Friday, December 16, 2011

Ten Statements About....SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (2011)

Given how I've mentioned that Lisabeth Salander is
something of a modern day noir detective, teaming her
with the world's greatest detective is fitting....
"Did you just kill my wife?"
"I timed it perfectly!"

1) Imagine my delight at seeing that the opening sequence involves the return of Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler, who is stunning in a Japanese kimono-like black dress with wide cuffs...and imagine my frustration at seeing her summarily dispatched as a way to prove how bad-ass Moriarity is--which seems to overlook the idea that Professor Moriarity has already been established as bad-ass not only by the first movie but by the fact that, you know, Moriarity just happens to be one of the best known super-villains of all time! That being said...

2) I really appreciate the fact that Irene's death is not used just as an excuse to get Downey's Holmes' into a romantic clinch with Noomi Rapace's gypsy queen Simza. In fact, the script by Michele and Kieran Mulroney utilizes the tragedy to give Holmes a better understanding of Watson's devotion to his wife and allows him to dedicate himself to keeping his best friend from losing the thing he wanted with Irene. While Holmes and Simza do have a chemistry, it never evolves beyond an alliance built of respect, and that's to be applauded.

3) I am relieved that Rapace was cast as Simza precisely for her exotic appeal and for her realistic approach toward action filmmaking and not because the producers wanted to turn her into a wailing frail. She makes an intriguing addition to the cast.

"Look, Watson...we're about to enter into the third act, so
I'm going to need you to stop being a goofball and return to
being the cool man of action you were last movie..."
4) It stands to reason that in a world where Robert Downey Jr. is Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Fry can be Mycroft Holmes...and he plays it really well, save for that one nonsequitorial scene of his walking around oblivious in the nude while Kelly Rielly's Mary gets all flustery and panicked...which is a shame because.....

5) Of all the supporting characters from the first film, I am the most impressed with the way the script develops Mary. Her screentime is larger, and Holmes entrusts her with a key role in unraveling Moriarity's plot, resulting in the feeling that not only does Holmes have a great deal of respect for her, but that she begins to gain a respect for him as well.

6) The treatment of Jude Law's Watson is curious, especially given how the relationship between him and Holmes was key in my enjoyment of the first film. For the first half, Law seems to have made Watson degress into Nigel Bruce-esque borderline retardedness--but then he's back to his dashing self in the second half, to the point where Holmes puts the solution of the climatic puzzles in his hands.

Considering his partner Hugh Laurie became a Holmes-esque
character on House, I consider Stephen Fry being Mycroft
some form of karma....
7) I suppose it's time to get to Jared Harris' Professor Moriarity. He's not what I expected, and his performance is somewhat uneven. There are moments when you believe in his supreme brilliance (especially a sequence where Ritchie intertwines the inner monologues of Holmes and Moriarity in such a way it seems like they're having a conversation over the battle on the screen), and there are moments where you can't believe how sloppy he's being.

8) Just as with the previous film, it does seem some care is taken to make this story fit into the established canon of Holmes--although at some point it begins dovetail into "The Final Problem." However, I was a little put off by the way the script, and Moriarity's plans, seemed to owe more to James Robinson's script for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen than anything Arthur Conan Doyle wrote.

9) That being said, I once again love how Ritchie once more plays more or less fair with us, and shows us point by point how Holmes has trapped Moriarity, leaving us with a little joke reference back to the villain's love of a certain classical song....

10) It's a small thing, but there are moments that are obvious call backs to other elements in the first film--like Holmes experimenting on Watson's dog--that just stops the movie dead so we can laugh recognizably at them. They serve no purpose, and should have been excised.

Overall...more uneven than the original film, with a middle period that seems to be just shooting for shooting's sake, but still with enough enjoyable elements and great performances that it's still a watchable and worthwhile entry in the series.  And can I say how much I loved how the movie gives full credit to Arthur Conan Doyle in the very beginning of the film...

I saw this at the Loew's 19th to take advantage of the $6 matinee. Among the trailers were a more expanded on for the still risible Battleship (the biggest unintentional laugh of which was the legend 'From Hasbro, The Company That Brought You Transformers!'); the generic and befuddling Man on The Ledge; John Carter of Mars (which I still cannot decide whether I want to see it or not, given how it has a whiff of 'we want Avatar money' to it); and yes, The Dark Knight Rises, which makes me dread this movie given how badly my opinion of Nolan's bat-entries have degraded in the past.

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