I still have not seen the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes brought to us from the mind of Guy Ritchie but I did see its sequel, SH: A Game Of Shadows and thought it entertaining enough, especially the chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, the film’s best aspect. But now, after finally seeing the British television series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, I think the film a mere shadow of what it could have been. The British series, also aired in the states on PBS and available on Netflix, has more charm and just as good, if not better, acting than the film and more charisma, depth and interesting plot developments as well as the added excitement of being adapted for a modern-day London. I don’t mean to diss Ritchie’s efforts or the fantastic performances given by RDJ and Jude Law. I simply mean to say that Sherlock is infinitely superior.
Being a long-time fan of Martin Freeman, I first became interested in seeing this series after learning of his being cast as Dr. Watson. He and Cumberbatch have the most wonderful chemistry and each, singularly, plays their role with utter perfection. Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a genius but also somewhat arrogant, irritating to everyone but too valuable to be discarded. Cumberbatch captures all the idiosyncrasies of the highly functioning and brilliant sociopath so perfectly it’s hard to imagine him in any other role. And Freeman is my favorite part of the show, every bit as adorable as always, and an equal partner to Holmes, not quite as extraordinary in his powers of deductive reasoning but extremely intelligent and with far better developed social skills. Holmes may be the one to ask the “right” questions and solve the mystery, but it’s Watson who ultimately saves the day.
The predictable pitfalls of setting this story in modern day London- the hindrance of forensic technology gumming up the old-fashioned reasoning and investigatory skills needed to solve a mystery- are entirely avoided here. The new technologies and the problems that accompany them are seamlessly worked into the story right alongside all the old details, Holmes’ complete dedication to his work at the expense of personal relationships and/or friendships, the love/hate dynamic between Watson and Holmes, the strained relationship between Holmes and the local law enforcement, even Sherlock’s nicotine addiction, now satisfied by one (or more) nicotine patches rather than the old-fashioned tobacco pipe. Die-hard fans of the novels, fans of the countless film adaptations and newcomers to the antics of the eccentric detective all will love this series. In fact, I defy anyone, any living person, to watch this series and not enjoy it.