It's always tough to take on an iconic character. You'll want to put your own spin on it, make it your own, but still be faithful to what made the character popular to begin with. The essence. The thing about the character of Sherlock Holmes is that his essence is deductive reasoning and intellect. Subtle details making or breaking a case. How do you maintain that while also entertaining the masses? This is a question director Guy Ritchie has yet to answer.
Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" is a loud, quickly edited gray-tinged mess. Some scenes move too fast to get what's happening while others, the overly expository fight scenes as an example, are as plodding as they are repetitive. Literally, they play twice. The back and forth non-linear storytelling wouldn't even be so jarring if it was at least consistent. But no, through much of the movie you move along through normal time and then, BAM! time travel. Some of the film happens in the past, then the present, even sometimes the future before slamming into another time.
Speaking of inconsistent, the main characters of Holmes and Watson- played admirably I must say by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law who tried so hard- are one second best friends, then colleagues, then drowning in homoerotic subtext. As characters, Holmes is the lovable scoundrel equally intelligent and rakish, if seemingly wandering and annoying. Watson on the other hand is calm, controlled and always analytical. Then there's the woefully miscast Rachel McAdams who fumbles through her femme fatale role almost as much as she fumbles through her period wardrobe.
The plot is so convoluted as to require a truly comic booky explanation scene to tell the audience what the heck has been happening for the past 100+ minutes. Is it clear and internally consistent? I suppose so, but they could've told me that alien seahorses had built Big Ben and I would've gladly agreed. So much of this movie was long stretches of quasi-cerebral nattering on punctuated by awkward fight scenes/ridiculously forced action or seemingly inconsequential close-ups of, say, soot.
Ritchie, or rather his production designer did however excel at creating a stylized industrial revolution London. Part "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", part fantastic CG the visuals are great. I would suspect that the lack of attention to…every other aspect of the film was refocused into production design. At least they put the money into something that turned out well. D+