Robert Downey Jr., Jonny Lee Miller, Ian McKellen and Benedict Cumberbatch have all played Sherlock Holmes in either film or television during the last four years. Now I know that people say that Hollywood reproduces the same shlock year on year, but when it is literally the same character stories recreated, within the time it takes to light a pipe, surely a sense of creativity is missing? As an interesting aside, the two TV Sherlock’s (Miller in Elementary and Cumberbatch in Sherlock) both swapped roles in 2011 throughout a production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, at the National Theatre. Who’d have thought that a deformed and manufactured creature would turn into a monster? And I’m not talking about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The strange thing is the enviable success of each interpretation. Sherlock has run intermittently since 2010, while Elementary is now due to start its third season. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows did manage to nab a larger worldwide gross than its predecessor – with both films earning over $500m worldwide. This year will see the release of Mr Holmes, starring Ian McKellen and directed by Oscar-winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Chicago). The film portrays Holmes as retired and living in Sussex. Reflecting on his life, Mr Holmes will include flashbacks to his previous exploits while simultaneously charting the deterioration of his investigative mind.
That’s just Sherlock Holmes. We’ll also see Avengers: Age of Ultron’s Quicksilver played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson – a role Evan Peters portrayed in X-Men: Days of Future Past this year. A few years ago, many would moan about the future of cinema. It’s all remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels, they would say. I wasn’t too upset. At the time, the long-anticipated Jurassic Park 4 (now Jurassic World) was stuck in production hell, and the idea of a seventh Star Wars adventure was off the cards. 2015 is shaping up to be quite a year considering those initial naysayers. These are the films that we wanted, and it was only a matter of time before Lucas gave up the rights to pave the way for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But multiple stories with the same characters? The same Dr Watson – female or otherwise. The same Moriarty and Baskerville hounds will reappear in slightly different incarnations. Imagine if all bets were off and multiple James Bond’s appeared (in fact, in 1983, Octopussy fought against Never Say Never Again) or Peter Parker existed in Victorian London, New York and “as an old man reflecting on his life” in a Lancashire bungalow – played by different actors and, of course, “telling a different story”. I remember a joke whereby a film critic put forward an idea – why don’t they release a Groundhog Day 2, and when everyone is sat down for the first screening, just play the first film again. It’s already happening and people are paying for the privilege.
Simon Columb – Follow me on Twitter