Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sherlock Holmes--A Game of Shadows

Photo: Movie poster, from its Wikipedia page.

Very visually appealing, fast-paced, intelligent, fun and styled film that stretches the limits of Conan Doyle's character--but not as far as you'd think.  You'd have to read the stories to appreciate this, but Basil Rathbone's Holmes was only a small part of the total person; he wasn't all big hat and big pipe, deducer and inducer.  He was also a boxer, a fighter, an addict (which this film strays from somewhat) and many of the things that Downey's Holmes is--though, of course, not to the degree that Downey and Ritchie play him.

The sets are awesome, though I suspect that there's more CGI then I think...a lot more.  But they are still impressive, especially to a lover of the 1890s as I am.  You'll never catch all of the small things that Holmes sees and induces and deduces (though I was proud to have caught the dead plant), so don't try to hard.  As Roger Ebert says in his mostly-positive review--it's not the creaking-stairs and super-intellectual 1890s that you'll see here, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.  I wanted to see this because I became a great fan of the first Downey film, and if you liked that one, you'll very much like this one.  There's more scenery, more action, more thinking ahead, more clues, and a villain that is, in fact, Holmes' equal, intellectually and physically.  The only thing you won't see more of, sadly, is Rachel McAdams, and her statement of warning to him at the end of the first film is a harbinger of sorts here.  Or is it?  One never knows.

As a follower of the stories, most of the elements are here in the film, including the dive into the falls that so famously ends one of Doyle's stories.  It's the one where he tried to kill Holmes off, as Doyle was sick of him, and he wanted to write more of what he thought was more important--his histories and mysticism books.  The general public and even Doyle's own mother disagreed, to the point that they, and she, ordered Doyle to bring Holmes back.  Which he did, but in an unfortunately tortured and twisted way.  The movie, I have to say, handles it much better.  Nothing is, indeed, what it seems.  But, then again, we live in a world of seems.

Robert Downey is again very, very good.  True, he's an American playing a Brit, with nothing close to an accent, but what the hey.  Jude Law is very good as well.  They are both charismatic and they get along very well on-screen.  (In a way, theirs is the true relationship--and, yes, that's hinted at, as well.)  Noomi Rapace is good, in a limited role.  I suspect that her Lisbeth Salander from the original Swedish films was much better.  (Seeing the dubbed originals is on my list of things to do.)  Jared Harris is super as Moriarity--so much so, that you hope to see more of him in the next, too.  (Though I doubt it.) 

Go see it.  Read the stories, too, but forgive the filmmakers for the liberties they take.  They have been surprisingly faithful to the character and to the gist of the series.  The direction is top-notch; can't say enough about it, especially their travails through the forest.  It's stop-action of a different sort (not of the King Kong 1933 type, if you've seen that).  It's a combination of all the mystery, clues, action, direction, sets and overall Victorian-ism--with 21st Century direction.  A really intelligent action film.  What's more old/modern than that?


  1. I saw the first Downey and liked it, but haven't seen this yet. Looks like I better quit lolly-gagging! Great review, as always, Steven.

    1. Emma, thanks for the compliment. Happy new year!!!

  2. First... no no no! Don't see the DUBBED originals of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you are going to watch it, I insist that you watch it in Swedish with subtitles. Dubbing barely ever does justice.

    P and I went out to see this movie on NYE and really enjoyed it. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the 1890s, but I think Downey and Law make a great pairing.

    I thought Downey was applauded for his accent... I've read that starting with "Chaplin" people feel that among Americans he does a really good job?

    1. C., that's my bad. I meant to write that I would see the subtitled version. I never see dubbed movies simply because I can't stand it when the moving lips don't synchronize with the voice-over. Drives me crazy.

      Downey doesn't really use a British accent in the movies as much as he uses a hint of an accent. In fact, Jude Law, who is British, sort of American-izes his speech to match Downey's.