Here’s what I wrote about Sherlock Holmes two years ago, when the first Robert Downey Jr. reboot was about to hit theaters:
How will Holmes fare this holiday season? The answer isn’t so elementary. Judging from a movie trailer full of fisticuffs, explosions and sexual innuendo, the big-budget action film will thrill fanboys who don’t realize that the Baker Street Irregulars appeared on the printed page before the silver screen. Anguished purists, meanwhile, may choose to cover their faces with deerstalker hats.
Except that the most faithful followers of Holmes know that his legacy is already a mishmash of invention and reinvention. Take those deerstalker hats. Almost nothing is more associated with Holmes than the checkered twill cap with brims in front and back and a pair of ear flaps on the sides. In Doyle’s stories, however, there is precious little evidence that Holmes ever wore such a thing. It entered the popular imagination because of Sidney Paget, a magazine illustrator whose work accompanied Doyle’s fiction.
Doyle himself would have had mixed feelings about the rebooted Holmes. He suffered from a love-hate relationship with the character whose name has eclipsed his own. A market-minded author, Doyle certainly appreciated the goal of putting Holmes in front of large audiences. Yet he almost resented the runaway success that made him the most celebrated writer of his time.