Andrew Martin: Can I have my Sherlock back, please?

Holmes is not, unlike Ritchie's man, active and acrobatic; he is reflective and clever

Share
Related Topics

When people berated Steven Spielberg for dumbing down Tintin, I looked on with bemusement, but then I didn't spend half my childhood reading Tintin stories. I did spend half of my childhood reading Sherlock Holmes stories, which is why I have a bone to pick with Guy Ritchie, director of the Christmas blockbuster and nominal Holmes film, A Game Of Shadows.

Sherlock Holmes, Mr Ritchie, is not, unlike Robert Downey Jnr, a pretty, button-eyed sprite of about 5ft 8in. He is, as A Study in Scarlet states, "rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing". Nor is he relentlessly tooled up and constantly engaged in gun battles. He carries a revolver only in exceptional circumstances. Holmes is not, unlike in Shadows, a regular at white-tie functions, inhabiting a world with all the strained aspiration after glamour – and about as much wit – as an advert for After Eight mints. His favourite food is eggs on toast, and he often visits quite dowdy locations, for example Norwood – Upper Norwood in The Sign Of Four, Lower Norwood in The Norwood Builder.

Also, he is not, unlike Ritchie's man, hyper-active and acrobatic. He is reflective and clever; he has written "the definitive monograph on the polyphonic motets of Lassus", whoever he is, and whatever they are. He sometimes lies on his sofa for days on end, and the stories are full of bookish languor, as in The Five Orange Pips, where "the equinoctial gales had set in with exceptional violence", but Holmes sits one side of the fireplace "cross-indexing his records on crime" while Watson sits on the other reading a sea story. He might, as in A Case Of Identity, solve a case without leaving his rooms, and when he does make a deduction, we can follow his reasoning, whereas in Shadows, Holmes's epiphanies are lost in a blizzard of fast cutting.

In Crime And Mystery: The Hundred Best Books, HRF Keating attributed the success of the stories to the passing of the Education Act of 1870, which created a society that "could tackle reasonably difficult material". We are now relieved of that obligation.

A Game Of Shadows – which should be called A Videogame Of Shadows – is a function of our society's stress on the physical, which is also why my local branch of Barclays Bank has just been decorated with huge pictures of Premier League footballers. That said, the latest television Holmes, with Benedict Cumberbatch – which returns on New Year's Day – swims against the tide. As Holmes, Cumberbatch conveys stillness and abstraction. We can believe that here is a man who "cannot live without brainwork", whereas Ritchie's Holmes is more like a man who can't live without a self-repeating machine pistol.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Deputy Editor's Letter:

Independent Voices, Indy Voices Rhodri Jones
A couple stand in front of a beautiful cloudy scene  

In sickness and in health: It’s been stormy but there are blessings in the clouds

Rebecca Armstrong
Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor