Over the last few days I have watched three very different productions of Sherlock Holmes; an episode of the 1980s Granada television series starring Jeremy Brett, the modern day BBC production starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr's return to the role in the movie Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. All of these are excellent in their own way, but are very, very different from each other.
Of the three, the Jeremy Brett version is the closest to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle conception of the consulting detective. Granada Television set out to make a series that was faithful to the source material, and many consider Brett to be the definitive Holmes of his generation. The series captured very well Holmes' brilliant intellect and mercurial nature.
The BBC production is very different; updated and set in the modern era, it has a very different vibe to it, but it still captures Holmes' lightning quick mind and ascorbic personality. Brilliantly played by Cumberbatch, you can almost see the wheels clicking round in his mind as he works through the mystery. More so than the Brett production it places a strong emphasis on the relationship between Holmes and Watson, played by the always excellent Martin Freeman.
And so to the Robert Downey Jr version. To say this is a Sherlock Holmes story is, in my opinion, pushing the limit. I believe Conan Doyle would find little of his creation in this movie. Downey Jr's detective seems to rely more on landing a fast punch than using his intellect to solve the case. Having said that, it is still a very fun movie to watch, just not Sherlock Holmes as I know him.
One thing that these productions all have in common is that the title character is played by a talented actor. That does add a great deal of depth to the productions.