The Influence of Holmes and Watson from a Fan’s Perspective by PwintPhyu Nandar


(Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a 2011 adaptation by Guy Richie)

This 2011 adaptation is a sequel to “Sherlock Holmes,” which was in theatres in 2009. Guy Ritchie directed both adaptations. 

Adaptations and Interpretations


The depiction of Sherlock Holmes is present in every generation since his genesis. Many great actors have played the part of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson over the years, such as Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke, respectively. In this generation, in these first two decades of the twenty-first century, there have been unforgettable adaptions of Sherlock Holmes that has made an impact into our culture.


Take House, an American television show, for example: House takes certain elements of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and apply it to the medical field. The result is a compelling show with smart, witty references and nods the stories. This show is not an adaptation of the original stories, but it is still greatly influenced by them.


Another example of media significantly influenced by Doyle’s work would be the movie Sherlock Holmes (2009) and its 2011 sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law act as Holmes and Watson, but they did more than acting. Downey Jr. and Law portrayed them as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had done so in his writings, with an added twist here and an emphasis on character there; they brought back the characters we know and love, but in a new light.


Not all portrayals of our favourite duo were up to par with the creator’s characterizations. Nigel Bruce’s portrayal of the Doctor in the 1930’s to 1940’s was of a degraded John Watson: a flat character lacking worthy skills, in no way Sherlock Holmes’ equal and companion as Doyle had originally intended Watson to be. Regrettably, this Watson soon became popular in adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, and acted as a sort of comic relief against the serious tones of these interpretations. Modern depiction of the Doctor restored him to his former image and glory, the most famous portrayals being David Burke’s and Edward Hardwicke’s in Sherlock Holmes, the 1984 Granada television series.


In the same likeness, John Watson’s portrayal in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film is rooted in the original depiction of the Army Doctor. Jude Law’s depiction of the Army Doctor is strong and independent, but it is evident that he cares for Holmes’ wellbeing. He is stubborn and headstrong as Sherlock leads him through cases, and he offers his expertise and opinions to his companion. In the original Sherlock Holmes, John Watson not only assists Sherlock in his cases but also in his way, and he acts as a human factor that roots Sherlock to the human aspects of the cases and keeps him on track.


Unlike the fluctuations of John Watson’s character throughout time and different versions of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock’s character is so strong, compelling, and unchangeable that no one dares to make a huge change to his character. Sherlock Holmes comes to conclusions using his own detecting methods, a mind-boggling and a hard concept for those unfamiliar to him to grasp. Both the Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings and the Holmes of the 2009 British-American movie are brilliant, yet aloof. The personality of Sherlock Holmes is the constant in various remakes. Despite the lack of alteration in Sherlock’s characterization, all these remakes emphasize a certain part of his character. The 2009 and 2011 movie reinterpretations emphasize on Sherlock’s anti-social personality. He is portrayed as an unkempt eccentric with a brilliant mind, and has martial arts skills to boot. This leads to this Sherlock being rather cynical when compared to other portrayals.


Around the time of the first release of this British-American movie, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss took upon the task of creating a modern day Sherlock Holmes adaptation. They had entered our beloved Holmes and Watson into the 21st century, otherwise leaving everything else the same: Watson is still an Army Doctor recently returned from a war; Sherlock is still a genius and the only consulting detective in the world. The added technology tends to cause uneasiness, because Sherlock Holmes is known to fans as the detective who solves crimes without technology, but with his mind. The wariness desists when one actually watches the show. Sherlock is still using his brilliant brain to solve mind-boggling cases, with Google searches, texts, iPhones, and modern lab equipment as merely his aid. Sherlock is so very distant with the rest of the world, and his emotions are repressed. Just like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes, this Sherlock tends to “delete” information from his brain that he finds useless. In BBC’s Sherlock, one can draw parallels between the series and the canon as there are numerous scenes, references, and quotes alluding to Doyle’s stories.


Both Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and BBC’s Sherlock focus greatly on other aspects of the world of Sherlock Holmes. Despite being a modern version of the original stories, BBC’s Sherlock includes upgraded landmarks found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales. The 2009 and 2011 movie adaptations have stunning Victorian scenes. These two interpretations also highlight other Sherlock Holmes character and present them to viewers in a new perspective.  The cases and mysteries have been adapted to complement the plots of the movie and the television series.


To be fair, there is a huge amount of Sherlock Holmes adaptations in the past and present culture of the world. “New” twists and ideas in the adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s memorable stories are not so new; they may have been done before and will probably be done again. That is not to say that all interpretations are boring and the same. Each adaptation brings something new into the world of Sherlock Holmes and changes the way we perceive certain aspects of the story. It is not a surprise that we will be experiencing and enjoying Sherlock Holmes adaptations for generations to come. 


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