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Chieh Li
Writing 39b
Professor Haas
Superhero vs. Action Adventure
The detective genre was first popularize by Conan Doyle; however, a century later,
modern audience are still reading or watching the detective genre. Conan Doyle's methodical
sleuth has been stirring imaginations ever since even now, the Holmes canon continues to
grow( Lynn) What elements are added in to a detective story that allows the detective genre to
grow continuously? Of course, it is the mash up of superhero and action adventure genre into a
detective story. A detective story with action-filled investigation will excite the viewers in the
modern time. It is important to know that the action genre and the adventure genre is two
different genre; however, they have overlapping elements in the two genre. A well respected
movie critics from the AMC website, Tim Dirks explains that there are lots of physical stunts
and activity, possibly extended chase scenes, races, rescues, battles, martial arts, In the BBC
series, Sherlock episode one Season one A Study in Pink involves many physical activity
and extended chase scenes. The factors mentioned by Dirks have a combinatorial effect on the
detective genre which it adds the action adventure to the story. Dirks also explains that an
adventure film are exciting stories, with new experiences or exotic locales Rather than the
predominant emphasis on violence and fighting that is found in action films. Beside the action
and adventure, In the film Sherlock Holmes directed by Guy Ritchie, the superhero genre is
incorporated with the detective genre to give rise to a new era of detective fiction. According to
the well-known creator of the Marvel Universe Stan Lee on What is a Superhero, he mentioned
that a superhero is a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way that a
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normal person couldnt(Lee). He also mentions that person must possess a special power of his
own in order to be a superhero. With that in mind, a superhero genre must also contains a
supervillain. In fact, the supervillain is just as important as the superhero itself; therefore, the two
are nothing without the other. No matter how film maker twist the detective genre in order to fit
the modern standard, the convention of a detective is still everywhere in both the Sherlock by
BBC and Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie . In The Different Story by Dove, he mentions that
there is a formula for the a detective story, and the detective story is transitory,without long-
range goals or purposes ; it is fundamentally an intellectual undertaking; it is recreational,
intended primarily to relax; and it is a disciplined, delimited literary form.(2) Also, he mention
the structure of a detective story always involve a detective, the story contains some kind of
investigation, it contain a complex problem or mystery, and finally, the problem is always solved
by the detective. The modern day Sherlock Holmes are modified with action adventure and
superhero genre with the old convention such as Holmes deduction, Holmes intelligence,
Holmes map awareness, and Watsons loyalties to achieve a brand new effect of the new
detective era.
The addition of the action adventure genre into the detective story and with the aid of the
cinematic elements; both factors have promoted Sherlock Holmes in the modern day era while
keeping the old conventions such as: Holmess map awareness, and Holmess intelligence . In
the BBC series Sherlock, A Study in Pink is an introduction of the modern day Sherlock
Holmes. This episode starts off with four suicides, and the police have no other clues other than
taking it as suicides. After Sherlock is introduced to Watson, their relationship quickly
strengthened. Through a series of investigating evidence, the moment Sherlock finds out about
the murder, he as a cabbie shows up to take Sherlock for a drive. He explains how he made those
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suicide possible to Sherlock, and Watson shoots him before he could do it to Sherlock as well.
