Getting Ready for Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes

Given I know a number of Sherlock Holmes fans, there’s been a lot of chatter lately about the upcoming Enola Holmes movie, which debuts on Netflix on September 23. This is the one where Henry Cavill plays Sherlock, and the title character is played by Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things).

It’s based on the book series by Nancy Springer (six books, 2006-2010) in which the young Holmes sister is on her own when their mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing. She fights her siblings, mostly Mycroft, who wants to send her to finishing school, in order to be responsible for her own life.

The Holmes siblings in Enola Holmes: Sherlock (Henry Cavill), Mycroft (Sam Claflin), and Enola (Millie Bobby Brown)

The Holmes siblings in Enola Holmes: Sherlock (Henry Cavill), Mycroft (Sam Claflin), and Enola (Millie Bobby Brown)

The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, isn’t coping well with the declaration that the character is public domain, and they have sued the author, producers, and Netflix. They tend to threaten legal action only when a movie is made, because there are more participants and a better chance of a larger payday.

The claim is that Holmes didn’t “develop human connection and empathy”, that is, show emotion, until the last few stories Doyle wrote (the last ten, from 1923-1927), which coincidentally are the ones still under their control, and so the movie infringes.

(Any Holmes fan knows that that isn’t true. Just off the top of my head, “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”, published in 1910 and so no longer under copyright, has this exchange, after Holmes almost killed both of them by accident with poisonous smoke:

“Upon my word, Watson!” said Holmes at last with an unsteady voice, “I owe you both my thanks and an apology. It was an unjustifiable experiment even for one’s self, and doubly so for a friend. I am really very sorry.”

“You know,” I answered with some emotion, for I have never seen so much of Holmes’s heart before, “that it is my greatest joy and privilege to help you.”)

Anyway, here’s the movie trailer, in which Enola speaks directly to camera and there are lots of “girl power” moments, as well as a young lord who needs her to rescue him.

I’m trying to keep an open mind. On one level, based on the comic versions I’ve read, it’s about a teenage younger sister who is able to outwit her older, adult brothers and be a better detective than the guy doing it all his life. But then again, why shouldn’t teenage girls have that kind of adventure fantasy? It’s Nancy Drew in Victorian dress.

Upon further reflection, I think there’s a lot of weight placed on the name. If these characters weren’t “Holmes”, this wouldn’t seem like it had much, if any, detection in it. Maybe it doesn’t. We’re told Sherlock is a “famous detective”, her “genius brother”, but that’s notoriously hard to show on screen, especially in a quick-clip trailer. I do like the Paget-inspired version of Henry Cavill, though.

Henry Cavill in Paget style

IDW has been releasing graphic novel adaptations of the Enola Holmes books: The Case of the Missing Marquess, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets.


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