Sherlock Holmes is a character that has lasted in the imaginations of readers for well over 130 years. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, Holmes and his partner, Dr. John Watson, solved many a mystery. Each of Holmes’ adventures were written from Watson’s point of view, a filter through which Holmes could explain his deductions to readers. Over time, Holmes has been adapted in many ways from theatre to television, the most recent being Elementary. It was only a matter of time before he was adapted as a garden gnome.
Watson wasn’t the only character that remained in the pop subconscious. Other of Doyle’s creations are as well known, including Irene Adler, Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty. An equal match to Holmes’ intellect, Moriarty appeared in the story, “The Adventure of the Final Problem”, published December 1893 in Strand Magazine and with the collection of short stories, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, in the same year. In it, Holmes had already deduced who the Napoleon of Crime was and had plans to arrest him and key members of his gang. Moriarty, though, worked out who was behind all his recent setbacks and promised Holmes mutual destruction if the detective continued to work against him. Holmes sees no problem with that, with a career of detective work behind him that bettered London. The chase is afoot, and Holmes and Moriarty meet again at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. After a fight, both tumble into the Reichenbach Falls, never to be seen again.
Doyle meant for “The Final Solution” to be the last Sherlock Holmes adventure. He was getting tired of writing about the character. Fans, though, demanded more, despite the apparent death. Doyle obliged with The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1902. Professor Moriarity returned in The Valley of Fear, published in 1915 as a lead up to the events in “The Final Solution”.
Moriarty intrigued fans of Sherlock Holmes. Despite having just the two appearances, Moriarty challenged Holmes on a intellectual level, an equal match for the detective where their final meeting resulted in their demise. Not just a villain, but a foil, a nemesis. One that can be expected to appear in an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Even one where the detective is a garden gnome.
When Gnomeo & Juliet was released in 2011, the movie exceeded box office expectations. When a movie does that well, sequels are expected. Since Shakespeare never wrote a Romeo & Juliet: Part II, mostly because the titular characters died in the original play, there’s not much to build from there. However, low-hanging puns are easy to build upon, leading to Sherlock Gnomes. Gnomeo & Juliet managed to hit most of the beats of the Shakespearean play, changing only near the end. Could the creative team do the same with Sherlock Gnomes?
Most of the cast of Gnomeo & Juliet returned, the main exception being Jason Stathem as Tybalt. Joining the cast are Johnny Depp as Sherlock Gnomes, Chiewetel Ejiofor as Dr. Watson, Mary J. Blige as Irene, and Jamie Demitriou as Moriarty. Once again, the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin form the bulk of the soundtrack, with the exception of a piece by Jacques Offenbach. The crew comprised of people from Gnomeo & Juliet who weren’t otherwise busy with other projects.
The movie opens with Sherlock Gnomes and Watson foiling the plans of Moriarty to smash some helpless garden gnomes at the museum. Gnomes and Moriarty have been matching wits for some time, with the villain leaving clues to taunt and test the detective. This time, though, it appears that Moriarty himself is smashed.
Elsewhere, Ms Montague and Mr. Capulet move together from 2B and Not 2B Verona Drive in Stratford-upon-Avon to a brownstone on Baker Street in London. The garden gnomes are put out in the small garden. Once alone, they animate once again. Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) and Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine) announce they will retire once the new garden is properly set up, with Juliet (Emily Blunt) and Gnomeo (James McAvoy) appointed the new gnome leaders. The scene lets audiences familiar with the first movie catch up on the characters, with Benny (Matt Lucas) having his hat repaired between movies. As the garden work goes on, Juliet is spending less time with Gnomeo. Feeling neglected, he decides to go on an adventure to find the flower that brought him and Juliet together in the first place, the purple Cupid’s Arrow Orchid.
