The game is afoot. For a while longer, that is. Fans of Robert Downey Jr.’s rendition of Sherlock Holmes may need to step it up a bit if they wish to catch the 2009 hit film, Sherlock Holmes, as it will be leaving the super-streamer Netflix on May 1, 2021.
Sherlock Holmes sees stylish director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) bring Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) back to life after the characters’ nearly 20-year absence from feature films. The story tells of our favorite private detective, whose seemingly supernatural ability to solve cases now must deal with a case that seemingly has supernatural connections.
Holmes and Watson begin by preventing Lord Henry Blackwood (Mark Strong, who always plays a great villain) from one more ritualistic murder. He’s already killed five women in a similar fashion. With Blackwood caught, the murders should come to an end. But Blackwood, who claims to dabble in the black magic and have supernatural powers, requests to speak with Holmes before his hanging. He then warns Robert Downey Jr.’s character that there will be three more deaths that he cannot prevent. These deaths will cause great change across the globe. Blackwood is then hung for his crimes.
Irene Adler (played by Rachel McAdams), who bested Holmes on an occasion or two, then visits Holmes to ask for help in finding a missing man. A suspicious Holmes follows Adler after their meeting where he spies her meeting with her secret employer, a professor who scares Adler.
When Holmes and Watson finally track down the missing man, Blackwood’s coffin is opened. There was fear, based on his supernatural background, that Lord Henry arose from the dead. As his body has been replaced in his coffin, it seems those fears had merit.
Holmes, Watson, and Adler team up to get to the bottom of Blackwood’s apparent rise from the dead. The details of this are one of the reasons that make this Robert Downey Jr. movie a quite enjoyable film. When Holmes realizes that Blackwood, indeed, is alive and his plan is to control the British Empire and then retake the United States, the race is on to stop the madman.
Director Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr., and the rest of the cast wisely set up the sequel when we find out who has been pulling the strings all along and who exactly the mysterious professor is that had Adler do his bidding. Ritchie spent $90 million to see Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson deduce a new mystery. Ritchie brought his usual style to the film while the script touched on many aspects of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes that hadn’t been seen in prior movies. One of those facts was Holmes’s affinity for fighting and more action than earlier versions of the Holmes persona. It all worked as audiences took to Ritchie and Downey Jr.’s vision to the tune of nearly $525 million at the box office.
Critically speaking, though, the movie has two camps. In one camp we have those who say Ritchie’s directing style along with the script doesn’t do Sherlock Holmes justice. Too much “adventure” for an actual Holmes story. Then there are the other critics who praise both Robert Downey Jr. and Law’s performances as Holmes and Watson while also appreciating Ritchie’s take on the late 1800s Victorian London. Ritchie was looking to make a more “authentic” Holmes, as he explained via The Guardian. “We’re trying to be as authentic as we can to the original Sherlock Holmes. We’ve tried to include a bit more Conan Doyle in it.”
As for Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, he took home the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. His name is included on the list of many who have taken up Holmes’ violin and long-stemmed pipe. The list, which covers over 250 actors who took on the challenge of Holmes in various forms such as radio, television, and feature films, boasts names like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Christopher Plummer (in one of the best Holmes movies Murder By Decree), Michael Caine, Will Ferrell, and Henry Cavill. All, to include Downey Jr., pale in comparison to the legend that was Basil Rathbone, the actor synonymous with Sherlock Holmes. While very few actors portrayed Holmes even more than one time in their careers (Downey Jr. twice), Rathbone played the titular detective a record 14 times.
Of course, most probably know Robert Downey Jr. as the popular Marvel character, Tony Stark/Iron Man, as for the last dozen or so years, Downey Jr. has been synonymous with the character. But he has been in many other films throughout his career, some to much fanfare and critical reception.
Robert Downey Jr.’s list of memorable films includes Back to School, the vastly underrated Soapdish, Chaplin (for which he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Tropic Thunder, and The Judge. But his turn as both Tony Stark and Sherlock Holmes has been his calling card. In fact, with Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law returned in its sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and the two, along with Rachel McAdams, are set to appear in their third adventure in Sherlock Holmes 3. One can hope this film has a better showing at the box office than Downey Jr.’s last film, Dolittle.
Hurry while you can, Sherlock Holmes fans. Robert Downey Jr.’s film doesn’t have much time left on Netflix. It leaves the platform on May 1, 2021.