Just two days ago Marvel announced Benedict Cumberbatch, star of BBC’s Sherlock, would lead an upcoming superhero feature titled ‘Doctor Strange’.
Cumberbatch, who is enjoying Ocsar buzz for his lead role in the Alan Turing biopic ‘The Imitation Game’, has enjoyed a huge second birth of acting fame.
Having spent a lot of his career in theatre and small supporting roles in big features, he has now broken the commercial and award seal and vaulted himself atop the casting director wish list.
The expected but great casting admittedly had me reliving my reaction and adoration of Sherlock, in which Cumberbatch plays the titular role alongside Martin Freeman’s John Watson.
Sherlock is without a doubt one of the best shows running at the moment – well if you call three episodes every 2 years running it is. Cumberbatch is integral to its success as he manages to play an arrogant narcissistic sociopath but still nuance the performance with humanity and heart. Freeman really comes to the fore in series 3 and steals the show from time to time. The writing is stellar overall and the series 3 finale showed that budget was never an issue.
It is clear that Sherlockians, who travel from all around the world to visit the show’s locations and sets, live and die by the BBC show. So much so that they actively hate and don’t watch America’s similar modern take – Elementary, this time with Sherlock, Johnny Lee Miller, living in New York with Joan Watson, Lucy Lui.
Well that’s where they and perhaps you are missing out.
Whilst Elementary does not hold a candle to the raging fire that is Sherlock it is not the train wreck many see it to be. After all, it is still going strong in its third season having already aired over 50 popular episodes.
After a bumpy start, Elementary showcases one great and consistent performance from Johnny Lee Miller, who incidentally starred opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in a theatre production of ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ directed by Danny Boyle.
In some cases Miller is on par with Cumberbatch’s take on the world famous consultant but ultimately his performance is diluted and strained by the periodical weekly episode structure. Where Benedict can be brilliant for three 90 minute long episodes, Miller cannot be for 24 forty minute long episodes.
But if Sherlock is superior to Elementary why watch the show at all?
Simple – to tide you over and surprise you. You watched Robert Downey Jr. in the theatres for his lead performance not for the narrative which is extremely lacking I must add. And you should watch Elementary for Johnny Lee Miller and prepare to be surprised by Lucy Lui at some points.
Another key candle that Elementary does hold to BBC Sherlock’s flame is modernity and progression. Whilst they are both great examples of progressive and forward thinking shows with some great villains and plot developments, Elementary arguable succeeds over Sherlock in character decisions.
The decision to make John Watson into Joan Watson but still keep the Sherlock Watson relationship platonic is admirable. The transvestite twist on Ms. Hudson was a real game changer and refreshing in an age of heterosexual dominance. The focus on dark crimes such as rape, abuse and drug addiction in Elementary feels real and authentic. BBC’s Sherlock is restricted by BBC’s ethos and ideology but remains progressive in its own way. Elementary still wins this particular bout.
Some may see the changes as forced and indeed some probably are but you know what? Most of them work. There is one particular twist, which I shall not disclose, regarding Irene Adler, that does not work but that is an argument for another day and another post.
My call is essentially asking for Sherlock fans to go into Elementary with an open viewpoint, to leave the Sherlock fangasms at the door and to focus on Johnny Lee Miller’s performance. And maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself a Sherlock show that you like to tide you over until BBC’s Sherlock returns in 2015 and blows it out of the water again. Rest assured, Sherlock still remains the superior entity.