They've been making movies about Sherlock Holmes almost from the dawn of filmed entertainment. The first one appeared in 1905, and a slew of them appeared in both the silent era and the beginning of "talkies." But it was not until 1939, when Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce first appeared as Holmes and Dr. Watson that the character became the world's most fascinating detective. Between that year and the end of the '40s, Rathbone and Bruce appeared in some 16 Holmes movies while also starring in a popular weekly radio series that was also based on the Arthur Conan Doyle character. In the early '50s, they brought their characters to television, and they might have continued to play Holmes and Watson for another decade if Bruce hadn't died in 1953 at the age of 58. Others have played Holmes before and since -- most notably Jeremy Brett, Peter Cushing, John Barrymore, Peter Lawford, Michael Caine, Peter O'Toole, Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy, and a Muppet. But it was Rathbone who established the template -- or Conan Doyle, who might have been describing Rathbone when he originally depicted Holmes. And all his successors attempted to fit into it -- even the Muppet. Now, an all-new Sherlock Holmes has arrived in the person of Robert Downey Jr., and admirers and detractors all agree -- he's no Basil Rathbone. For older moviegoers, those earlier images of Holmes may stand in the way of enjoying the movie, several critics suggest. "The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked Sherlock Holmes , Roger Ebert writes in his Chicago Sun-Times review. "But block bookings are not likely from the Baker Street Irregulars," the society dedicated to all things Holmes. Ebert, however, may be surprised to discover that the society and its various offshoots have posted links to online sites selling tickets to the movie and that their reaction to it is, on the whole, positive. One member wrote, "The trailers had me all set to detest the movie but, and not at all grudgingly, I enjoyed it." (He added, however, that Downey "is simply miscast.") Several critics note that the ending sets up the promise of a sequel. It's unlikely, however, that Downey and Law will ever break Rathbone and Bruce's record for Holmes installments.

25/12/2009