With All the Sherlock Holmes Adaptations, the Slowest is the Best

Which Sherlock Holmes adaptation is the best? Read on to find the rather surprising answer.

Updated31 Jul 2015, 04:52 AM IST
4 min read

In 1886, a young doctor named Arthur Conan Doyle was struggling to find a publisher for his short story A Study in Scarlet. The story was about a London based detective called Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr John Watson.

Nearly 130 years later, we have Sherlock Holmes adaptations coming out of every nook and corner. Each adaptation is trying to be edgier and cooler than the next, and the English detective has made many a career.

So which one is the best?

The answer isn’t as obvious as you might think.

With All the  Sherlock Holmes Adaptations, the Slowest is the Best

1. Sherlock Holmes Becomes a Doctor

One of the most popular re-imaginings of the 19th century English sleuth was a 21st century doctor in New Jersey in the US. That’s right, House is based on Sherlock Holmes.

Think about it. He solves (medical) mysteries using logic. He has a best friend named Wilson (basically Dr Watson) and his address is 221B, the same as Sherlock Holmes.

Like Hugh Laurie’s Dr House, Sherlock Holmes also indulged in substance abuse.

Of course, House had its own storylines, characters and plots. But the inspiration from the character was ‘Holmesian’.

With All the  Sherlock Holmes Adaptations, the Slowest is the Best

2. Iron Man Goes British

Two franchises brought Robert Downey Jr back into Hollywood’s A-list. The first of course was Marvel’s Iron Man followed by all the successes of The Avengers. But Robert also played Sherlock Holmes, with Jude Law as Watson in Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the film and its sequel.

Guy Ritchie’s film may have been set in the 19th century, but it had a very modern feel. The look of the film is gritty and dark. And Robert Downey Jr is a drinking, stoned genius who also has a bit of a weakness for a lady.

The film was entertaining, no doubt, but a far cry from the original contemplative figure from Arthur Conan Doyle’s books.

With All the  Sherlock Holmes Adaptations, the Slowest is the Best

3. Sherlock Makes Cumberbatch a Household Name

Before he unleashed the ‘wrath of Khan’ in the Star Trek reboot or played Alan Turing, an English code-breaker during WWII, heartthrob Benedict Cumberbatch became a household name with his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s Sherlock, with The Hobbit star Martin Freeman as Watson.

Currently in its fourth season, the show has enthused old fans of Holmes as well as introduce him to a whole new generation.

Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is a bit too larger than life though. He has a ‘mind palace’ that defies the odds, he is “high functioning sociopath” who is quirky, and charming. And he is deeply at home with technology.

It is a great portrayal, and could have been the best.

But Gandalf just stole the show.

With All the  Sherlock Holmes Adaptations, the Slowest is the Best

4. Gandalf’s Epilogue Beats the Rest

Ian Mckellen has been Gandalf the Grey and Magneto, which makes him a lead character in two of the most successful movie franchises in this century.

His Sherlock Holmes though, is unlike any of the others we have mentioned in this article. In Mr. Holmes, we see Sherlock 35 years after his last case. Watson is long dead. He is old and frail and is losing his memory. The drug he is taking, a herbal Japanese concoction of dubious medical efficacy. He is taking it so he can remember his last case.

A screengrab from the <i>Mr Holmes </i>trailer. Sherlock Holmes deals with losing his memory in the film. (Photo: Youtube.com/<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJwgItmobFE">MovieTrailers</a>)
A screengrab from the Mr Holmes trailer. Sherlock Holmes deals with losing his memory in the film. (Photo: Youtube.com/MovieTrailers)

The film is set in the English countryside, its pace is slow and leads up to one shocking and heart wrenching moment. There is also a charming young boy who helps the senile Holmes’ remember.

This film isn’t slick or fast. It is an epilogue to Sherlock Holmes’ life. All the other portrayals have a contemporary take on a classic character. Mr. Holmes looks at what happens when a genius outlives his usefulness.

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Published: 31 Jul 2015, 02:18 AM IST
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