So it's been a few days, and I'm still trying to draw up a definitive conclusion on Sherlock Holmes. Up front, I'd say I really enjoyed it. Guy Ritchie's adaptation has been, for the longest, touted as being the "action side of Holmes" -- and while there are certainly more than a few fisticuffs, chases, and occasional big, explosive sequences to go around, the film as a whole is a far more cerebral outing than one may suspect. It's still very much rooted in the solving of the murder mystery, the crux of the storytelling propelled by the deductive reasoning and improvised know-how of the good detective. I had seen the term "fiercely intelligent" being used to describe the film. That may be a great way to put it.
The plot is ridiculously convoluted, almost to the point of being labyrinthine, but that's actually a good thing in this case. The movie lives for the details, the red herrings, the double twists. The pseudo-horror supernatural element brings to mind hints of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and keeps one guessing till the last explanation is rattled off. This layer of density, I think, will make for terrific repeat viewings. Downey's take on Holmes is pretty awesome, his oft slovenly showcase masking the character's true brilliance. There's a sequence early on in the film, shortly after we're introduced to Irene Adler, where this is firmly established. This is a man who's intellectual facilities are constantly firing on all cylinders, even when he's in an apparent drunken stupor. It's a ballsy approach, and it works. Likewise, Ritchie's direction keeps this badboy afloat. He definitely plays it fast and loose, and the overall pacing alludes to that. Modern camera shifts, quick-frame zooming and the occasional slow-mo effect are the norm, but it's an effective way to visually interpret Holmes' thought processes and steel trap mind.
It's fascinating to view period films from a production point of view, and most everything here is on point. The costumes, props and locations look reasonably authentic, and as this is London set forth during the industrial era, there's a realistic soot-filled, grimy, machinery-laden feel to the film's world. The presence of trip explosives, remote-controlled devices and homemade tasers are as groundbreaking to our characters as they are to the audience as used in the film. The only thing that breaks the cinematic illusion are some glaringly obvious use of CG for a select few sequences. Its infrequency in that regard, however, aren't enough to dock points.
And then there's Zimmer's and Lorne's music score, which manages to become obnoxiously addicting. They play an innovative hand here; aggressive orchestrations are joined by an experimentative set of instruments, including accordions, banjos, out-of-tune fiddles and violins, and, from what's being reported, a broken pub piano. It's off-kilt, quirky, plucky, and folksy all at the same time. (The CD release's track titles and ordering are completely screwy, though.)
Having said all that, I don't think the film holds a candle to many of the classic movies or television series that had come before it. Barry Levinson's Young Sherlock Holmes holds a special place in my heart, and many of the Jeremy Brett-related works are too heavily-ingrained to shrug off so easily. It's still a solid detective story, certainly an entertaining one, and a lot smarter than the pre-hype and trailers painted it out to be. It's just missing a lot of the endearment and rich character beats from previous works in the medium.