Where is the key to unlocking the door and understanding the success of the characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson? Spoiler alert: it is all about the characters. A particular character trait shared in both “A Study in Scarlet” and “A Scandal in Bohemia” is that the personality of the antagonist is not a particularly bad or evil person. In the case of “A Study in Scarlet,” Jefferson Hope is hopelessly in love and filled with the desire to avenge the loss of his love when Lucy dies. In “A Scandal in Bohemia” Irene Adler is only interested in self-protection.
However when comparing the original “A Study in Scarlet” with the film version of “A Study in Pink” there is a very noticeable change in the person of the murderer when the antagonist is revealed as Professor Moriarty and not Jefferson Hope. By comparison Irene Adler in “A Scandal in Belgravia” is the quintessential modernization of her character from “A Scandal in Bohemia” with some new devious elements. Through the comparison of these characters, their quirks, traits, and idiosyncrasies between the texts and the films will reveal how these changes not only contribute to the plot but are necessary to enhancing the suspense.
The character of Moriarty is brilliant but evil, so this is a major change in the plot of “A Study in Pink”. Moriarty is Holmes nemesis throughout the series and this is a significant deviation in the storyline to have him portrayed as the murderer in “A Study in Pink” however, it is understandable as to why, it is done for dramatic effect. At the same time it offers a continuation of an underlying theme pitting Moriarty against Holmes. The complexity of this evil character offers a perfect foil for the Holmes character as well as creating the crucial suspense that is key to a successful detective story.
This pattern change from text to film provides an escalation in the suspense of the storyline as a serial storyline. For example, in “A Study in Pink” if the murderer was revealed and arrested then the story would be concluded, however since the character of Moriarty is introduced the storyline can continue using the mysterious Moriarty as the background evil which Holmes has to combat. In fact, at the end of the film when he is revealed as the murderer it immediately generates tension and anticipation. Essentially the story is not concluded it must be continued with the pursuit of the evil Moriarty who is as brilliant as Holmes but the moral anthesis of his character.
This change in the pattern of the character’s trait is successful in contributing to the plot in the film as it allows the story to explore the complex character that is Professor Moriarty. Alternatively, while the person of Irene Adler remains in “A Scandal in Belgravia” the personality is different from “A Scandal in Bohemia” as she is more evocative, sexually explicit, and duplicitous. She is still intelligent, beautiful, and dangerous, however, the seductive tension between Adler and Holmes is more expressive and suggestive. This is not a change in character as much as it is an exaggeration. It adds to the complexity of her character while fulfilling the need to modernize in order to meet the current societal morals of a more open and demonstrative culture. The Irene Adler in “A Scandal in Bohemia” had the eloquence and a touch of sensuality that was appropriate to the time period.
This is also true of the Irene Adler in “A Scandal in Belgravia” as she remains true to the character in that she is not evil. She is merely a personification of the character originally created with her continued interest in self-protection while emphasising a more selfish and devious nature. Despite this, she is the still the embodiment of interest to Holmes as she uses her intelligence and beauty to captivate him in this new film version just as she did in the original text version. However, she is move involved with Holmes on a one-to-one basis in the film as she uses him to try and blackmail the government, definitely not part of the original plot.
Fundamentally, it is the personality of characters that create an emotional response. If they are plain, uninteresting, or old fashioned the story is a failure. In the instance of both “A Study in Pink” and “A Scandal in Belgravia,” this is definitely not true. The transitional changes in their characters, their morals, ethics, and values make their complex characters more fascinating. Moriarty appearing in “A Study in Pink” created a continuity to proceed with the underlying theme of the battle of good and evil, while the key to unlocking the success of Holmes was revealed at the end of “A Scandal in Belgravia”. Holmes revealed Adler’s use of SHER as the four-letter key which unlocked Adler’s blackmail scheme and ultimately exposed her own personality and the fact that she had been SHERLOCKED.