This will probably come as a huge shock to some of you, but I didn't hate the Ritchie film. I actually liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Now, I should probably point out that I still can't buy Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. Well, not in terms of regular canon, anyway. However, I can buy him as an alternate universe Sherlock Holmes. In fact, when I viewed the whole film as a kind of alternate universe, I found I could accept it a lot more easily.
I won't bother addressing the plot as that's pretty much non-existent. As jackycomelately argues, the film is about Holmes's attempt to stop Watson's marriage and, after seeing the film, I agree. As The Sign of Four is my favourite Holmes novel, it was great to see Mary Morstan. Of course, I had to wrap my head around the fact that Mary Morstan was never Holmes's client and that Holmes's first meeting with her wasn't until that disastrous meal in the restaurant. It was around this point that I started thinking of the film as being AU. All the same, it was fun to watch Mary Morstan throw wine in Holmes's face and see through his disguise at the hospital. I was reminded a bit of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Silk Stocking, as this film also dealt with Holmes having to accept Watson's upcoming matrimony (to a different woman than Mary Morstan).
While the similarity between the Ritchie film and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Silk Stocking is probably coincidental, the screenwriters have obviously seen The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone as that scene where Holmes is trying to get rid of flies with his violin comes straight from that movie. I would also argue that the writers were influenced by Young Sherlock Holmes with the Ritchie film's religious cult and sacrifice of young women. Speaking of the religious cult, I'm assuming that it's supposed to represent Freemasonry. The Freemasons got a bad rap in Murder by Decree and a recent episode of Murdoch Mysteries, which isn't Sherlock Holmes but is set in the Victorian period.
While I couldn't buy Robert Downey Jr. in terms of regular Holmes canon, I did like the touches of canon that were included. It was great to see Holmes delivering so many classic lines straight from canon. He also had some of Holmes's characteristics and little idiosyncrasies. I got a kick out of seeing him shoot V.R. into the wall of the flat. I also thought it was hilarious that he and Watson had a bulldog named Gladstone, as Watson refers to having a bull pup in A Study in Scarlet when he and Holmes first discuss sharing rooms together. However, the bull pup is never referred to again, so I had always assumed that Holmes convinced Watson to get rid of it. Looking at the Ritchie film as an AU, I have to wonder if Gladstone is that same bull pup. As Watson is much more assertive in this film (going so far as to punch Holmes in the cab when Holmes delivers that classic "You have the grand gift of silence" line), I could easily see him refusing to get rid of the bull pup.
I quite like Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. My friend E felt that there was too large an age gap between her and Holmes (an age gap that's only four years in canon), but maybe Irene Adler lied about her age (saying she was older to be taken more seriously) much in the same way Holmes pretended to be older in the Laurie R. King universe. Well, age difference aside, I agree with jackycomelately about Rachel McAdams' screen presence and ability to carry off the role. I found it really interesting that Irene Adler was working for Moriarty. It reminded me of David Stuart Davies' The Veiled Detective, where virtually everyone in Holmes's life is working for Moriarty.
Of course, the thing that everyone raves about when discussing this film is the relationship between Holmes and Watson. There is definitely slash appeal, and Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have some serious screen chemistry. They seem to work almost seamlessly together and they were a lot of fun to watch on screen. I'd say the Holmes-Watson relationship is one of the strengths of the Ritchie film. I was also very impressed with the art direction and special effects. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the film recreated Victorian London. I thought it was a nice touch that Tower Bridge was shown as only being partially built -- and it made a great setting for the final showdown between Holmes and Blackwood.
Well, I could probably say more, but it's getting late and I think I've rambled on enough. To sum up for anyone who skimmed through this post quickly, the Ritchie film was better than I expected and I think it works well as an alternate universe version of Sherlock Holmes.