YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES. Unjustly forgotten film

This unfairly forgotten film is a real treat for fans of engaging detective mysteries, Sherlock Holmes aficionados, and those looking for intriguing adventure titles.


14 May 2024

young sherlock holmes

It often happens that when a hero gains great popularity, in addition to classic continuations of their adventures, there also appear titles that expand the universe in other ways, for example, focusing on the hero’s younger years. This trend has affected James Bond (the “Young Bond” book series), Indiana Jones (the TV series “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”), the Muppets (the animated series “The Muppet Babies”), Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory,” and many others. This trend also did not bypass the most famous detective in pop culture, Sherlock Holmes. Typically, such productions leave much to be desired, but there are also gems, and today I would like to remind you of one of them – created under the auspices of Steven Spielberg, “Young Sherlock Holmes”.

Starting in the 1980s, Spielberg began actively producing and was involved in titles such as “Back to the Future” by Robert Zemeckis, “Gremlins” directed by Joe Dante, and “The Goonies” by Richard Donner. At one point, together with Chris Columbus (“Home Alone”), they delved into the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, after obtaining permission from the writer’s daughter, Jean Conan Doyle, and decided to depict the first meeting of Holmes and Watson during their high school years, although according to the canon, the gentlemen only met in the novel “A Study in Scarlet” when they were already adults. Both Columbus and Spielberg were keen not only on adhering to Doyle’s work (ignoring the initial concept) but also on faithfully recreating Victorian London. Therefore, they asked a Holmes and period specialist, John Bennet Shaw, to review the screenplay from this perspective. Thanks to this, the film excellently recreated the London of the late 19th century. Genre-wise, “Young Sherlock Holmes” is a great blend of horror, detective film, and adventure, which has not aged a bit. The atmosphere may somewhat resemble “Stranger Things” or even “Harry Potter.” The film is best described by its tagline: “Before a lifetime of adventure, they lived the adventure of a lifetime.”

The plot is like a combination of Doyle’s stories with a touch of New Adventure Cinema. In London, a hooded figure visits respected gentlemen who shortly thereafter experience terrifying hallucinations and die. However, the police are not inclined to investigate. Meanwhile, teenage John Watson (Alan Cox) is transferred to a new school where he meets Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Rowe), a boy endowed with extraordinary observational skills. Together, they decide to solve the mystery of these mysterious deaths.

young sherlock holmes

Thankfully, portraying younger versions of Holmes and Watson did not trivialize or infantilize either the characters or the story. Special emphasis was placed on the character of the detective because the film attempts to explain how the emotionally charged youth we see on the screen transformed into the calm, emotionless, dry man known from the pages of books. Columbus was very keen on presenting this evolution in an interesting way, weaving it into an engaging intrigue, adding a pinch of adventure, and ultimately creating a story worthy of Conan Doyle.

The fantastic special effects are noteworthy, especially during the hallucination scenes, notably the stained glass knight, which was one of the first fully computer-generated characters (created by magicians from the studio now known as Pixar). I must also mention Bruce Broughton’s atmospheric music and the abundance of treats for Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.

This unfairly forgotten film is a real treat for fans of engaging detective mysteries, Sherlock Holmes aficionados, and those looking for intriguing adventure titles. The unsettling atmosphere, likable characters, and superbly recreated settings guarantee a good time. And be sure to stay until the end of the credits!

Written by Piotr Zymelka



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