Once again we come to random Tuesday! I have a million and two things on my plate tonight, so Fernando has been kind enough to pinch hit for me. He's just finished watching the second season of the BBC's Sherlock and we saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows a few weeks ago, so he's in a very Sherlockian mood. No spoilers for the movie or the series with the exception of naming famous characters from the story that appear in each.
Currently there are many incarnations of the Sherlock Holmes character type. Many crime dramas have an investigative lead that notices details or has a heightened deductive ability. Guy Richie has directed the most recent Hollywood version with Robert Downey Jr. Steven Moffat has created an altogether different version for BBC with Benedict Cumberbatch. Thus an interesting debate ensues: Which interpretation is a better representation of the character of Sherlock Holmes?
First point is deductive aptitude. Moffat's version wins out. In the BBC version Cumberbatch out does Downey easily. This is no small task as Downey does an incredible job of executing the deductive powers of Holmes; however, watching Cumberbatch deliver his deductions becomes an exhibition in preciseness, meticulousness and prowess that inspires awe. If you have never seen Moffat's retelling of a modern Sherlock Holmes, please watch all three from the first season (currently streaming on Netflix). While Downey does do Holmes justice, Cumberbatch's Holmes wins the point of deductive aptitude.
Second point is instinct under pressure. Holmes intellectual prowess can also be found in his ability to think on his feet. This point clearly goes to Downey. Guy Richie has managed to turn the idea of Holmes into an action star. Richie's Holmes is quick on his feet, in no small part because both movies are more action based than a deductive thriller. In Moffat’s version, Holmes often has to pause and think rather than react. Second point goes to Downey.
Third point is the authenticity of the environment. This was a tough one. Moffat’s retelling is in modern times while Richie’s takes place in the 1890s. As near as I can tell, and I have watched the BBC version several times, there are no fantastical elements in the BBC version. Guy Ritchie's version takes place with giant explosions and some heavy doses of pseudo-science. Why does it matter? It matters because the greater the viewer's suspension of disbelief, the less impressive the Sherlock Holmes. Point three goes to the BBC version.
My last point is awarded for the supporting cast. Richie has his work cut out for him in this arena. Moffat has more time to develop his characters. In the BBC version, Martin Freeman, soon to be Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, plays Doctor John Watson. In the Hollywood version, Jude Law plays the Holmes' sidekick. Both have great qualities. Freeman does a remarkable job of turning the character into someone everyone can relate. Law on the other hand creates a true partner for Holmes. Then there’s Irene Adler, a character that is truly Holmes’ equal. Lara Pulver plays Adler as a dominatrix in the modern version, while Rachel McAdams plays a much lighter version in the Hollywood telling. Lara wins this one, again with screen time as a factor. The same can also be said of Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. Mark Gatiss, the Moffat version, does a superior job to Steven Fry, once again because of screen time. While screen time is a huge advantage for the BBC version, which is taken into account, this point still deserves to go to Moffat interpretation.
That’s it for now. Those of you who are keeping count, the score is 3 to 1 in favor of the Moffat version. Richie did an excellent job of creating a mainstream version of Sherlock. I have seen a lot of different versions of the Holmes character. This incarnation that Moffat and Cumberbatch have created is pitch perfect and deserves some more recognition. Please give it a look the next time you’re in the mood for great deductive storytelling.