I understand why Hollywood turns to established stories and mangles them, but it still makes me sad. It’s a fact of life, like old age and reality television, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.
The first motivation comes from the Safety of the Known. A story like Sherlock Holmes has stood up to scrutiny and built an existing fan base, so it is almost a guarantee to bring in people at the box office. Film executives don’t want to take risks. They don’t want to promote art. They simply want to make money, and established stories seem like a safer bet.
Sadly, there is always someone who thinks they can improve. The list of victims here is long and savage, from the Phantom to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, to the pending remakes of Clash of the Titans and… I shudder to even say it… The Karate Kid. Interpretation is valid and good, but that’s a fine line and requires the handling of an artist. Most executives that get involved lack that subtlety and what ensues is cinematic cole slaw.
It’s tragic, because when an original idea slips past the goalie it can be incredible. Star Wars comes to mind as an original idea that didn’t do too bad for itself. Contrast that with the latest Star Trek “reboot”, where a solid movie could have really stood on its own with entirely new characters. It didn’t need to be “Star Trek” to work with solid writing, characters, and ideas. Again, it was victim of the need to tie it to what the studios think the public will understand.
Thus we come to poor Sherlock. A pugilist, sure, but the explosions and kaboomery of the current movie have nothing to do with the original detective. It wasn’t what made him an icon. I would much rather have seen a wholly new Victorian detective take the screen, or a truer interpretation of Holmes, than the hybrid that was made. It is quite possible that I’m tainted by my surname in this regard, but that’s how I view it.
However… I would posit an alternative. If Hollywood in its infinitesimal wisdom feels the compelling need to “modernize icons”, then take it to the limit. Stop mucking about with a few extra explosions, and really go for the gusto. For example:
Iron Holmes vs. Mecha Moriarty
Robert Downey Jr. combines his roles as Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes in this steampunk superhero smackdown in Victorian London!
Spartans vs. Predator
The Battle of Thermopylae takes a new dimension as 300 Spartans battle against 1 Predator. Tonight, the Predator hunts in Hell!
Noah’s Ark, with every surviving animal on board, has hit an iceberg! Will Jack and Rose survive? Will the unicorns? It’s the Genesis of excitement next summer!
Count Dracula, Prince of Darkness, shows up in Forks, Washington, to give Edward a lesson in how they do things… old school. You’ll impale yourself in hysterics!
Cyrano de Jedirac
Cyrano learns of his hidden heritage, and grows strong in the nasal powered aspects of the Force. Trading his plume in for a helmet and his rapier for a lightsaber, watch as Cyrano used the Jedi Mind Trick to convince Christian that Roxane is not the damsel he is looking for.
iPhone of Cthulhu
The Old God isn’t just calling – with the help of his High Priest Steve Jobs he is returning to our plane through a series of Elder Apps now available in iTunes, Don’t miss this great Armageddon cross promotion!
The tall blue Na’vi of Pandora refuse to give up their precious MacGuffinium. Who can Earth send that will be at home in the jungle? Who can communicate with the beasts? Lord Greystoke is up for the challenge.
Old Yeller 2: Judgment Day
You thought he was dead, you thought he had been put down, but Old Yeller is digging his way back onto the screen. He will not stop, ever, until he gets fed!
You get the idea. If you’re going to mess with the classics, do it with style. If you have any good modernization ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them!
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