and Holmes and Watson are able to lure the killer to a public area. Upon contact with the killer,
Holmes and Watson start to chase the cabby that are driving away with the killer in it. This scene
involves some fast-paced action with adventure into the detective story. Before one of the chase
scenes, Sherlock and Watson are in a restaurant having a conversation about Sherlocks
relationship. During this conversation, the camera is either point at Sherlock or Watson. This
shot is an eye level shot which the person being filmed are on our eye level. This shot is to
indicate that they are having a conversation. This conversation is talking about Sherlocks
relation to people around him; moreover, this is one of the convention in the Conan Doyle
stories. Sherlock never have any emotion towards anyone. However in this conversation, the
dialog is twisted in a modern fashion, because having a boyfriend back in the Victorian era is
probably not possible. Yet, Watson asks Sherlock about whether he has any friends, girlfriends,
and boyfriends. Upon the finish of the relation conversation, the camera focus on the outside and
Watson is blurred out. This indicates that both Sherlock and Watson are looking outside. So far,
the genre is mostly leaning on the adventure side, because they are in this restaurant waiting for
the suspect to show up. Once they spotted the cabby, the background music changes into a
mystery type. The camera turns into an extreme close up shot on Holmes, and this reveals that he
is observing. This is one of the classical conventions used in The Sign of Four which Holmes is
very observant and knowledgeable so he can make the correct deduction. The Cinematic
elements hint the viewers with Holmes deduction ability. Upon revealing to Watson that the
cabby contains the killer they are outside in a matter of seconds, a close up shot on Holmes and a
first person Point of view of Holmes looking at the cabby. This demonstrates that he has his
target in mind. Shot reverse shot is used in this scene to create some tension between the person
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in the cabby and Holmes. From Holmes point of view, audiences see the passenger in the cabby
looking back at the camera and the cabby quickly drives off. This is one of the classical
conventions in a detective story which the killer reveal himself somewhere during the story.
However, the passenger is not the killer, but the driver is the actual killer. At the moment the
cabby drives off, the action genre kicks in with the change of the background music. The
background music quickly sets the rhyme for the action-packed chase. quickly switches to
action from adventure. It starts off with an intense moment where Holmes gets hit by a car and
the music changes from mystery to a fast-faced music. Two types of shots are involved in this
scene which the camera are always behind or in front of Holmes and Watson while they are
running at full speed. This is to create the action that they are hunting down the cabby. When the
camera is on their back, it indicates that viewers are following them on the chase which aids the
action involved in the chase. Once the cabby drives off in the distance, Holmes pulls out a map
of London in his head to find the shortest way to cut off the cabby. This is one of the convention
that are in the Sign of four by Conan Doyle which Holmes knows every street and place in
London. This convention is twisted to fit the modern standard, because in modern time we dont
really use paper map anymore. things like GPS and Google map allows the viewers to relate to
Holmess map awareness of London. are the ways to go when we are looking for places. In this
scene, it shows a digital map of London, and the possible routes to take in order to catch up to
the cabby. In terms of the editing techniques, the street signs reveals what Holmes is thinking
while going through the intense chase, and the sign only shows up for a split second to indicate
the fast-paced action and thinking. The chasing involves many of the long shots and extreme
long shots, and this is to demonstrate the distance that they are running through. The Viewers
actually go into Watsons point of view to witness the danger that they are going through, and
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the handheld shot, it is used to indicate the action of the characters, adds the effect of the
detective genre with action and adventure. While chasing the cabby, Holmes and Watson run
into a dark alley which amplify the adventure of unknown territory. Deep focus is used on
Holmes and Watson to create suspense on what they might encounter. During the chase, Watson
makes mistakes like running the running towards the wrong direction and Holmes correcting
him. This further exemplify that Holmes rarely makes any mistakes. This shows that the genies
rarely make mistakes, and as the audience, we resemble Watson. All these action filled chase is
to mash up the action genre with the detective genre. By doing this, the detective genre gets an
upgrade from the original Conan Doyles detective story, and the convention is mostly modified
into a modern standard.
In the movie Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie, it combines the old convention such as
Holmess power of deduction and Watsons Loyalty with the addition of the superhero genre into
the mix. The movie begins with the discovery and capture of the supervillain in this movie. Upon
a serious of abnormal events, Holmes investigated the unexplained events along with Watson,
and fights off many epic battles by themselves. At the end, Holmes is manage to solve the
abnormal case in the movie, and the supervillain is dead. This movie kept most of its original
convention, but it also added the superhero genre into the mix. The scene that shows a lot of the
convention and the new superhero genre is when Holmes and Watson are going to investigate the
laboratory that the supervillain has people working on experiments. Upon entering the room,
Holmes notices that Irene Alder was here momentary ago which Watson would not have noticed.
