan’s plan is flawed from the start. But even if it was a great plan, the greatest plan in the world needs time for execution. Ratigan somehow found out that this toymaker should have been working for the government, because he can create lifelike robots. Ratigan then decides to abduct the toymaker, force him to build a robot of the Queen, then hijack her Jubilee and pronounce himself consort. This is a very detailed plan with a lot of moving parts  Why in the world would you give yourself 48 hours to complete it? Like, not a single part of the plan was executed prior to the abduction. He hadn’t stolen the guard uniforms, picked up the parts necessary for the new robot, nothing. Abducting Flaversham seems to have been the catalyst for the entire plan, and it was executed with zero time to spare. This is a bad call. Plans have problems all the time, you need to plan extra time around the errors that will inevitably arise.

The first major problem with Ratigan’s plan after the timing issue is that he didn’t conduct effective research on his kidnapping target. Ratigan’s entire plan is derailed because he didn’t have Fidget the Bat kidnap Olivia Flaversham. Obviously he found out later that Olivia existed because he sent Fidgt after her. But if you got the hot tip that this toy maker has the technical ability to create robot people, spend a couple hours conducting recon. And on that same note, maybe don’t send Fidget. Ratigan could have sent any one (or three) of his regular goons, but instead he sent the most recognizable member of his crew, who also happens to be a complete moron. I’m willing to bet if Ratigan had sent a few of his regular goons instead of a one legged bat that can’t fly, they would have heard Flaversham yelling for his daughter and investigated a little bit. They probably would have heard her crying and taken the initiative to swipe her as well. But instead he sends a well known crew member, which lets Basil know that he’s up against Ratigan. Remember, Basil was completely ignoring Olivia because he was focused on finding Ratigan. Finding out Fidget had kidnapped Olivia’s father put him immediately on her case. So right from its inception, this plan is bungled.

The next phase of this caper is the robbery phase. Ratigan needs a few items to complete his scheme, so he sends Fidget out again to collect uniforms, gears, and “the girl.” These are very vague instructions. If we are to assume Ratigan explained what he wanted in more detail off camera to Fidget, why did Ratigan repeat those three items to Fidget so many times? Also, we see Ratigan write the list right in front of Fidget, so it seems like this is a case of Ratigan sending a moron with vague instructions who is just lucky enough to make it work.

That’s an important point to note, by the way. Fidget stumbles into succeeding. For some reason, he runs by Basil’s house first. There is no good reason for this. Ratigan doesn’t know Basil is on the case, and Fidget has no reason to think that Olivia is there. If Ratigan had said “and by the way, do a fly by to mess with Basil,” that would make sense. But instead we have to assume Fidget is just a lucky moron who went to the wrong place first and just happened to be right. The problem is, this snaps Basil into action and gives him someone to track, which is the motivating incident which allows him to find Ratigan’s secret hideout.

Here’s where I get confused about why Ratigan thinks he’s so brilliant. When Fidget lets him know that Basil is on the case, Ratigan doesn’t do anything. He just sits there and waits for Basil to show up, then pats himself on the back because he’s so clever. How is it clever to find out your enemy is on the way and just make sure you have a bunch of dudes waiting for him? In case you were sitting there with bated breath wondering, it isn’t. It’s not clever at all to just sit there and wait for your rival to be clever.

I know that it’s a common movie trope to have a complicated execution device, and for the villain to explain all the details of his plot, then leave without seeing the hero die. I know that, and I think it’s stupid. At it’s core, it’s lazy writing. “We don’t know how to have a compelling transition from the middle of the story to the climax, so we’ll just have the villain bail when he’s winning.” And shoehorning in an explanation of “I couldn’t decide how I wanted you to die so I set up this elaborate device” is just insulting. Ratigan fed a guy to a cat because the guy called him a rat. On that note, why is that such a bad thing? You tower head and shoulders over every other rodent, and your name is RATigan. Why is that suddenly enough to get one of your underlings murdered? Maybe you should consider changing your name so they don’t slip and call you a rat while singing songs about how great you are?

Here’s the thing: even if we ignore how stupid Ratigan has been at literally every other part of this movie, we still can’t ignore that his plan is stupid now too. First, Ratigan continues his trend of not killing people that he should when he has his boys carry the Queen away instead of just killing her right away. I get that you have to feed your cat (I have a cat, she’s gotta eat), but you can make an exception and just shoot this one since she’s literally the one person who can absolutely foil your plan just by existing.

Next in this comedy of errors, I have to ask . . . who in their right mind would think that ungodly robotic automaton was actually the Queen? She shivered and shook and popped loudly with every step, and had visible seams and joints. Even before her head starts popping out on springs, she’s clearly a robot, possessed, or a zombie. Whatever the case, she definitely isn’t the Queen. So with that in mind, how long did Ratigan really expect this charade to last? It was a smart move that he didn’t try to declare himself King, since that isn’t how royalty works. Marrying the Queen makes you a Prince, nothing more. But the thing was on a cord, for crying out loud! She wouldn’t be able to do so many different important royal tasks, and there are certain things a royal consort just can’t fill in on. So how long did he expect to keep this going? It’s not like he gets to keep power if he arranges for the “Queen” to get sick or die. It’s just a bad plan.

I want to point out that I really do like this movie. The one song is very solid, Basil has a real character arc, and it’s a very fun interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes stories in a child friendly fashion. That being said, the villain is a moron who we’re supposed to believe is a criminal mastermind, and I simply will not stand for that. I’m running out of ideas of plots to usurp royalty, but I assure you I’ll have something good for you soon. That’s all for now, love and kisses!

 

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