The lovely and talented folks at Sherlock’s Home wanted my Holmes v. Holmes article to focus on Cumberbatch vs. Miller, but I did have a section on Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in my original draft. So. Here it is. And, for the record: I like them all.
Honorable Mention: Robert Downey Jr.
I…think I’ve seen both movies. I’m pretty sure I have, because as a stage combat artist and stunt coordinator, I remember looking at the way they did the fight scenes in particular. The movies themselves, however, are so forgettable, I have actually Netflixed them both twice and still don’t remember much about plot. (Please don’t explain the plots to me in the comments; you know what I mean…)
What I will say that Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock brings to the mix is an explosive energy– a Trickster-like danger (think Willy Wonka, or Han Solo in ep. 4) that makes a character wonder if they’re at all safe following this madman around, but also wouldn’t miss the journey for the world. The fact that this Sherlock lives in Victorian London (albeit a rather advanced, steampunky version) makes his turpentine-guzzling, bare-knuckle boxing antics that much wilder. Jude Law’s Watson is as though he stepped out of Doyle: a good solid Victorian gentleman, who is still up for any insane shenanigans Holmes may put him through next. And though he’s there by his side, he will still attempt a modicum of sanity, or at least of legality, as he tries to lead a “normal” life while in the company of this eccentric.
Downey Jr. has a solid English accent, even if his wildness is a bit too modern American superhero for his role, but the action-hero-ness of this portrayal is something that most contemporary Sherlock adapters forget to add: they all are focused on Sherlock’s remarkable powers of the mind, and forget that a mere year before the second novel, Holmes beat a professional prize-fighter in three rounds of bare-knuckle boxing at Alison’s rooms, that he has a sword in his cane, and is an expert single-stick player (actually Miller’s Sherlock had a couple moments mentioning the single stick in particular, but still not an emphasis). Sherlock Holmes is in fact a badass, and Downey Jr.’s Holmes is a reminder of that.
Now ask me what I think of each series’ Irene Adler, or Moriarty. And don’t get me started on the Grenada series (or heck, why not? Do).