Simon Morris reviews the latest incarnation of the movies' most-filmed character, Sherlock Holmes. Mr Holmes stars Sir Ian McKellen as a 93-year-old detective; American science fiction thriller Self/less, and, 20 years after Sam Neill's Cinema Of Unease, critic Tim Wong looks at New Zealand films from a very different angle in Out of the Mist.
The big picture with Simon Morris
The Holy Grail in the movie business is the franchise, where the imaginative spade-work has already been done on one successful movie, now all you have to do is follow the formula. The trouble is that most successful stories are complete in themselves, and don’t stand up very well to unpicking, then re-piecing together. For instance, the Star Wars prequels were an object lesson that nobody seems anxious to learn from.
The best and most satisfying franchises - the ones that don’t require a fanboy’s obsession with all the details of all the prequels, sequels and “re-imaginings” - are simple series. James Bond is the most obvious example, of course – 23 films since Sean Connery first introduced himself back in 1962.
But the most successful movie character has been making films since they first started making films. Sherlock Holmes. A couple of years ago there were no fewer than three successful Holmes franchises running concurrently – a British modern-day version, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, another TV series, set in America with a female, Asian-American Watson, and Robert Downey Junior’s steam-punk romps.
A new version - Mr Holmes, starring Ian McKellen - is a satisfying postscript to Holmes’ career at the end of his life.
Later in the programme we chat to a modern-day detective - film-buff Tim Wong, who examines New Zealand’s film history, looking for clues about our national character and attitudes to art.
But first, Ben Kingsley returns. Last week he played a Sikh taxi-driver in Learning to Drive. This week he works for a rather different kind of Sikh – hack director Tarsem Singh in sci-fi thriller Self/less.