News broke this morning that Disney is planning a reboot of the Miss Marple franchise starring Alias’s Jennifer Garner as the titular sleuth. There’s one major problem with this: Miss Marple is supposed to be an elderly spinster. To the shock and horror of many Agatha Christie fans, Disney plans to age Marple down to her 30s or 40s for this new movie, which begs all sorts of questions, the primary one being, ‘Why?’
No, please, Hollywood, explain it to me. I mean, I never liked Miss Marple as much as Hercule Poirot (I always felt she stumbled over the solutions instead of doing any actual detecting), but Jane Marple’s age is one of her defining characteristics. (No mention has been made yet as to whether or not Jennifer Garner will attempt an English accent, or when this film will take place.) Age is her camouflage; many a stupid criminal will say incriminating things in the company of a woman who reminds him of his grandmother. Take that away from her, and what are you left with?
To those defenders who point out the recent reimaginings of Sherlock Holmes as evidence for the potential in Garner’s Marple, I’ll point out that in both Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayals, they remain true to the core of the character; only the surroundings are altered. We can’t hope the same will hold true for Miss Marple because she doesn’t have that core.
Agatha Christie was not known for her character development; she was a plot-driven writer, and her top two protagonists were always defined by their descriptions: the fussy Belgian detective (avec moustaches) and the matronly village spinster with too much time on her hands. Their strengths as sleuths often lay in not being taken seriously (the funny foreigner and the old woman – man, I wish they’d teamed up.) You can absolutely take Jennifer Garner seriously – especially if she’s pointing a gun in your face.
You can drop Sherlock Holmes into 21st century England, or even explore his youth, because his characteristics are timeless; he gives the impression of having always been brilliant, antisocial, obsessive, and arrogant. Jane Marple, on the other hand, was born a spinster. It’s difficult to think of her as anything else.
Let’s just imagine, for a moment, that this makes it out of development hell – what state will the story be in? If Marple is made a younger woman, we all know what will come next – a love interest. (Can’t have an attractive female in Hollywood and not attempt to hook her up with an equally attractive leading man.) Of course, there is no such beast in the books, so the screenwriter will have to make him up. No doubt he’ll end up being a police captain or something.
The newly-dubbed Ms. Marple will need something to do with her time, so she’ll probably have a job. Nothing too strenuous, however, as she’s still only an amateur sleuth. Perhaps she’ll run a cardio-pole dancing class at the St. Mary Mead rec center. Unless of course she moves to London – or even New York. Then, no doubt, she’ll work in fashion. (Marple knits, right?)
There will be at least two car chases, one shoot-out, and a few bombs exploding, though Ms. Marple will be a bystander during most of the carnage – until some tragedy sparks too close to home, and she is forced to break out her father’s hunting rifle and wreak justice on the village.
Over the course of the two-hour film, Ms. Marple and her leading man will have many spirited debates about the benefits or lack thereof in matrimony. Ms. Marple will resolve to never marry, as she is a feminist! Leading Man will eventually stop the pursuit, out of respect for her wishes, though he will continue to pine until the sequel.
Oh, and at some point, she might solve a mystery. In stiletto heels.