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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn