Hero Swap: James Bond and Sherlock Holmes

The Rules: Everything has rules, and our newest recurring Hero Swap articles are no different.

1. The Rule of One. Only one character can be swapped out per movie.
2. Main Street Rules. The main character is the one to be swapped out.
3. The Main Character from One Thing Can’t be Added as a Supporting Character in the Other.
4. All of These Rules Will Be Broken Eventually.

So the basic premise of this series is based on an idea I’ve had for a while about how movies or books would be different if the main character was replaced by the main character of a different movie or book. I would like to note that the YouTube channel How It Should Have Ended does something similar, but I had the idea first, and this is a little more serious, and that this version is partially inspired by Shea Serrano’s Better Same Worse: Movies But With the Rock Instead, from his illustrated Basketball (and Other Things) newsletter.

Hero Swap: James Bond and Sherlock Holmes

James Bond and Sherlock Holmes are two of the most well known characters of all time. Their exploits are world renown, and both inspire a sense of awe in their allies and fear in their enemies. Both are English, and both have to overcome addictions to accomplish their goals and ultimately save lives. So what would happen if James Bond and Sherlock Holmes swapped places?

Which Versions are Being Swapped? James Bond from Skyfall is switching places with Sherlock Holmes from A Game of Shadows. This distinction is important because different movie, television and book versions of these characters have different traits and behaviors than others. It is also important because the supporting cast, villains, tools, and weaponry are also impacted by the specific movie chosen.

Which Character Fares Better? Sherlock Holmes fares far better than his MI6 counterpart in this instance, and a big reason is because of the movies selected. In A Game of Shadows, Bond is facing off against “the Napoleon of crime” Professor James Moriarty, a dastardly criminal who is every bit Sherlock’s equal, at least intelligence wise. And while Bond isn’t some simpleton, I’d peg him a rung or two below peak Dr. Watson (at least in Arthur Conan Doyle’s written iteration of him), which is to say, more capable than the average person, but no match for a true criminal mastermind.

Meanwhile Holmes faces off against Raoul Silva, who may play at the role of criminal mastermind, but ultimately leaves much to be desired. His nefarious schemes are eventually foiled by Bond and his allies due to Silva’s emotions clouding his judgement. (Although Silva does achieve his personal goal of killing M). Basically, Holmes would utterly defeat Silva, while Bond would have dubious, at best, prospects of defeating Moriarty.

Which Movie is Changed More? Both movies are changed, but Skyfall is likely changed more for a very simple reason. Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes (which are directed by Guy Ritchie) is basically an incredibly brilliant action hero. It is likely the least cerebral Holmes we have ever seen, and while he does pull off incredible feats of intelligence, they are usually shown to us after the fact, and not as they happen. For example, at the end of A Game of Shadows it is revealed to the audience all of the work that Holmes has done to unfurl Moriarty’s plans. So, it is very possible that the entire movie is almost exactly the same to that point (albeit more violent), and continues without the reveal that Moriarty has been defeated, and concludes with Bond’s death. That may sound drastically different, but overall the general feel and tone of the movie is basically the same, it is only the final 15 minutes that are changed.

Skyfall is completely changed however because of the simple fact that even if Sherlock Holmes is shot off the train in the opening minutes, as Bond was, he certainly wouldn’t have taken that as an opportunity to retire. He may have disappeared, but he would have used that time to track down the person he had been chasing, and to discover the mastermind behind the entire thing. Bond only finds the big picture after the fact, while Holmes is always singularly focused on that. Additionally, (although the movie version is slightly different) Holmes is wholly uninterested in women, and so all the weird sexual tension, or sex scenes in general, would be avoided. (Which I guess means that if Bond was in A Game of Shadows there would be a sex scene between him and Simza the gypsy fortune teller). Basically, the entire film is changed in the case of Skyfall, while only the ending of A Game of Shadows is.

Which Movie is Better After the Swap? I’d have to say that given how much of an unknown Skyfall would be, it could be over in ten minutes, or it could run it’s course, A Game of Shadows would be the better film by default. It would certainly be more fun, which to me is very important, and while having Bond get defeated would be disappointing, the sheer unknown stops me from giving the edge to Skyfall. 

And that’s a wrap on our first take on Hero Swaps. Feel free to comment below on any of the categories, and tell us who you want to see swapped next.

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