The news that Guy Ritchie is to take on Sherlock HolmesÂ for a 2010Â releaseÂ has provoked some controversy. Whilst we can look forward to seeing a revamped (and I imagine vampy), sex-ed up Sherlock, it is disappointing that Richieâs film is not based on the original books (!?) but on Lionel Wigramâs forthcoming comic book â this seems to do Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a huge amount of injustice. Robert Downey Jr is to play Sherlock, and Jude Law to play Dr. Watson, and such pretty-boy casting choices already enhance the filmâs image of a sexier Sherlock and Co. It has already been identified by Downey Jr that Watson will be "no bumbler", and there is to be more action, with Holmes even dabbling in martial arts â definite new direction in the Sherlock Holmes legacy. Sherlock Holmes was also a bit of a dabbler in cocaine, and if Ritchieâs previous cinematic offerings are anything to go by, it seems not unlikely that the film might feature Sherlock as a dapper dandy in his trademark deer stalker hat and pipe, albeit with a penchant for trouble, cocaine, and martial arts. In other words, Ritchieâs Sherlock will probably be rather rock and roll.
It seems strangely coincidental that these two films, essentially rooted in the writing of late Victorian Britain, should emerge at the same time. Both Dorian Gray and Sherlock Holmes, as characters, are products of such an epoch, but it also seems that they are hugely relevant today. Dorian, to a hugely destructive extent, and Sherlock, to a lesser extent, are decadent characters, who both seek out, and revel in, excess and danger. Such description does not seem a million miles away from the image of the various rock and pop stars, actors, and models, who constantly hit our headlines for demonstrating similar penchants. However, there is some notion of escapism, in the sense that the films will be set in the Victorian period. Perhaps in todayâs climate of constant credit-crunch doom and gloom, escapism into such seemingly carefree past worlds is what we, as viewers seek, what we desire: as Liza Minnelliâs character Sally Bowles in Cabaret quips, everything in Weimar Berlin is saturated with "divine decadence, darling". Perhaps today we look to that allure, to the "divine decadence", of these bygone ages: the Victorian setting of these forthcoming films will re-create the mystery of an eerie and perpetually dark, fog-and-smog smothered London, as well as recreating the dangerous, debaucherous, and glamourous life that the late Victorian novel depicted. Such by-gone settings should essentially enable us to escape, if only momentarily.