Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective, Sherlock Holmes, is one of English literature's most recognizable and enduring characters. As such, he has made more than 200 movies appearances since the inception of cinema. The master snoop had been portrayed by such luminaries as Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Christopher Plummer, Patrick Macnee, Jonathan Pryce, Christopher Lee and Charlton Heston. When Madonna's former husband, British director Guy Ritchie, announced his plans to create a new version of Sherlock Holmes for the big screen, his choice for the part seemed rather curious to a lot of people. The filmmaker went with American actor Robert Downey jr. in the eponym's role. The oft-troubled performer from "the other side of the pond," although talented, was a much-criticized selection due to the fact that he was battling drug addiction and legal problems for the better part of the 1990s and, more importantly, because he is no Englishman.
Would he be capable of a convincing performance worthy of the legendary mantle?
The first thing that strikes the senses in the new "Sherlock Holmes" picture is atmosphere. Conan Doyle's Victorian London is eternally dark, foggy and rainy, and Ritchie perfectly translates this tone into his film. The metropolis looks and feels just as gloomy as described in the stories. For that reason, the Academy-Award nomination for Best Achievement in Art Direction came as no surprise. Although James Cameron's "Avatar" eventually emerged as the winner in that particular category, the sets and decorations in "Sherlock Holmes" are impressive and serve the film well. Aesthetically the film is a success, but what of the narrative and performances?
The Holmes of the 21st century is pitted against a villain called Lord Blackwood, a character who never appeared in any of the original stories by Conan Doyle. He was especially created for...