Many literary characters have been adapted to film, and few are accurately presented on the silver screen. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is one such character.
Throughout the decades, the confident, reckless and sometimes mischievous Holmes has been reshaped by Hollywood, turning him into a tweed-wearing, scrawny, stereotypical English gentleman.
Detective Holmes is nothing of the sort.
In Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” the cocksure crime-solver is a mirror image of his literary counterpart. Detective Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a freelance private investigator living in 1891 London with his associate, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law).
After capturing the murderous Lord Blackwood at the beginning of the film, Holmes is shut in his room for weeks, taking no new cases and performing the oddest and most disruptive of scientific experiments.
Much like in the books and much to the dismay of Watson, Holmes is eccentric and disorganized. Despite that, Holmes is a brilliant and unmatched detective.
When Lord Blackwood – supposedly hanged and killed – appears to have resurrected himself, Holmes and Watson embark on a new case, facing both the seemingly supernatural and the revolutionary scientific while following Blackwood’s trail.
Robert Downey Jr. is, without question, the comeback actor of the decade. After bringing the relatively unpopular Iron Man back into pop culture relevancy, he returned Sherlock Holmes to the big screen for a new generation.
Long gone is the stately investigator whose image we have come to connect with Holmes. Instead, the bare-knuckle boxing, devious Holmes – the one Doyle had originally written – steals the show and shatters Sherlock’s inaccurate Hollywood image.
Dr. John Watson has also made a change. Jude Law plays the war veteran Watson as a useful and reliable assistant to Holmes – physically fit and medically knowledgeable.
Watson is no dumpy sidekick, but instead the straight arrow to Holmes’s sometimes ridiculous antics. While it’s clear Holmes still has, by far, the best crime-solving prowess, Watson still serves a valuable purpose.
Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) plays Holmes’s past love interest. The deceptive Adler proves to be the criminal, female match to Holmes.
You’re never certain whose side she’s on, but based on her actions in the movie, you may hope she’s one of the good guys – or girls, in this case.
The film’s plot is a classic Holmes throwback story. The settings are gothic and dusky, setting off a sort of Tim Burton vibe to compliment the atmosphere. As always, director Guy Ritchie delivers a visually distinct and cinematically innovative movie.
Combining Ritchie and Sherlock Holmes was the right move, and hopefully sequels will follow Holmes’s successful return to film.