SDCC: Sherlock footage reveals a different detective

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Even before Megan Fox finished taking photos at the end of Warner Brothers' presentation for Jonah Hex, Robert Downey Jr. bounded out onstage past the starlet to the surprise and, eventually, excited applause of the crowd in Hall H to begin the panel for Sherlock Holmes. Downey, whose turn in last year's Iron Man made him the darling of genre fans everywhere, bowed to the packed hall before screening a clip from the film, which is due out later this year.

The clip was essentially an extended trailer for the film: The footage introduces Downey as the title character, Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, Holmes' female foil and sometime lover, Jude Law as Watson and Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood. In one sequence, Holmes squares off in a ring against a much larger man; before they battle, he imagines (in slow motion) what he should do to maximize both the physical and emotional damage he can inflict, then does it in real time. Later, Holmes is bested by McAdams' character, who seduces him and then leaves him chained to a bed for a chambermaid to discover.

Otherwise the footage features a lot of big action, including a fight scene atop a drawbridge and a showdown by the docks, where Holmes uses the 19th-century equivalent of a tackhammer to take down a guy with one that looks like a carnival mallet. Director Guy Ritchie is a filmmaker whose glib style isn't always well suited to substantive character development or evocative storytelling, but he seems to have found material that will really take advantage of his muscular directing.

Ritchie unfortunately wasn't in attendance to help promote the film, but in his place, Downey, producers Susan Downey (Robert's wife) and Joel Silver and co-star McAdams took the stage to talk about the character. Susan Downey suggested that Sherlock Holmes "applies as much today as he did" in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, while Silver gushed about Robert Downey Jr.'s interpretation of him, saying "Downey really is genius in this role. He made it come to life."

Meanwhile, McAdams pointed out that she had a lot of freedom to develop her character, unencumbered by the legacy and mythology of the Holmes novels, primarily since Irene appears in only one of the books, for about 10 pages. But she also said that the character was uncharacteristic for Holmes' era, explaining that "she kind of lives in the underworld. [Holmes and I] develop this kind of strange, unique love affair."

As the panel drew to a close, Susan Downey revealed that although Mrs. Hudson makes an appearance in the film, none of the other Baker Street characters from the Holmes novels found their way into the film. Regardless, Susan Downey insisted that the film has "a narrative unique to the movie," which, if the footage is any indication, will almost certainly prove to be true. Sherlock Holmes opens at Christmas.