After we saw the shiny new footage of fisticuffs and down-and-dirty ratiocination from Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes film, we thought we glimpsed some steampunk elements. So we asked Downey and producer Joel Silver about this... and they said no.
To an extent. I wouldn't go that far. It's not Wild Wild West, where there's lots of [crazy gadgets]. It really is 1891, but it is as if we shot it then. There's no real artifice, it feels like it's shot in 1891, but with incredible camera work and dollies. And yes, there is a part of the industrial revolution that's happening then, but it's not so much what's going on. The details aren't that deliberate.
Sherlock does know more than anybody else. Officially, he's the only character admitted to the Institute Of Chemistry, or what's the story like that? He actually was thought of as an actual chemist in the way Doyle wrote about him. Holmes knows everything. There's a great line where someone says to him, "How did you see that?" and he says, "Because I was looking for it." They had the worn books in their hands, and they were trying to go back to the books and take lines... like Sherlock would say, "I can't make bricks without clay." Those are Conan Doyle's lines. It really feels like the way it should be.
And screenwriter Lionel Wigram adds that they tried to keep the gadgets in the film authentic and true to what had been invented at the time. If anything, this is a more realistic depiction of the grit and unwashedness of Victorian London than we've seen in previous incarnations of the great detective.