I must say I was very pleasantly surprised. Being a long time Sherlock Holmes fan (I inherited the collected works of Arthur Conan Doyle in English from by mother at the age of 12), as well as a fan of the TV-series adaption starring Jeremy Brett, I was skeptical to say the least, when it came to this. Even when I'd seen the trailer, it all looked too action packed and a little slapstick for me to enjoy it as a Sherlock Holmes story. Not to mention the seemingly supernatural element to the story (though I was pretty convinced - or at least hoped - everything would get a logical explanation in the end).
So, that was the first impression. Then, I started hearing a lot of good things about it, both from Holmes fans and from movie critics. Sure, some weren't that happy with RDJ's way of portraying Holmes, or didn't like the over all plot, but the majority of people I found reviews or comments from seemed positive.
Thus I went to the movies with my dear parents and sister, whom I'm currently visiting, and we had a great deal of fun! Yes, there was a lot of action. Yes, there was slapstick. Yes,RDJ certainly wasn't the classical portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. And I didn't mind at all.
Maybe I'm just less of a purist than most (and I'm not saying a purist is a bad thing to be when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, I just appear not to be one), but as a Sherlock Holmes fan I found this movie to be a highly entertaining experience and would love to watch it again many, many times.
Why is that? Several reasons! First and foremost: the way all characters were portrayed. IMHO, the casting was perfect, from Holmes to Lestrade to Lord Blackwood.
I thought I'd have more trouble accepting RDJ as Holmes. I think he's a great actor, but being the Brett fan that I am, I had trouble imaging accepting anyone else the role of Holmes. That said, I must admit, RDJ had me hooked from scene one. He is very different from Brett's version of Holmes (which I still adore endlessly, thank you very much), but I think that's why it worked for me. This wasn't someone-pretending-to-be-Brett-pretendin
This is highly likely a side effect of my love of Alternative Universe fanfiction. I have never really had trouble accepting alternative takes on characters I like, as long as the core of the character is recognizable. Sherlock Holmes isn't his hair, his clothes or his nose - he's a brilliant, eccentric consulting detective who loves mysteries and challenges and music and...
Well, you get the idea. Moving on!
Now, what really would make or break this movie for me, was Watson and his way of interacting with Holmes. I must admit to having been disappointed at several adaptions of Sherlock Holmes (I've seen many, so I'm a bit too lazy to list them all by scene and situation at half past late in the evening) wherein the friendship between Holmes and Watson has been...not down played precisely, but it did play second fiddle to the mysteries.
I do love the mysteries. And I admit, this movie wasn't the perfect Holmesian mystery, for which many fans probably will be disappointed. There is mystery, yes, but it does take a backseat to the character interactions.
This I had no problem with, at all, due to the earlier mentioned reason. I love all the characters of Holmes' world and seeing/reading them interacting is honey for my mind. There are tons and tons of wonderful, clever, complicated Holmes mysteries. Not to say that I would have minded if the movie's mystery had been more "Holmesian", not at all! But to me it was an acceptable price to pay for the wonderful interaction I got to witness.
First and most important to me: Holmes and Watson. I slash these two and have no trouble admitting it. I really prefer them as lovers and I am well aware of the possible denial this causes in me when it comes to any and all versions of Sherlock Holmes.
Slash aside, I really love these two both as friends and as lovers. I highly doubt they'll ever be shown as "more" than friends in anything but parody during my lifetime (sadly), aside from whatever subtext I might hallucinate, but the friendship is more than enough when done right. And boy did this movie do it right!
As this takes place when Watson is getting ready to propose to Mary and move away, I wasn't exactly harboring high hopes for the Holmes/Watson moments, even though I had understood from the trailer that Holmes was none too pleased with Watson leaving. Trailer-Watson just came off as a bit I-don't-need-you towards Holmes, which didn't really spell epic friendship to me.
This is where I need to remind myself, yet again, to never trust trailers. Holmes spent half the movie trying to convince Watson to break off the engagement or to at least keep working with him (basically, he did everything but throw himself at Watson's feet screaming "DON'T LEAVE ME!") This I sort of had expected, although it delighted me none the less. What pleasantly surprised me was Watson's actions. Yes he hit Holmes that one time, but keeping in mind what Holmes had implied about his future wife...
Punch aside, Watson seemed to genuinly care for Holmes. Sure, the man drow him insane at times, but they also seemed so at ease with each other. Most important of all: Watson really seemed to enjoy going off adventuring with Holmes or just talking with him. Yes, he wanted to start a life with Mary, but he didn't want to outright cut all his ties to Holmes or anything like that. He was just being Watson, doing what he thought proper and best for all involved.
