Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes – Surplus to requirements?

I read only recently that the preparatory stages are underway for a third Sherlock Holmes film from Warner Brothers but that, allegedly, it will only proceed if Robert Downey Jr likes the script.

The first Holmes film in which he starred, I think unarguably, kicked-off the renaissance of all things Sherlock that we are now enjoying. Prior to 2009, as I have mentioned in previous posts, there wasn’t really any substantial mainstream public interest in Sherlock Holmes - he was very much the subject of interest of dedicated societies. He had a large following but a relatively covert one that passed largely unnoticed under the noses of the general public.

If the mainstream reappearance of Sherlock Holmes had been confined to the Warner Bros films I think it highly possible that Holmes would have slipped back out of sight by now – a film every few years simply would not be enough. Fortunately, hot on the heels of the films, we had BBC’s Sherlock followed by CBS’s Elementary and, very soon, the new Russian series.

I think it fair to state that the momentum of this Sherlockian renaissance is now maintained by the two contemporary Sherlock’s and their resultant fan base and not the Warner Bros offerings.

So do we need anything further from Messrs Downey and Law? Their films have their fair share of problems (as do other adaptations) but if they made no more films I doubt the Sherlockian world would fail to attract  mainstream public attention. On that basis we don’t really need another Warner Bros film.

However, until the Russian series gets broadcast, we have no other “current” Holmes that is set in the Victorian era (even if it is Hollywood’s idea of it) and for that reason, if nothing else, we need more from Warner Bros.

Keeping the flame alight

In my opinion, it is vital that we keep alive the “original” Holmes. By this I mean, of course, the Victorian one. Contemporary adaptations are all well and good (and enjoyed by many including yours truly) but people need to be reminded of the source even if that reminder is a little adrift from the books. Not to do so would be disrespectful to the man who gifted us this entire world and the pleasure we derive from it – Arthur Conan Doyle. It will also, hopefully, go some way to preventing people who go to the books from the modern Sherlock from being thoroughly confused by what they find in the pages.

Written by Alistair Duncan
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  1. I would agree with you. Although fun movies, I don't think RDJ will ever make any top ten lists as Sherlock Holmes. Just my opinion.
    I would have to say the main reason I would look forward to another movie is the sets, Jude Law as Watson and to see what happens with Mary.

  2. I like the Downey films and for pretty much for the reasons you write. It is always a pleasure to see a Baker Street that isn't a block long and has a T-intersection at each end, or curves, or look like a prosperous 18th century village main thoroughfare. The movies are fun and entertaining with that touch of nostalgic steampunk that been popular in the cinematic Victorian era since the 1970's (even earlier if you include Jules Verne film adaptations). Jude Law is wonderful as Watson (and he would make a very good Holmes) and RDJ brings his star-power to the role that makes up for the deficiencies of Holmesian characteristics--in my opinion, anyway. I look forward to a third film. While SH:AGoS eventually made more money that the first film, it opened weaker than the first film, a bad omen to the bean-counters at WB. Sequels are expected to open stronger than the previous film. When they don't, studios take that as a sign of a lack of public interest and a diminishing of a brand. Those first few weeks are all-important. That's why it's taken as long as it has for the ball of SH3 to start rolling. If SH:AGoS had opened stronger than SH, SH3 would be opening this December, regardless of Iron Man and The Avengers.

    Does that mean the public (as apposed to Sherlockians) is not interested in a third picture? The answer, I think, has to be "no". SH made $523 million, Sh:AGoS made $545m. The public interest is still there. People will go see it for Downey and Guy Ritchie's vision of Victorian action/adventure. Hollywood is uninterested in making a faithful version of the Canon. They are interested in "tent-pole" films, CGI-laden $150m-$200m behemoths that will bring in $650m+ and translate well to world market (more explosions, less dialogue), China especially (and that means IMAX and/or 3D).

    The odds are a cheap, $30m, faithful adaptation of,say, "The Sign of Four", made by a major studio is out of the question. We're then left with television and its even smaller budgets and smaller pool of visionary writer/producers to make "the new Granada", that is, close to the vision in Sherlockians' heads. Given all that, I hope I don't have too long to wait for SH3 and a David Chase/Aaron Sorkin/David Milch/Matthew Weiner with a deep understanding of the Canon and able to capture its essence.