I’m not what you’d call a Sherlock Holmes purist, although I’ve read all of Conan Doyle’s novels about the character and most of the short stories. And I tend to like Robert Downey Jr. But when I heard that Downey was going to play Holmes, my first reaction was a dubious “I dunno about that.” The more I heard about the movie, the more skeptical I was.
Now that I’ve actually seen it, though, I have to admit that Downey’s eccentric portrayal won me over. No, he doesn’t match any physical image I ever had of Holmes (who in my mind will always look like Basil Rathbone, which tells you what movies I grew up watching on TV), and yes, I think the scriptwriters took some considerable liberties with Doyle’s version of the character. They also introduce a new villain, Lord Blackwood instead of Professor Moriarty, and the movie plays more like a Victorian-era James Bond adventure than a story of crime and detection. But despite all the action scenes and the occasional silliness, there’s quite a bit of detective work going on, too, as Holmes makes clear in several summations of the evidence late in the film.
I also liked Jude Law as Dr. Watson and thought the character was actually pretty close to Doyle’s version, a man of action who’s not as brilliant as Holmes but not exactly a dim bulb, either. Rachel McAdams’ performance as Irene Adler was panned by most people, including those who liked the movie overall, but I thought she was okay in the role, and Mark Strong made a good villain as well.
This is obviously the first movie in a series, so the set-up for the sequel is pretty blatant at the end. I enjoyed SHERLOCK HOLMES quite a bit and will certainly watch the next one. If you haven’t seen this one yet, I’d recommend giving it a try. You might hate it, but I found it very entertaining.