While Robert Downey Jr. may be better known for his take on the legendary Sherlock Holmes, the better version may be on the small screen in Benedict Cumberbatch’s in the BBC series Sherlock. And oddly enough it may be the more cinematic version of the legendary detective when all is said and done.
Sherlock imagines the detective in a modern day setting. A bit of a recluse who takes on cases he finds interesting, he’s joined by his roommate Watson (Martin Freeman). Watson is a returning veteran from Afghanistan who meets Sherlock through a mutual friend, eventually rooming together at 221B Baker St. owned by Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs). Watson tracks their various cases through his blog, of course, and Sherlock is the quirky (slightly Aspergerian, even) detective for whom he writes about their various cases. The series, broken up into three 90 minute episodes, follows modern retellings of famous tales from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle modernized.
The second season follows three in particular: “A Scandal in Bohemia” is turned into “A Scandal in Belgravia,” “The Hounds of Baskerville” came from “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Reichenbach Fall” was inspired by “The Final Problem.” The series is remarkably faithful to the Doyle series, as well, as all of the little details from the book series the television series gets correct. If you’re a fan of the book series the attention to detail is refreshing for a change.
What is fascinating about the series is that this isn’t broken up into various episodes. Its three long form episodes that are entirely self-contained; you don’t need to watch any of the other episodes from this season or last to be able to watch an episode of this season and be able to follow along. While one imagines it’s easier to shoot that way, as both Freeman and Cumberbatch are regular working actors in film and television, it also makes the episodes that much more engaging. There’s a creative freedom to it, one imagines, in that you’re creating essentially a miniature film each time as opposed to a television episode.
What carries the series, though, is the chemistry between Cumberbatch and Freeman. Both of Guy Ritchie’s films have had strong chemistry, enough to overcome pedestrian plots, and Sherlock is what that particular film series would be like if the writing was stronger. While Cumberbatch and Freeman have just as good chemistry as Downey and Jude Law, of course, we have significantly more time with them as well. They latter may be the higher profile because of both films but one only imagines what these two could do with the sort of budget that Ritchie has for that franchise.
If you want an easy to digest action film, rent Sherlock Holmes and enjoy. If you want a great thriller that’s more Doyle than any adaptation of the detective in modern times, watch Sherlock instead.
There is Commentary on each episode as well as a generic Making Of piece as well.
Sherlock may fly under the radar as a BBC import but it’s well worth the viewing.
BBC presents Sherlock (Season 2). Starring Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Una Stubbs. Running time: 266 minutes. Not Rated. Released: May 22, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Robert Downey Jr, Sherlock Holmes