Few movies are as under-served by their marketing campaigns as Sherlock Holmes. Contrary to what the trailers would have you believe, this is actually a good movie; perhaps even a very good movie.
When contemplating a piece like Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes, one is drawn to compare it with the original and with other film adaptations. It is unavoidable, and so that is where we shall start.
The observation and deductive skills of Holmes remain intact. Few adaptations have ever conveyed the scope of his mind as faithfully. The movie's portrayal of Dr. Watson is likewise commendable. Rather than dismiss him as a bumbling fool, Jude Law's version is more akin to the original: he's present to keep Holmes alive rather than keep him amused.
As soon as the movie had established these constants, it was easy to form the expectation that this was intended as a recreation of the original; a translation similar to the Granada series.
Instead, the movie deviates in unexpected directions. And, for many fans of the character, their enjoyment or repulsion will come down to a simple question of whether they're able to come to terms with those deviations.
We can respect - even sympathize - with those who are simply unable to accept the changes. Indeed, we spent much of the movie wondering if these alterations were random. But then it all fell into place.
This is not merely an adaptation of Holmes, but rather an amalgamation of a half dozen genres inspired by the detective. This version of Sherlock Holmes is no gentleman, because he is no longer a detective in the tradition of Victorian England: his behavior - and relationship with the police - is rooted in the tradition of American noir. The setting, while somewhat historically grounded, is enhanced with steampunk sensibilities. The gadgets and plots of the villains, while stopping short of outright science fiction, are reminiscent of Bond. And this incarnation of Irene Adler owes less to Arthur Conan Doyle than to Catwoman.
It's easy to become disoriented watching such a film, but there's a method to this production. All of these elements, from steampunk to Chandler to Bond to Batman, owe a dept of inspiration to the detective of Baker Street. Guy Richie, it seems, is collecting the interest.
In a way, this is a movie about the history of the detective story, and as such, it's fairly brilliant. Though, in all honesty, the movie could have benefited from being a bit less subtle in its approach. There was an attempt to balance these elements against those of the original, and the mixture felt a touch off.
Still, this is a film that deserves to be seen. It's exciting and intriguing, featuring some exceptional performances and fascinating characters. On a scale between one and five stars, where five represents... let's go with Donner's Superman (it's an adaptation, after all)... then Sherlock Holmes is deserving of three and a half.