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The Contender
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Robert downey Jrs incarnation of Sherlock Holmes is the best incarnation of Sherlock Holmes yet

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/7/2014 Category: Movies
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 982 times Debate No: 45373
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




I will let my opponent make that first aurgument.


Sherlock Holes is - I think we can agree on that - by far one of the most famous characters in the history of literature. As a fictional person he was portrayed in literature by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle so vividly that many people in his day actually considered Sherlock Holmes to be a real person, reportedly mourning his death in the streets of London. To this very day, Holmes is far more than "just" a literary figure. In 2002, he received an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Mr. Holmes has been portrayed by dozens of actors. My opponent claims Mr. Robert Downey Jr. to have best brought the remarkable properties of Sherlock Holes to life on the silver screen. In order to judge that, we need to establish what qualifies as a "good" incarnation.
One might argue that a "good" incarnation is a literal adaptation, most truthful to the source material in appearance and behaviour, as well as in story. In that respect, the new interpretation portrayed by Mr. Downey utterly fails.
Starting with his appearance, Robert Downey is far too short, as Holmes is described as being over six feet tall and appearing even taller.
As for his lifestyle, Downey passes as the "bohemian", careless side of Holmes, but completely lacks the "cat-like love of personal cleanliness" referenced in "The Hound Of The Baskervilles", arguably the most famous of Holmes' adventures.
Holmes in the source material is a sort of social chameleon, completely blending into any situation. Robert Downey Junior mostly overacts and turns every scene into a sideshow, attracting attention whenever possible.
Holmes talent at disguise and acting are famed, his roles executed to such perfection that he repeatedly fools even his close fried Dr. Watson. "Game Of Shadows" reduced this refined talent to a drag act.
Speaking of Dr. Watson: The friendship between Holmes and Watson is a crucial part of the workings of any of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It is a somewhat one-sided friendship on an intellectual level, as Holmes counts on Watson's false assumptions for his deductive elimination process, but as far as loyalty and caring go, these men are true friends, without ever having any major falling-outs. Their friendship easily conquers Holmes' drug addiction and his sometimes rude behaviour - as is the case in "The Valley Of Fear", where Holmes "sardonically" interrupts Watson's attempt at a friendly conversation. The relationship Downey's Holmes has with Law's Watson is that of an old married couple, filled with constant belittling and bickering.
So, as far as faithfulness goes, Downey's portrayal is lacking greatly, especially in the crucial parts.

However, one could argue that a "good" incarnation captures the spirit of the source material rather than just being a sum of details derived from there. And there seem to be a lot of details derived from the books and stories, like Holmes demonstrating his skill of deduction on a watch. While this actually happened in "The Sign Of The Four", the scene as Downey presents it is a parody of the original, as this time the deduction does not lead to the tragic demise of Watson's brother as a result of alcoholism, but rather to a red-headed midget. Elements like these occur more than once in the film, lacking any and all respect for the source material, poking fun at Sherlock Holmes as a person and a detective: even the secrets he gets to reveal are laughable circus acts in the end. Just as his final revelation of the villains secrets comes down to a list of magic tricks, as if the great Sherlock Homes were no better than the "Masked Magician" unveiling illusionists' deceptions.
Where the original was allowed to solve rather realistic crimes, Downey's Holmes faces only over-the-top situations and conquers them in an over dramatic way.

A third approach would be to consider the incarnation "good" by entertainment value. This cannot succeed, however, as entertainment cannot be measured. A possible measure of entertainment value could be seen in the amount of awards won. Downey did win a Golden Globe for his portrayal as best actor of the year. However, this does not enable any comparison to other portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, as there were no other actors nominated for that role. The film won several minor awards, yet "The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution" won two Academy Awards, just to randomly pick one example. So this route will take us nowhere.

Yet another approach would be financial success, as surely to some extent it must be taken into consideration how enjoyable the wider audiences considered the film. Both "Sherlock Holmes"-films starring Downey were remarkable financial successes. We must, however, take into consideration that owing his "Iron Man", Mr. Downey is a star in high demand and high public esteem. So his name alone will surely have attracted some of that audience. If we have a look at the numbers given at, we see this:
Sherlock Holmes - $209,028,679
Game Of Shadows - $186,848,418
In the United States, the portrayal of Holmes failed to attract the same numbers the second time around. While there was a worldwide increase in revenue due to a wider release, including countries like Romania, Estonia etc., one of the most important markets showed a drop of more than 10%.
The only thing we can learn from this is that financial success is correlated to a wider release, which might also account for the general success of the movies.