Juliet discovers Gnomeo’s foolish adventure and goes out to save his butt. She is not impressed; she wants the garden in top shape. As they argue, they hear Benny call for help. When they return to the garden, the rest of the gnomes have disappeared. However, Gnomes and Watson are on the scene. With very little explanation, Gnomes begins searching for clues on the disappearance, ignoring questions from Gnomeo and Juliet. The detectives find Moriarty’s calling card and leave, with Juliet and Gnomeo on their heels.
Gnomes may not want meddlesome assistants with him, but he’s stuck with the newcomers. The clues lead through London, meeting a variety of ornaments from Chinatown to a toy store where Irene is in charge. All leads to a final encounter with Moriarty, who managed to escape his apparent smashing with just minor, reparable damage, at the Tower Bridge. The final battle sees Sherlock and Moriarty fighting then falling from the Bridge much like the illustration shown at the beginning of the movie.
Sherlock Gnomes takes a few liberties with “The Final Solution”, though the movie isn’t really an adaptation of the story, just the characters in it. Still, key beats from the story show up, such as Gnomes travelling to various locations to keep a step ahead of Moriarty. Much like Holmes, Sherlock Gnomes is brusque and lacking in social skills. In the literature, Watson acts as the filter between Holmes and the reader. In the movie, Watson fills the same role, not just to the audience but also with the gnomes the two meet. Gnomes is also a master of disguise, much like his progenitor, including disguising himself and Juliet as a squirrel in order to retrieve one of Moriarty’s calling card from the cutest Hound of the Baskervilles to be on screen. Being a family film, Sherlock Gnomes elides Holmes’ addictions, though as a garden gnome, it’d be hard to show his heroin habit.
The movie borrows an idea from the Robert Downey, Jr. in showing how Sherlock’s thought processes work. Instead of slowing down the action, Sherlock Gnomes uses black and white animation, showing how the detective works out problems. The processes aren’t that easy to understand, being meant more for comedy than actual problem solving tips. Gnomes also has Holmes’ eye for detail and observation, able to tell that Gnomeo and Juliet are having a lovers’ quarrel within seconds of meeting them.
With the basic premise of telling an adventure of Sherlock Holmes as a garden gnome, the movie could have taken an easy route of having just a gnome that looks like Holmes solve a mystery set to the music of Elton John and be done with it. Instead, Sherlock Gnomes brings in Holmes as he is in Doyle’s stories, intelligent, arrogant, and dismissive, and still highlights what would have been his last adventure if Doyle had his way while turning the character into a ceramic ornament. Gnomeo & Juliet demonstrated that the creative team could keep to the beats of a tragedy while still making a feature for the entire family. Sherlock Gnomes follows in the same footsteps.
Didn’t expect to have a news round up so soon after the last one, but several major announcements came out over the past two weeks too good to sit on. Let’s get to them.
Showtime announces Twin Peaks to return in 2016.
David Lynch is involved through Lynch/Frost Productions. No word on whether the new series is a reboot or a continuation, but will be a limited series, with nine episodes. The big problem with the original series was that the network wanted more even after the mystery was solved. The nine episode limited series will let Lynch tell the story he wants.
Ghostbusters reboot confirmed.
This isn’t the sequel Dan Aykroyd has been pushing for. Paul Reig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, will be working on a gender-flipped reboot. Joining Reig is writer Katie Dippold, who has worked on Parks and Recreation and The Heat. Will it work? Depends on audience reception, really. The original Ghostbusters was second only to Beverly Hills Cop in terms of popularity in 1984 and both movies took advantage of music videos to get noticed.
LeCarré’s The Night Manager being turned into a limited BBC series.
John LeCarré’s spy thriller will star Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston in the BBC adaptation. No word on who the actors will play yet.
Lost Sherlock Holmes film turned out to be misclassified.
A 1916 silent film adaptation of Holmes thought lost turned out to be mis-filed by Cinematique Français decades ago. This isn’t the 1914 A Study in Scarlet that the BFI was looking for, as reported last month, but an American film made in Chicago by William Gillette. The BFI is excited over the find. A Study in Scarlet is still being sought.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy being adapted.
