I wasn’t sure whether I would care for Guy Ritchie’s 2009 movie version of Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert J. Downey Jr and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson. And for sure, it’s a film that will have purists wincing, as many liberties are taken with facts and the Holmes canon. Anachronisms abound and the casting of Holmes seemed like a gamble.
And yet, I must say that I enjoyed the film. I do think that film and TV adaptations of crime stories deserve to be judged on their own merits, even if I loved the original on which they were based. The real failures are those, like the recent The Secret of Chimneys, where it’s impossible to see what the point of the new version was.
Here, for all its quirks, the story was exciting and the visual effects quite brilliant. The plot involved the villainous Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong was credibly nasty in the part) who seems to be able to use occult powers with a view to taking control of the British Empire and then the world as a whole. What a cad!
The cast did a good job, with a nice take on the Holmes-Watson relationship, even if Conan Doyle would have been amazed at the re-inventing of Mary Morstan and Irene Adler. But then, the great Basil Rathbone films which first turned me on to Sherlock when I was very young were also far removed from the originals. I liked them, and slightly to my surprise, I liked this movie too.