Free-For-All Friday: Sherlock Holmes is Still King
First off: I beg your forgiveness for neglecting to post not once, but twice this week. I have very little excuse. Mainly, my brain just sort of shut off over the weekend, and my mood took a dive off a cliff for a couple days. All I did on Monday and Tuesday was stare mindlessly at the television. I think my brain was protesting the impending Spring semester, which starts next week. On Wednesday, I was actually out with my brother all day. A sort of last hurrah before the semester. We had a full day: breakfast at IHOP, shopping at Half-Price Books, a comic book store, a vinyl records store (where I spent $75… yeah…), lunch at a sushi place, wandering around an art supply store, and a matinee viewing of the Sherlock Holmes movie (yes, again)
By way of apology, I posted something yesterday, so if you missed that, check it out: “My Year For Reading Challenges.” And now, here is that review of the new Sherlock Holmes movie I’ve been promising for more than a week (sorry it took so long).
Review of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
I think most people are aware that I love Sherlock Holmes. I think I was maybe 8 or 9 yrs old when I first started watching the Granada tv show of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with my mother. A few years later I read the books for the first time. In other words, you can probably guess how much I love the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes that came out in 2009, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.
Some “purists” didn’t like the movie and accused Guy Ritchie of messing with the true spirit of Sherlock Holmes. I’m never sure if they think Holmes is supposed to be more dignified or stiff or not as gritty or not as much of a fighter or what… But I completely disagree, and would argue that Ritchie’s version actually gets closer to the real vitality and grittiness of Sherlock Holmes than most of the older tv shows and movies ever did (he was, after all, a drug addict and alcoholic, a boxer, and PLENTY gritty). The only real complaints one can make about the Ritchie versions are 1: like everyone else he cast someone who is actually too old to be Sherlock Holmes (Holmes was in his late 20’s/early 30’s in the books, but they ALWAYS cast someone in their 40’s or even 50’s) – that does not, however, take away from the brilliance of RDJ as Holmes. And 2: they made Holmes’ relationship with Irene Adler a bit MORE (more substantial, more romantic, more everything) than it ever was in the books (she only ever shows up in the books TWICE). But either of these small complaints do nothing to mar the awesomeness of the first movie.
Now, we get to the second movie.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (I’ve heard some people complain about the title, claiming its too cheesy or melodramatic or something, and to them I have to ask: have you ever actually READ the books?! May I point out: A Study in Scarlet. The Valley of Fear. “The Crooked Man.” “The Final Problem”!!!) Ahem… where was I…?
Oh yes, so, A Game of Shadows opens some time after the first movie (its not clear how many months). There have been a series of bombings in France and Germany attributed to Nationalists and Anarchists, but Holmes suspects his now-arch-enemy (the shadowy figure behind the scenes of the first movie), Professor James Moriarty – a man who equals Holmes in his brilliance but the complete opposite in morality. Holmes’ suspicions are confirmed when he catches Irene Adler, who works for Moriarty, delivering a bomb meant to kill a doctor.
Thus kicks off Sherlock Holmes biggest adventure yet. Holmes must save Watson and Watson’s brand new wife, Mary, when they are attacked by Moriarty’s men while on a train headed for their honeymoon. Moriarty has targeted Watson and his wife as a retaliation against Holmes’ continued interference. Holmes secures Watson’s agreement to help stop Moriarty after throwing Mary from the train while on a bridge over water (this scene is hilarious, folks!). Then the two must travel to Paris to find the gypsy woman Simza (played by Noomi Rapace of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame), whose brother may hold the key to Moriarty’s plans. All while dodging Moriarty’s sharp-shooter assistant, and more bombs. And that’s all just the start.
Let me tell you, folks, the pace of this movie is intense. There is a short lull during Watson’s wedding and right before all hell brooks loose on the train, and then the movie barely pauses to catch its own breath, let alone let you catch yours. The action sequences are fast and well-planned and choreographed. They benefit from Guy Ritchie’s unique style of shooting at strange camera angles, panning in and out, and punctuating the fast rhythm with freeze-frames and slow motion that would be out of place anywhere else but which are essential here to keep track of all the things happening almost simultaneously. Sometimes action/fight sequences lose their cohesion and become just an indecipherable blur of movements the eye simply cannot follow (one problem with The Batman Begins, actually), but here Ritchie’s unique style helps to keep the eye focuses and gives our brains the time to keep up.
Perhaps even better than the action (maybe), is the humor. In the first movie, the back-and-forth bickering between Holmes and Watson is absolutely hilarious. This time, that’s all still there, and there is also an added sense of visual (almost but not quite slapstick) comedy that pops up off an on throughout the film. A few examples: Watson’s hung-over stumbling walk to his wedding, Holmes running around in a wig and makeup throughout the entire train sequence, and Holmes bouncing around on a tiny mountain pony all come to mind. I laughed through a lot of this movie.
Now, there has been a lot of discussion about whether this one was better than the first. I’ve been very on-the-fence about this, because I absolutely adore the first movie. But here’s the thing: this movie is AT LEAST equally as good as the first one. All the stuff that made the first one so wonderful is still here. Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law are still completely amazing as Holmes and Watson, with fantastic rhythm and chemistry. The writing is still spot-on. The score is still wonderful. Equal, equal, equal.
And then you add in James Moriarty, played to absolute perfection by Jared Harris. And when I say perfection, I MEAN perfection. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see anyone else play Moriarty now. Jared Harris was an absolutely INSPIRED casting choice. And the character himself, the whole equal-but-opposite aspect of his relationship with Holmes, the strange mix of respect and hatred… THIS is what we’ve been waiting for. And the addition of Moriarty, I think, pushes this movie over the top, making it just SLIGHTLY better than the first one.
But seriously, folks, don’t take my word for it. Just go see it. Even if you don’t agree that it’s better than the first, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.