This is the original convention from Conan Doyle where Holmes is very good at picking out
clues and Watson is always a step behind. The camera is focused on Holmes as he tells Watson
about how he deduced that Irene Alder was here. Holmes is really good at smelling out odors
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normal people wouldnt notice. Close up shot on Holmes shows that he is the center of focus
when he is explaining the clues and evidence. After he explains his theory on Irene, He sniffs
loudly to show that the smell of Irene was not the only odor that are present. He names a list of
chemicals that are used in the laboratory. While Holmes are naming all these, Watson can only
listen to the clues. This is like the convention in The Sign of Four where Holmes says what
seems strange to you is only so because you do not follow my train of thought or observe the
small facts. We are just like Watson, because we constantly rely on Holmes to spoon feed
answers. Based on Dove, We are the players in the detective story, and Holmes is our team
leader who guides us towards the end. Holmes continue to observe clues that the supervillains
worker experimented on. All these clues were all used by the supervillain and they are previewed
to us already. After the investigation of the laboratory, two workers shows up and Holmes
deuced that they are here to burn down the building. As they called in the boss, the camera is
focused on both Watson and Holmes. A close up shot showing their facial expression reveals
Watsons fear in what is about to happen. Meanwhile, Holmess facial expression did not
change. This indicates that Holmes is confident that he will be able to handle them without any
effort. The convention of Holmes power of deduction is still present in this film. He can deuced
the motivates of the two workers by their equipment. The scene quickly changes from detective
genre to the superhero genre. Rarely, Holmes gets into fights, but in this film, they mash up
superhero genre with the detective story. This is a huge twist from the convention. First, the
camera is in on eye level, because the film makers want to contrast the height between Holmes
and the boss that he and Watson are going to fight. Watson picks the normal looking enemy
while Holmes takes on the boss. As the fight interrupts, the background music quickly changes
into a wild-west music. The camera changes from Watson to Holmes indicating that as they are
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fighting a different battle. Their fighting style reveals the convention of Holmes and Watson.
While Watson fights with brute forces, Holmes uses object and his intelligence to fight for him.
He picks up random object to aid him in the fights. According to Stan Lee, a superhero must
possess a power; in this case, intelligence is Holmes natural power. He uses techniques and
special tools to defeat the enemy and to save Watson from the troubles. In the final scene of the
fight, Holmes superhero characteristics is what adds the new effect to the detective genre. He
can both outcompete the enemy mentally and physically. The Superhero characteristics of
Holmes gives the viewers an action packed investigation. Ultimately, Holmes not only defeats
the boss, and he also rescues Watson at the same time. The switch from detective genre to an
action-fill Superhero genre is what makes the detective story shine today. If film makers didnt
twist old conventions into new ones and mash up genres, then the detective story would
eventually get boring.
In conclusion, Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie both uses convention from the
Conan Doyle text, and they mash up other genres to break away from the triditional detective
genre. In the Sherlock, they added action and adventure. In the movie, they added in Superhero
genre to excite the audience by fights and heroic moments. Both versions twist some of the
conventions to a modern standard, and some stayed as the old convention.
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Work Cited
Sharkey, Betsy. "'Sherlock Holmes' Review: Crime-fighting Duo Shines in Sequel."Los Angeles
Times. Los Angeles Times, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 May 2014.
Dirks, Tim. "Action Films." Action Films. AMC, n.d. Web. 21 May
Dirks, Tim. "Adventure Films." Adventure Films. AMC, n.d. Web. 21 May 2014.
Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Sign of the Four. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2013. Kindle
eBook. Online.
Dove, George N. The Reader and the Detective Story. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State
University Popular Press, 1997.
"Stan Lee on What Is a Superhero - OUPblog." OUPblog. Oxford University Press's, n.d. Web. 21 May
2014. (http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/stan-lee-on-what-is-a-superhero)
Neary, Lynn. "The Enduring Popularity Of Sherlock Holmes." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 03 June 2014.