Some (very early) predictions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Solo and Kuryakin
(Art by Paul Baack)

Guy Ritchie’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is scheduled to start filming next month. While there’s a lot that isn’t known, here are a few predictions about the film that may emerge.

No dancing gorillas (or other third-season silliness from the original series): The movie probably will be similar in tone to the director’s two Sherlock Holmes movies.

Based on the early information available in the film’s IMDB.COM ENTRY, much of the crew worked on Ritchie’s two Holmes films. There will be some humor, but there will be much serious adventure also.

That wouldn’t be a bad thing. The original show’s FOURTH AND FINAL SEASON perhaps over-corrected the silly THIRD SEASON. Both seasons have good episodes but the drama-humor balance was out of whack compared with the first two seasons. The third season was like an U.N.C.L.E. version of the Adam West Batman series. The fourth seemed as if it were produced by Quinn Martin; the final season was produced by Anthony Spinner, a QM veteran.

U.N.C.L.E.’s wheelhouse lies somewhere inbetween those extremes. Whether Ritchie & Co. can achieve that remains to be seen. But the guess from here is that’s the goal. The two Ritchie-directed Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law were in that same general area. The question is whether Ritchie can achieve that with U.N.C.L.E.

It won’t be exactly like the television show because it will be done as a period piece. The television series was a product of its time. It was a post-Cold War series (an American and a Russian working together to deal with the greater evil) taking place in the middle of the Cold War (producer Norman Felton and author Ian Fleming had their first meetings a few weeks after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962).

But when you do a story as a period piece, everything changes. The movies Murder, My Sweet (1942) and Farewell My Lovely (1975) are based on the same Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novel. They’re both good, but the latter, starring Robert Mitchum, emphasizes its 1940s settings in ways the earlier Dick Powell film didn’t.

The movie’s success will depend on the chemistry of the lead actors: The original show was intended to center around Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo. But David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin made such an impression, the two emerged as equals. The Vaughn-McCallum pairing ensured that, in the fall of 1965, that The Wild, Wild West (with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin) and I Spy (with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby) had the same dynamic.

For the new U.N.C.L.E. movie to work, Henry Cavill (as Solo) and Armie Hammer (as Kuryakin) have to display at least similar chemistry. Cavill was a late casting as Solo after Tom Cruise exited the project.

Still, late castings can work. Jack Lord was cast as Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O just *five days* before the pilot to that 1968-80 series started production. Cavill got the U.N.C.L.E. job about three months ahead of production. Compared with Jack Lord and Five-O, that’s a breeze.

6 Responses

  1. Anyone else have any predictions?

  2. I doubt whether THRUSH will be around. A modern audience will be bound to laugh at the name, hence we’ll get a different set of bad guys

  3. I’ve been a huge UNCLE fan from the very beginning (the TV theme tune is my cellphone’s call music and the communicator sound announces a text!). I’m excited by this project and wish it well. My only concern is that Cavill and Hammer are too similar ie both tall, dark and handsome. The Illya/Napoleon dynamic benefitted from a strong contrast between McCallum and Vaughn and from the evidence of THE LONE RANGER (a much better film than the critics allow) Hammer could play either part with ease. It’s a small caveat as I trust Guy Ritchie to do the same inspired job he did on the Sherlock Holmes films. Fingers crossed.

  4. If Ritchie does the same thing to Solo & Kuryakin he already did to Holmes & Watson I fear the worst …

  5. “The movie probably will be similar in tone to the director’s two Sherlock Holmes movies.”
    I found that tone so wonderful that I never saw the second Holmes, and don’t remember much of the first either.

  6. I predict that the movie will be about as close to the original TV show as Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes was to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. As much as I love the original show I don’t think that will be a bad thing. New times, (though still set in the 60’s) new look = new fans and that’s a good thing.

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