Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jason watches SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

And let's just start with this--it's a fun adventure, but with a few problems.

First the fun part. It is an entertaining adventure. I like that the game is as much physical as it is mental, an often overlooked element in the books. Robert Downey Jr. is still great as Holmes, and Jude Law is maybe even better as Watson. Stephen Fry joins the party as Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's smarter but less ambitious brother (for what it's worth, I always imagined Mycroft as skinnier, but Fry makes it work). And most importantly, the villain is excellent--Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty plays it with the right amount of ruthless menace and playfulness. Although the stakes are, in Holmes' words, "the collapse of Western civilization" both he and Moriarty know it's a game between the only two parties who understand what's really going on. I liked all that.

Oh yeah, and Noomi Rapace, though not given much to do, is fine as a gypsy woman caught up in all of this. Mostly I like her presence because I loved her as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and its sequels, and I hope she gets to enjoy a long and fruitful career in film.

Now for the problems. First and foremost, it's too silly. The first movie had a bit of silliness, but nothing as egregious as Holmes' experiments in "urban camouflage" (the joke of wearing a suit that perfectly matches a section of wall and/or furniture, so as long as you stand still and the observer doesn't change his perspective, you blend in perfectly).

Almost as bad as that bit of silliness is the entire premise of the case. Now here there be some spoilers (I'll try to avoid details, but I will have to spoil the main premise). Moriarty is attempting to plunge Europe into a "World War" so that he can profit, selling weapons, bandages, etc. to both sides. Holmes, of course, figures this out and sets out to stop him. Of course, there has to be a standoff where Moriarty explains that a world war will inevitably happen naturally, he's just trying to speed things along. And, of course, we in the audience know he's right. Not just one, but two world wars happened in the real world, and the aftermath puts a total lie to Holmes' assertion that it would be Western civilization's downfall. I suppose this is gives us an opportunity to feel smarter than Sherlock Holmes, but that's just not something I'm all that interested in feeling; at least not when it's made so easy. It's a lot like the end of the first movie, when Holmes discovers principle of the remote control, and speculates on what a dangerous power that could be. We get a smug chuckle, and the world's most brilliant detective is diminished a bit by it.

And come to think of it, the first movie ended with the remote control device falling into Moriarty's hand, and then it isn't used in the sequel. What's up with that?

Running Time: 129 minutes
My Total Minutes: 260,014
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