Incidentally, I have also read all of the
Conan Doyle stories at least twice through, so I am pretty familiar with the
Holmes: Basil Rathbone. The classic
patrician with an impossibly quick intellect, moral core and Roman nose.
Watson: Nigel Bruce. Rather a buffoon,
charming at times but largely restricted to comic relief and standing
incredulous as SH explains the plot.
Moriarty: Various throughout the series,
personally I liked George Zucco (who turns up as other characters later in the
Setting: The first two films are set in
the traditionally fogbound Victorian England but, following the outbreak of
WW2, abruptly switch to the 1940s. This allows for the wonderful sight of SH vs
the Nazis and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, Nazis are good.
Verdict: The 14 movies vary a lot in
quality, but are almost always good fun, especially as they tend to clock in at
about 70 minutes. Even the flaws are endearing, such as shaky sets, Hollywood
cock-er-ney accents and simplistic plotting.
Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch. First seen
walloping a corpse with a stick, and getting increasingly eccentric and
seemingly heartless throughout until, eventually, some humanity peeps through.
Watson: Martin Freeman. I love the fact
that he can still be an Afghanistan veteran in the updated version. He is a
pretty smart cookie here, challenging SH when required but primarily required
to be half of a highly entertaining double act, in which the latent
homoeroticism is played for reliable laughs.
Moriarty: Andrew Scott, underplaying
furiously. I can see what they were going for, but perhaps the weak link of the
series for me.
Setting: Present day London with
computers, iPhones and all, although pleasingly cabs and trains remain the
transport methods of choice.
Verdict: The greatest asset of this
series is the whipsmart writing from Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. There are
numerous little gags for connoisseurs of the books, and so many examples of
clever twists on the original tales that I am left delighted. Also worth
mentioning is Gatiss’ splendidly creepy turn as Mycroft.
Holmes: Robert Downey Jr, being the usual
RDJ mixture of veryfasttalking, wild stares and looking smarter than everyone
else onscreen. This version also plays up SH’s physicality, including some
stylised slo-mo whup-ass.
Watson: Jude Law, seemingly limp but
morphing into action hero as necessary.
Moriarty: Unseen (I imagine he features
in the sequel), and so villainous duties are taken up by the always reliable
Mark Strong with a nifty vampiric tooth.
Setting: A heavily CGI’ed late Victorian
London, albeit one in which a trip from Baker Street to Pentonville requires
crossing the river.
Verdict: A decent enough entertainment
and I’ll get around to Game of Shadows on DVD I would think. Fine actors such
as Rachel McAdams and Eddie Marsan are lost in the frenetic mix, but I was glad
to see SH’s rationalist principles overcome apparent mystical hokum in true
Clearly the Downey Jr movies are the runt
of the litter, although I’ll get around to watching Game of Shadows at some
point I imagine.
As for the other two, it’s almost
impossible to call. In the end, though, it was the Rathbone series that begat
the Cumberbatches, so the winner is...