As the rather pleasant ending credits role at the end of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, you do not see a title that says, "Based on the novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle". Rather, you see a title that says, "Sherlock Holmes and John Watson created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle". It says that for a reason, and anyone who dares to tell me this movie was no good because it was very different than Doyle's novels can bugger off.
What we have here is a completely different take on the series we know so well. We are presented with an entirely new Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law, who does not play him like a bumbling fool as we usually see, but as nothing short of a badass). The two are a sort of freelance mystery solving team, that are often hired by the London police and asked to help put away the city's biggest criminals, not the least of which, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). Blackwood is a very sinister character; he practices Black Magic and often murders innocent people in his rituals. After being put away by Holmes, and sentenced to death, the plot really begins when he rises from his grave almost a day later, and it's up to good ole' Holmes and Watson to figure out just what the devil is going on.
Robert Downey Jr. gives an incredible performance as a different Sherlock Holmes than we are used to. For one, he can fight. Well. His genius is unparalleled; he can calculate just how to win a fight and each move necessary before it happens, and they took the deductive reasoning skill we are used to, and amplified it by about a thousand. Downey Jr. also plays him as a very quirky man, one who's eyes are always shifting and always learning,. And on top of all that, he is very, very funny.
The real joy of this movie stems from that. It's really funny. Holmes and Watson's sarcastic banter is absolutely great, and it really kept me in the movie when I felt it was about to drag. Add to that the even more sarcastic banter that takes place between Holmes and the film's femme fatale, Irene Adler played by the love of my life, Rachel McAdams. She and Holmes have a history, and she uses that to her advantage frequently. Though to be honest, I doubt Rachel McAdams would have to have a history with someone in order to be able to manipulate them; no, she could do it with those eyes that are so gorgeous they make me want to curl up into a ball and weep like a small girl. Oh yeah, and her acting was terrific too.
I really liked the feel of this movie. Guy Ritchie teamed up nicely with his director of photography, Philippe Rousselot to create a London that is not exactly at peace. It almost looked dirty, and appropriately so. Very nice look to the whole thing. Hans Zimmer pulled his weight as well, providing a quirky dulcimer influenced score that drew a subtle undertone to Holmes' madness.
One interesting thing they did; they replaced Holmes' drug addiction with alcoholism. Not awful, but I would have liked to see Robert Downey Jr. play a man much like himself; a brilliant mind that was totally overpowered by drugs.
In the end, I give Guy Ritchie full credit for this daring reinvention of Sherlock Holmes. He found the humor in it, and that is what really makes it great. There's nothing wrong with a completely new adaptation of something as long as you don't claim you are trying to be true to the original, and that is exactly what Ritchie did.
And I rather enjoyed the ending. Too often these days movies are great for most of it, but the ending seems rushed and uncared for. The ending here was well thought out and pleasing. But it leaves you with a question - is it a nice wrap-up, or does it demand a sequel?
The answer, I think you'll find, is elementary.