Last night I went to see this new film with a small group of friends and family. There have been many negative comments from purists, but everyone in the party I was with thoroughly enjoyed it. Though, I have not read much Sir Arthur Conan Doyle my older brother who was with us has read them all and I have seen some of the classic films. Neither of us had any qualms.
One element they greatly improved on from the original adaptations was the character of Watson. In the early films he was a bit bumbling, just really a sounding board for Holmes that wasn't very interesting or competant. This film, partly thanks to the handsome and charismatic Jude Law, made him far more compelling. The bromance between Holmes and Watson and the way they compliment each others' skills came to the forefront in this adaptation. They also cut out the need for heavy, extended monolgues from Holmes by giving the viewer insights into his thought process and planning. I thought it was a clever device.
The brilliant Holmes is shown to have cracks in his usually poised, dignified, almost asexual persona that Basil Rathbone helped create. He drinks to much (in the novels he actually had a cocaine habit- a legal substance in Victorian England), participates in underground boxing, and has a weakness for the beautiful Irene Adler, an underdeveloped character played by Rachel McAdams who is fairly believable as the 'only woman to outsmart Holmes' in spite of the limited material she is given to work with. She is under the control of a Professor Moriarty, Holmes' dramatic foil and archemeny in the classic stories, sure to play a major role in any forthcoming sequels, though only briefly seen in this film.
It does depart from Doyle's cannon and has some anachronisms, but it may be just the thing to breathe life into the old stories for a new generation of readers and watchers. The piece has energy, wit, and intrigue. Most of all it sticks to Doyle's classic themes of science and reason overcoming superstition and fear. The soundtrack is also fantastic, playing with strings (echoing Holmes' favorite instrument perhaps?) and Celtic sounds, never overly intrusive.
I'd give it an A- (sorry purists).