The three books in the trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, will be adapted for SpikeTV by Vince Geradis, a co-executive producer of A Game of Thrones. Robinson will be on board as consultant.
World Wide Dredd.
A seven-part Judge Dredd web series has been announced by Adi Shankar, producer of 2012’s Dredd. Shankar has been working on a project featuring the Dark Judges. The news follows the Day of Dredd campaign to get a sequel to the 2012 movies done.
The LEGO Movie spin-off announced.
LEGO Batman will be getting his own movie. Will Arnett will return to voice LEGO Batman while Chris McKay, animation supervisor for The LEGO Movie will be the director. Release date is expected to be 2017. I am now wondering how well LEGO Batman will fare compared to Superman vs Batman, and would not be surprised if the LEGO version did better.
Let’s round up those tidbits and see what’s going on.
NBC drops a house on Emerald City.
NBC’s entry to the 2015-16’s Wizard of Oz lineup has had its plug pulled and water poured on the corpse. Emerald City was going to be The Wizard of Oz as seen through a the lens of A Game of Thrones. Disagreements between NBC and showrunner Josh Friedman launched the suborbital house drop. Friedman will shop Emerald City around.
Chloë Moretz says Kick-Ass 3 dead due to piracy. Screen Rant says, not so fast.
Kick-Ass 2 broke even in the US with overseas markets adding to its total take. Moretz, who played Hit-Girl, believes that piracy was a factor in the low take. Screen Rant counters with a 29% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, a factor that the R-rated movie wasn’t that good to start.
Blade Runner 2 has a script.
Sir Ridley Scott has confirmed that the Blade Runner 2 script is done and will have Harrison Ford back. Filming has not been scheduled; Prometheus 2, with its March 2016 release date, may cause a delay in the filming of Blade Runner 2.
Museum of London and the BFI need help finding Sherlock Holmes.
The 1914 film A Study in Scarlet, the earliest known Sherlock Holmes adaptation, is the second oldest on the BFI‘s Most Wanted list. If found, contact sherlockholmes at bfi.org.uk or use the #FindSherlock tag on Twitter.
The Greatest American Hero getting reboot movie.
The creators of The LEGO Movie are adapting the Stephen J. Cannell series as a TV series on Fox. The original series featured an inner-city school teacher who finds a super suit but loses the instruction manual.
Patrick Warburton to return as The Tick.
Amazon will be making new episodes of the series. Fox had aired nine episodes of the live-action adaptation of the Ben Edlund comic in 2001, with an animated series running on the same network earlier from 1994 to 1997. The Tick – comic, animated, and live-action – was a parody of superheroes.
Stan Lee confirms Black Panther movie.
During a panel at Fan Expo Canada, held in Toronto, Stan Lee let slip that the Black Panther will have a movie. Marvel’s plans are to have a movie with all their heroes.
Casting has begun for Ghost in the Shell live action adaptation.
Margot Robbie, seen in The Wolf of Wall Street has been cast in the American live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell.
Neil Gaiman’s “Hansel & Gretel” graphic novel to become movie.
Juliet Blake, producer of The Hundred-Foot Journey, has picked up the rights to Gaiman’s as yet unreleased graphic novel retelling “Hansel & Gretel”. The graphic novel should be out in October.
AMC orders companion series to The Walking Dead.
The so far untitled new series will take a look at what’s happening elsewhere during the zombie apocalypse. AMC has released few details beyond that. The Walking Dead also returns for a fifth season this fall.
Warner Bros. has Legion of Superheroes movie in pre-pre-production.
So far, just rumours that a Legion of Superheroes movie is coming, but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy may have put some fear into Warner. Legion began in 1958 centred on Super-Boy but evolved to stand on its own. The team has appeared in live-action before, being featured in the Smallville episode “Legion”.
Fox to air series based on Neil Gaiman’s take on Lucifer.
