This morning I saw a trailer for the upcoming film Mr. Holmes starting Sir Ian McKellen. I’m a fan of his work, more specifically his work in fantasy and science fiction such as Lord of the Rings and X-men. After watching this trailer, I’m excited to see how he will portray the iconic Sherlock Holmes. However, the first thing that popped into my mind was “Isn’t there already a Sherlock Holmes?” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’ Sherlock Holmes has been one of the most reinterpreted characters in history. And the trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon. There are plenty of recent TV shows and movies that have been inspired by the famous detective. Let's take a look at these modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes.
First aired in 2010, Sherlock has taken off as one of the most popular shows currently on television. The show follows Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch), a consulting detective with extreme intelligence and remarkable observation skills, and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), a returning military surgeon from Afghanistan, as they solve mysteries around London. In this interpretation, Sherlock Holmes uses modern technology to solve crimes. With a talented cast and smart writing, Sherlock gives us a modern and fresh take on the most recognizable character in fiction. Fans can expect the fourth season of Sherlock to premiere in 2017. In the meanwhile, we can expect a standalone special on Christmas of this year.
Recently, I read an article in the Atlantic that said Elementary, though set in modern-day Manhattan, is a better representation of the original Doyle style compared to other Sherlock Holmes show because it is a “slow-burn thriller”. I take this to mean that the Elementary is more personal and less grandiose then BBC’s Sherlock or the Sherlock Holmes film adaptations. In many ways, however, Elementary is the most different, modern adaptation of the original Sherlock stories.
In Elementary, Sherlock (Johnny lee Miller) is a recovering drug addict who is accompanied by Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). I think it’s fantastic how creator Robert Doherty changed John Watson into a female character. It’s important to push the envelope and I think the creators took a successful risk in reinventing John Watson. To those who haven’t seen CBS’ Elementary, the show may seem redundant of BBC’s Sherlock which began two years prior. However, there is a significant difference that separates the two shows. Sherlock is episodic, and with only three 90 minute episodes per season, the show focuses more on the big events rather than the stories of the characters. Elementary has up to this point 72 episodes, and this allows more time for an in-depth look to the characters. The show, however, lacks the same dramatic build possible in Sherlock. One isn’t better than the other but it’s important to note the differences in the two popular Sherlock TV shows!
3. Sherlock Holmes (2008) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
These two films are the most recent Sherlock interpretations on the big screen. Although Sherlock still uses his intelligence and incredible reasoning to help solve his case, he is more than just a big brain in these films. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is reinvented as an action hero, engaging in fights and high-speed chases. It’s definitely a change from the traditional detective we think of with a deerstalker hat and a tweed suit. However, this Sherlock Holmes does resemble the original character in many ways. The Sherlock Holmes is eccentric and is at times, dispassionate and cold. The scene where he analyses Mary Morstan in the first film reflects this flaw. Although the films may have too much CGI for my liking, I think the films are an interesting way of interpreting Sherlock Holmes. Seeing that the films are extremely popular and with a 3rd installment in the works, something is definitely working.
4. Mr. Holmes
Some make take this as a surprise because Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock films are still in the making, but Mr. Holmes will be a standalone film that will surely have success! Sherlock, Elementary, and Sherlock Holmes all focus on Sherlock Holmes while he is at the height of his detective career. Mr. Holmes will focus on Sherlock’s life after he has retired from detective work. Now 93 years old, Sherlock looks to solve one last mystery that he had left unsolved. Watson had already written the mystery was solved, but Mr. Holmes looks to rewrite the story with the uncovered truth before he dies.
I love the idea for the film and I think it’s clever how they’re showing Sherlock’s story when he is in his older years, and through his own perspective. In the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Watson would document Sherlock’s solved mysteries and various achievements. The stories were told through his perspective. However, Watson wrote an ending for an unsolved mystery and now Sherlock is solving it to put it into his own words. How awesome is that?? Totes excited.
In any case, Sherlock Holmes is a character that will always be present in TV and Film. In addition, he has inspired countless of other characters that don’t bear his name but have followed in his footsteps. I consider Sherlock Holmes the grandfather of characters like Gregory House (House) and Shawn Spencer ( Psych). These detective and medical shows that depict genius minds have all been inspired by Holmes in some way. I’m excited to see how his character pops up in future shows and films.
Let me know which modern Sherlock is your favorite and why!