And the bickering! Oh, the sweet, sweet old-married-couple-bickering. That these two guys were very old friends (or in my mind, lovers or at least wanting-to-be-lovers) there was no doubt.
Now, I must mention the thing I thought I'd have the biggest problem with in the movie and that was: Irene Adler.
Don't get me wrong now! I love her in the original stories. She is awesome. What I was worried about was this: that she'd be nothing but a love interest.
Thankfully she wasn't! Love interest yes, but she was also a central part of the plot and a kickass character! She knew her way around the underworld and could take care of herself, without becoming a Mary Sue or catching Damsel in Distress Syndrome halfway through the movie like so many awesome female characters tend to do. Yes, she got into trouble, but no more than any of the other characters and she wasn't the only one in the movie that needed rescuing at some point.
I've always had trouble getting favorite characters who are female. Much of this I think is due to a lot of girls and women in cartoons and such being "reduced to their gender" as I like to put it. There's seldom more than one girl - possibly one girl and one woman - in a show (there are of course exceptions, but I'm talking majority here) and her whole existence revolves around one thing: being a girl.
I'm not saying that boys don't get stereotypes as role models too. What I am saying is that they can pick characters to identify with from _several_ stereotypes of men. Girls tend to only get one, or they pick one of the male characters to idolize (which I mostly did).
The Smurfs are the always easy example of this phenomenon. We have tons of Smurfs, all with a fairly stereotypical personality based on skills or adjectives, more or less. We have the old wise smurf, the bookish smurf, the smurf who cooks, the smurf who's a prankster and the smurf who's...a girl.
Yeah, real big pet-peeve of mine. Girls can of course have male favorite characters - I have a ton - and the other way around. But I haven't heard that many boys say they have a childhood favorite female character, on which they haven't had a crush on.
This is why, when I ran across Irene Adler in my Holmesian readings, I was overjoyed! She three dimensional, clever, interesting and most important of all: she had a personality other than "woman".
Now, to be honest, she is a fairly minor character compared to Holmes and Watson, so she didn't become as huge a favorite as she could have been, had I been "exposed" to her more, but all in all she's an awesome character and I really like her.
And how, might you ask, do I - as a slasher - work this take on Adler's and Holmes' relationship into my version of the Holmesian universe? Easy! By thinking in the same terms that I have always thought of Holmes' opinion of her:
I really think Holmes admires Adler. Really! But I don't think he does so in a romantic way. Instead, I think she impressed him a lot and I do believe he would like to be close to her. The reasons I don't think he'd be romantically interested in her aren't solid to be honest, but they're what I think and I'm happy in my own little world.
The main reason, the one most important to me, is not that such a relationship would get in the way of Holmes/Watson. Honestly, no. The main reason is that back when I first read about Irene Adler and Holmes' reaction to her, I was so damn happy to finally have read about a guy who admired a woman not because she was pretty or because he had a crush on her, but because she was smart. It is a rare thing to find it would seem and I try to cherish such examples as much as I can.
Now, is Irene in love with Holmes? In this movie: yes. Definitely yes. And I think that only makes me like this more. I have nothing against her liking him and it worked well with the backstory that was hinted at all through the movie.
To me, Irene's love for Holmes is a bittersweet thing, that (in my head mind you) mirrors Holmes equally bittersweet love for Watson. And yes, I do love to ship Irene wit a lot of other people than Watson and Holmes, preferably other women. But that, I again admit, is mostly because I love all excuses I can get for Watson marriage being "false", my favorite being "two homosexual couples helping each other out through marriage"-scenarios. But that is just all my weird fanfiction and has nothing to do with canon really.
Oh, and speaking of marriage, lets not forget about Mary! She too was well portrayed in the movie, I find. She was the kind, gentle person I'd read about, but she wasn't a pushover or a doormat. When Holmes went too far she pushed back, but she did come to understand how much Watson truly meant to Holmes (and probably how much Holmes and his adventures meant to Watson - and I do mean this in a just-friendship-way) and was all around a very likable character!
Last but not least, the movie as a movie: It was beautiful, no doubt about that. The balance between action, character interaction and build-up worked well (though I shall never get used to the currently ever so popular zoom-in-on-faces-during-fights-so-no-one-h
All in all, a fun movie! I do get why some Holmes fans don't like it and don't think they're wrong in their opinions. This is, after all, about what you like to watch and read about, not life and death.
But I must say I'm very happy it was made in a way that I could like it. Selfish, but true.