I am a big fan of Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes films. That may be because I think RDJ is my favorite actor working today. However, the best version of the famous detective is definitely the BBC series Sherlock. It is possible to be a fan of both the way I am because they do possess significant differences. And not the fact that the films are set during the 19th Century and tv show is set during modern day.
For example’s sake, here is Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock. And here is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Robert Downey Jr. nails the manic and playfulness of Sherlock Holmes. While Cumberbatch, an actor who will be a household name after next year’s Star Trek 12, nails Sherlock Holmes’s cold stoic BRILLIANCE. Both work tremendously. Downey Jr. gives Sherlock a bit of a giddiness at his own intellect when explaining clues. Cumberbatch treats it more like an uncontrollable condition. His delivery feeling similar to someone fed up answering a nagging five year old who constantly keeps asking “why?”.
Both Jude Law and Martin Freeman are equally great as Watson. Law, mostly for theatrical sake, plays Watson a bit more over the top while Freeman keeps Watson’s frustrations with Sherlock more internal. Though, we do see Freeman’s Watson at the beginning of his relationship with Sherlock while Law’s Watson is well used to him by now.
All that said, the most important thing in creating a great incarnation of Sherlock Holmes is getting the chemistry right. And Sherlock does this as well if not better than the films. While the films give you more style, the tv show gives you more substance. Its mystery first and set pieces second. Thats what puts this ahead.
The series does cheat its substantiveness a bit by having each season broken down into three 90 minute episodes. They play like mini movies and are each enjoyably different while still connected through a ongoing plot thread. Don’t be alarmed by the modern day setting either. Sherlock fits into our world smoothly and creates interesting situations that 19th Century Sherlock couldn’t do. Like interrupting a police press conference by texting all the reporters simultaneously the truth the police chief is leaving out.
That leads me to mention a storytelling device the editors use on the show. To illustrate how Sherlock’s mind works, the show uses in scene captions to draw the audience to his conclusions instead of having him always explaining everything. This is very well done, as apposed to how Tony Scott overuses it in some of his films…Domino comes to mind.
An American version of this modern day Sherlock Holmes is in the works now. However, I am sure it won’t have the same quality acting, writing, directing, and teeth this show has. You watch one episode and it’ll hook you. Go ahead…watch one…I’ll wait…….still waiting……..see? Tell me I’m wrong.