Countering NBC’s Constantine, Lucifer will follow the titular devil, based on Gaiman’s work in Sandman and Milton’s Paradise Lost. The fallout from the show should be impressive, especially over at FOX News.
CBS picks up Supergirl series.
The Warner produced Supergirl TV series has been picked up by CBS, allowing the The Eye to join the other broadcast networks in superhero shows. Fox has Gotham, the Batman prequel. NBC has Constantine. CW has the ongoing Arrow and the new kid Flash. ABC is reaping fortune by having the same owner as Marvel – Disney – and both Agents of SHIELD and new series Agent Carter.
Deadpool movie confirmed.
The Merc with the Mouth will finally get the movie people have been wanting. Fox announced that the movie will be released February of 2016. Ryan Reynolds will return to play the character. Filming has not yet started, and the announcement of the Deadpool movie has bumped the Assassin’s Creed movie off Fox’s release schedule completely.
Real Genius being turned into a TV series.
The 80s movie, Real Genius, which starred Val Kilmer, is getting remade as a sitcom. Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions is one of the studios on board with the reboot.
The murder mystery has long been a mainstay of television and cinema. Characters from all walks of life have delved into the art of solving a murder – lawyers, doctors, mystery writers, con men, post officer clerks, and, yes, even private detectives. All of these characters have one man to thank: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Doyle’s creation, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared in 1887 in the novel /A Study in Scarlet/. That story, and each one following, featured a mystery as written by Holmes’s friend, Dr. John Watson, solved by Sherlock’s keen observation. No detail was too small for Holmes to ignore, and keen readers could work with the clues found to determine who the perpetrator was. However, Holmes had his flaws. He was a brusque man, didn’t like dealing with people, and tended to brush others aside while working. Incompetence was not tolerated. Fortunately, Watson could be the softer side of Holmes, letting Sherlock do what he did best.
Sherlock Holmes is the most adapted character ever, featuring in theatre, movies, radio plays, television, and pastiches*. Television series that didn’t normally deal with mysteries would have a Holmesian episode; Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Elementary, My Dear Data” is a perfect example. The lure of an intelligent man who still has flaws appears to be irrestible to writers. Helping with the temptation is the work being in the public domain.
This brings us to today – specifically, last week – with the premier of a new CBS TV series, Elementary. The series brings Sherlock Holmes, played by Jonny Lee Miller, to modern day New York City after being released from rehab back in England. To help him keep on the wagon, Dr. Joan Watson, played by Lucy Liu, is assigned to keep Holmes company. As part of his self-imposed conditions, Holmes returns to doing what he does best, being a freelance consulting detective, this time working with the New York Police Department to solve crimes. The first episode had Holmes as a brusque, haunted man, one who doesn’t pay attention to social niceities. Watson helps temper Holmes’s rude manner, being the friendly side to the partnership. Throughout the episode, camera tricks help with Sherlock’s observational skills, letting the audience see what he sees. The tricks aren’t overused, though. Often, Holmes would ask an odd question or suddenly change direction and check an area that originally wasn’t part of the crime scene.
Elementary takes some liberties with the original work. Bringing Holmes to modern times and transplanting him to New York are the obvious ones, as is changing Dr. Watson’s gender. Yet, the explanation for moving to New York City makes sense and follows from Sherlock’s addiction to cocaine in the original stories. Holmes is also not starting out as a rookie; instead, he has a proven track record with police and intelligence services in Britain already, though entering rehab did cause some problems there. As for Watson, she is working to get Holmes’s trust while making sure he is healthy, and can keep up with the detective’s quirky train of thought.
Overall, despite the liberties, the show works as a Sherlock Holmes series. Ultimately, the main characters represent the original work well. The writers, cast, and crew of Elementary should take pride in being able to move the setting, both in location and in time, without losing the essence of Doyle.
Next time, another look at hard to reboot series.
* Pastiches are like published fanfiction with the author imitating Doyle’s style of writing.