Though I have never read the books (a fault I intend on rectifying in the very near future), I’m still a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and lore. Now that the vampire fad has finally faded, the new media mania seems to be focused on more cerebral entertainment (and about bloody time, too!) There are currently three incarnations of Sherlock Holmes appearing in living rooms which, of course, raises the debate between the purists and the enthusiasts as to which Holmes is better. I’d definitely fall into the latter.
Those that are in the dark, the three incarnations are the BBC mini-series called Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, the CBS show called Elementary starring Johnny Lee Miller as Holmes, and, of course, the movies starring Robert Downey Jr (RDJ). Cumberbatch and Miller portray Holmes in a modern setting, while the movies are more focused on the period in which the books were written.
So which Sherlock is better? It depends on who you ask.
The purists will say, and I definitely respect their point of view, that Cumberbatch is the quintessential Sherlock Holmes even in the context of the modern setting. I would have to say that I agree with them. He does encompass all the characteristics as defined by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and I do enjoy Martin Freeman as John Watson almost as much as I enjoy Jude Law’s portrayal. CBS definitely took a few liberties with their interpretation; such as moving the location from London to New York City and John Watson is actually Joan Watson played by Lucy Liu. I think Miller (and RDJ) still capture the aloof, sardonic, and brilliant behavior of Sherlock Holmes very well!
If you ask me, you can’t really compare the three of them. I think all three are brilliant in their own contexts. Personally I feel that even the liberties CBS took with Elementary are easily surpassed by the excellent writing and acting. I was skeptical of a female Dr. Watson and the casting of Lucy Liu, but after a full season I think she pulled it off extremely well. I’m really looking forward to the next season (and the same can be said for the BBC version).
I really like all three of them equally and separately. I have friends that prefer the BBC version and I think their reasons are perfectly valid but to each their own.
(P.S. There are talks emerging of a third Sherlock Holmes film)