Day: January 14, 2011


As I’ve been recuperating I’ve naturally watched a little more television then usual.  One of the recent treats I’ve enjoyed is the new take on Sherlock Holmes from Masterpiece Mystery (used to be Masterpiece Theater, now it is divided into categories like Masterpiece Mystery and Masterpiece Classics).  Anyway, the new series Sherlock takes the classic team of Holmes and  Watson and puts it in a modern setting.  Normally I am a purist when it comes to the classics but something about this series works.  They capture the feel and tone of the old stories in spite of the changes. The acting is good, the cinematography great and the crimes are tricky enough for Holmes without being over-the-top. Nobody in the cast is recognizable but they all do a good job in recreating their characters (the man who plays Holmes is particularly good because he is a jerk but yet you still like him.) I’m not the only one enjoying this new series.  Check out the reviews.

In contrast, I hated the 2009 version of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson.  What made the difference in the two interpretations?  Why do I accept a modern interpretation more than one set in the Victorian era?  It’s a tough question but  it comes down to tone, faithfulness to Conan Doyle’s characters, cinematography and the cases presented.  In the movie Holmes and Watson are thrust into a case involving a cult with alien abductions, explosions, and grave robbers.

Plus, they turn Holmes into a playboy when he’s supposed to be socially awkward- a genius (something the new series totally gets).  Holmes is not an action hero and the movie turns him into a boxing, explosion jumping, shooting enemies, chasing bad-guys type character .  (like a Victorian Jack Bauer). For it to be a true depiction, Holmes should win based on sheer brain power not on his manly good looks or his ability to jump between buildings.  They also give Holmes a pointless girlfriend (Rachel McAdams who is actually only in about 10 minutes of the movie). It was a waste of talent and a disappointing addition to the oft told mystery franchise (It’s even been done by Disney in the Great Mouse Detective- a moderately successful animated film.  Mostly enjoyable because of the voice of Vincent Price as the evil Ratigan).

It’s interesting how a classic story can be interpreted in new and surprising ways.  Sometimes it works- other times, not so much.  If any of you get a chance, check out the new series Sherlock on Masterpiece Mystery.  Also the old PBS series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett is traditional but very good- a Wagner family favorite. (also available on Netflix streaming)

What are some unique interpretations of classic stories you like?  Some that didn’t work for you? I just realized this is my 200th post.  Pretty good?