Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review - Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows

I went to watch Sherlock Holmes 2 with some degree of enthusiasm. The inevitable "sequel letdown" phenomenon notwithstanding (Godfather 2 and the Star Wars sequels are some rare exceptions to this phenomenon), I was expecting a good performance by RDJ, whose portrayal of Holmes in the first film I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, I was disappointed by the movie, not because it is bad (in fact, it is an entertaining flick on the whole) but because it bills itself as something it is not. It purports to be a Sherlock Holmes movie, but apart from character names and very loose plot points, it does not resemble or faithfully represent any element of the original stories. The Holmes I grew up to enjoy and worship is a Holmes who solves cases by thinking. He listens to his clients and shuts himself up in his room, emerging only to use Watson as a sounding board. He does not like to leave his apartment and detests most forms of human contact, and engages in both of these activities only when absolutely necessary. Although an accomplished fighter, he never fights and I vaguely recall only two (maybe three) stories where he chases someone. To be fair, the first movie did away with a lot of these character traits mostly because of pragmatic and commercial concerns (a movie showing RDJ brooding on a divan playing shitty violin wouldn't be as fun, nor would it rake in half a billion dollars), and I understand that. When you make a movie, your primary goal is to broaden the audience for the story you are basing the movie on and make money.

But the second movie did away with Holmesianisms out of pure recklessness. They knew they could get away with it. Instead of a well-designed story, we get a corny plot (world domination! Europe on the brink of mechanized war!) that lurches from one European locale to another with little logic or explanation. There are a lot of fight scenes, an obligatory train scene, and and extended escape from the dungeon of doom munitions factory scene. And slow motion. Lots and lots of slow motion. Director Guy Ritchie must have a fetish for slow-mo - how else would you explain that there is a slow-mo scene roughly every 12 minutes?

The movie does have some redeeming qualities. Lane Pryce  Jared Harris does a splendid job as Professor Moriarty, and Stephen Fry makes the most of his portrayal of Mycroft, Sherlock's elder brother ("I am the other Holmes", he chortles at one point).

Bottom line: if you go in expecting a movie that tries its best to balance SH plot points with mass audience pleasing action montages, you will be angry. If you want a generic, snazzy action flick with character names that resemble those created by Arthur Conan Doyle, you'll be fine.

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