As a last approach, we could consider how much the actor is associated with the same qualities as the part, by a "Stanislawski Method"-angle (for those not in the know: the term "method-acting" stems from this very method, which requires the actor to "become" the character, even off-screen). Yes, Robert Downey Jr. has had drug problems in his past. This fact has already enabled him to portray Tony Stark in "Iron Man" convincingly. But he is neither renowned for his brilliant mind nor his attitude, nor even for impersonations of historic personalities - as in biopics, for example. He's not even British, while Holmes has to some extent become the embodiment of British lifestyle worldwide. He's a citizen of the United States, so even his accent is fake.

So, is Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes the "best incarnation"? No, I claim it is not even a good one. It is a good parody at best, but could even be considered a mockery of the original, because a parody would not ever take itself seriously and try to portray Holmes as a hero yet. There have been other comical attempts at portraying Holmes in a parodist way, like the Oscar-awarded "The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution".

There is no conclusive evidence to the contrary. The only way to argue in favour of Mr. Downey's portrayal as the best incarnation of Sherlock Holmes would have to be built on personal preference - which is fine by me, but should then not be generalized.
Debate Round No. 1


RDJ being shorter than Holmes in real life. Has nothing to do with what him being a good or bad incarnation of Holmes Tom Cruise is only 5 feet 7 inches yet they make him appear much taller on Mission Impossible Oblivion Jack Reacher ect.
As for Holmes methods Sherlock Holmes in the Blue Carbuncle figured out who owned a random Hat and is SH and game of shadows he. Good bey I'm sighing off for Goos


I just realized that in spite of the utmost care I have left several typing errors in my previous argument. I'll be trying to do better this time around.
As for my opponent:
I'm not quite sure I understand everything you typed, brief as it was, but I'll do my best to reply properly.

You claim Robert Downey Jr.'s height doesn't matter. Yet you agree that height generally matters in movie adaptations like "Jack Reacher" and is addressed by giving actors the illusion of height. Hence, size does matter after all. And while you are right that this could have been resolved in the way you described for Tom Cruise, the filmmakers chose not to give Downey's Holmes this treatment.
Judging from the title motive (see here: ) one might be led to believe the topic had been addressed, but in the actual film, no measures whatsoever where taken to make Mr. Downey appear the proper height:
So while it would have been possible to give Mr. Downey the proper height and the filmmakers were aware of the problem, as evidenced by the title motive in which Mr. Downey was enlarged by Photoshop or comparable software, they chose not to do so in the film, making your argument invalid.

As for your assumption that the height of the actor doesn't have anything "to do with what him being a good or bad incarnation of Holmes": would you care to explain? I think differently, and I took my time to argue that from a certain angle - that of faithfulness to the source material - size does indeed matter. Just stating that you disagree is not leading a debate, for which you explicitly asked.

It is true that in "The Blue Carbuncle" Holmes did use his deductive methods to identify the owner of a hat. However, that hat is not "random", it is the first crucial clue that leads Holmes on the track of the criminals. There is nothing ridiculous about his findings, he just comes up with a very detailed description of appearance and personality of a man.

I cannot follow your next sentences. I'm sorry you are "sighing" but I have no idea who "Goos" is.
I believe what you wanted to tell me was "Good bye, I'm signing off for good." This would then mean I won this debate already?
What a pity. Have a nice time, take care and goodbye.
Debate Round No. 2


octo forfeited this round.


What a pity. My first debate here, and already I meet someone who's not interested in going through with it.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by The_Scapegoat_bleats 3 years ago
I honor your opinion but I disagree. The best incarnation of Sherlock Holmes was portrayed by Ian Richardson in my opinion, for two televised movies. While alittle too old for the part at the time, he gave a performance that dwarfed even the famed Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone. But I wish you a lot of fun with the new show!
Posted by kbub 3 years ago
The bbc show "Sherlock" is the best incarnation in my opinion.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Krazzy_Player 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Not much arguments presented by Pro and finally forfeited the last round.