By Jove, Holmes, you’re an action hero!

The photograph of Livanov as Sherlock Holmes i...

Image via Wikipedia

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!

Dracula’s Twilight

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!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
About Jeff Moriarty

A dabbler in many arts, from Ignite Phoenix to Improv, and from Information Security to Screenwriting. Jeff loves creating new things, and tries his hand at many forms of writing from screenplays to prose. He pontificates on his personal blog, and helps authors get their works online.


  1. My Fair Lady in the Water

    This time, Eliza Dolittle is a creepy, wet storybook character. Can “Professor ‘Iggins” teach her proper English enunciation in time to fool the demon Scrunt into thinking she’s a lady of high society?

    They might also remake My Fair Lady, btw, as well as (and this makes me saddest of all) The Neverending Story 🙁

    Good points, all. Can’t say I’d really argue with any of them.

    In truth, I don’t usually mind remakes. Sometimes they do give a nice makeover to an old friend or update a good story with outdated prejudices.

    However, it rarely inspires the current generation to seek out the mastery works on which they were based and even if they did, what eighth grader would enjoy Sir Doyle’s works if they read it expecting stuff to blow up?

    It seems like every single movie now is a remake or a sequel. Such a shame.

  2. Ooh, how about

    Casablanca: 28 Days Later…

    Ex-lovers Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund battle Nazi zombies after an incurable virus invades Morocco during the early years of WWII.
    .-= Kristen Mozaffari´s last blog ..Bat Appreciation =-.

    • Oh, I like it! They would have to be the slow zombies, though. Black & White zombies were always the slow variety.

      • The first thing that came to mind was American History X-Men, but then I thought the plot might actually make sense…

        I must confess to having a preference for the B&W zombies, well for B&W movies in general, actually.

        I’m hesitating to see the SH movie. I’ve read all of the books though I’m still working on Hound of the Baskervilles (I’ve been fascinated with it ever since the ST:TNG episodes) so I am concerned about its adaptation. But I like Robert Downey Jr. so I’m torn.

        And you have one of the coolest last names ever!
        .-= Kristen Mozaffari´s last blog ..Bat Appreciation =-.

  3. So I’ve been reading Sherlock Holmes lately – I got a Kindle for Christmas and downloaded both volumes of stories thinking it would give me some fun short stories to read over the holidays, though I admit I was inspired in part by commercials for the movie. And to be fair, in the story I just read, “Sign of the Four,” there are several references to Holmes having been a lightwieght champion boxer. Also, he carries a revolver with him at all the critical moments and takes down several ‘bad guys.’ I’m sure the movie accentuates these characteristics far beyond what the book did, but they did exist. Are you comparing this movie to the original stories and finding it lacking or are you comparing it to previous film versions? Because you have to remember the old film versions took liberties too (like, “elementary, my dear watson” and the deerstalker hat.) Either way, thanks for the review – I was going to see it but I’ll probably skip it now.

    • I know several people who saw and loved the movie as a fun action movie, so don’t skip it just because I’m being cranky about it. Even the Baker Street Irregulars gave it a passing mark.
      I’ve just always felt close to this story from a lifetime of name references, so was particularly hoping for a more authentic treatment.

  4. Sex and the City: The Last Crusade

    Sarah Jessica-Parker and Harrison Ford bring the icon characters Carrie Bradshaw and Indiana Jones to the big screen in this Manolo-wearing, whip-cracking adventure…trying to prove to the world that old people can still play 30 year olds.

    • The horrible thing is that it would likely be much better than the actual Last Crusade Indy flick.

      And you would be amazed what some old folks get it in their heads that they can do. 😉

  5. Perhaps you’re making an error thinking of this new movie as a remake. A remake of what exactly? Like any canon there are always new interpretations and wrinkles though granted, not always successful. There was Young Sherlock Holmes which I recall being pretty decent. The Michael Caine Ben Kinglsey movie (Without a Clue was it?) where Watson was the real genius and Holmes just an actor to protect the doctor’s reputation. I read a book where Holmes met Count Dracula (it wasn’t that great) and seem to reacall a TV movie where our Victorian detective is brought back to life somehow by a modern day detective and they solve some kind of crime or something (you can tell how well that one stuck with me). I thought the new one was excellent. It’s definitely not the staid English tweed version and has a ‘modern’ look, not a period piece, but it’s certainly Holmes as the rogue. A driven man possibly unhinged by his genius who has one true friend, the much more normal (and English) Watson. As far as the fights in the movie,well….Holmes was more than a boxer. He was an expert marksman and it was his skill at bartitsu that let him prevail at Reichenbach Falls (yes bartitsu is a real thing). Is it ‘pure’ Holmes? No (pit fighting might be pushing things) but it’s pretty close to canon and I enjoyed every minute.

    • To me this is almost an “uncanny valley” situation. I don’t think of the new movie as a remake, but I wish it was either truer to the material, or far enough away to stand on its own. Young Sherlock Holmes fits the latter perfectly.

      Hollywoodizing existing stories has always been a gripe of mine, but I’ve no doubt I’m overly sensitive on this one. I was on the exact opposite side of this argument with people on the movie 300 regarding the actual Battle of Thermopylae.