Monday, December 19, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Shadowy Review

I just returned from seeing a sequel I've been waiting two years for: Sherlock Holmes- A Game of Shadows. I have my complaints, but I really enjoyed it. It therefore goes without saying that this post shall list the aforementioned complaints. During my analysis I won't spare any details, so if you haven't seen this film, stop reading and go see the damn movie.

First off, I would like to state that I haven't completely read the 'Sherlock Holmes' series. But I know enough to justify the following grumblings.

Complaint #1:

I was very upset with how they handled Irene Adler. Is she dead? Alive? If so, where the heck is she? In a hospital somewhere? And why isn't Sherlock doing anything? Closure? CLOSURE?!

Complaint #2:

Stephen Fry as Mycroft? Really? Don't get me wrong, I love Stephen Fry. But who the heck thought to themselves,

"We need to cast someone as Robert Downey Jr.'s brother...


someone who looks like him...

someone who reminds us of him...


AH! Stephen Fry! They're practically twins!"

I think the casting directors need to get their eyes checked. In their defense, Fry fits the character's physical description perfectly. But Downey Jr. doesn't fit his own character at all.

Complaint #3:

The slow-motion high-detailed action sequences were present in abundance. Not that I would normally complain about a well-placed ass-kicking, but it was a little much. I often found myself thinking, "Yes, yes, we know the gunpowder has to ignite before the bullet can hurtle down the barrel and zoom closely past Jude Law's ribs. We get it."

It was cool, but it got old pretty quick. One should never have too much of a good thing.

Complaint #4:

As soon as I saw the waterfall outside Castle Dracula, I knew Moriarty and Holmes were gonna go plummeting over it. So during the entire last sequence I kept thinking,

"They can't do it. They're not gonna do it. Right? Nah, they can't do it...dammit, they're gonna do it."

Sure enough, Holmes and Moriarty took a slow-mo plunge as a horrified Watson looked on.

It was appropriately epic and left the series wide open for another sequel, but the writers really should have chosen a different conclusion. Moriarty is the Joker to Holmes' Batman. They're perfectly matched, and by the time we realize this, Holmes and Moriarty take the waterfall plunge and the novel concludes.

Sherlock survives the fall, just like he does in the film, but for them to use such an epically poetic conclusion this early in the film series makes me wonder how they're going to top it in the future. They should have kept Moriarty around for at least 3 films, he's a fantastic villain.

Complaint #5:

There. Was. No. Sleuthing.

Think about it. In the first film, Holmes has to piece together an intricate puzzle that ultimately leads to the discovery of Blackwood's not-so-supernatural scheme to kill the lords of parliament. In the sequel, all Sherlock does is go around trying to stop Moriarty from blowing up his next target.

We know exactly what's going on, there's no guesswork for the audience aside from wondering when Holmes and Watson are nearly going to be killed again. Of course, there is the mystery of Renee, Simza's brother. But he just didn't seem that important. If there was any mystery it should have lied in Moriarty and his plot to start a war.

Now, time for praises!

I loved the gypsy girl, Madame Simza. My favorite thing about her character was the fact that she didn't become anyone's romantic interest.

Yet the care she displayed for Watson and Sherlock was appropriately poignant. I particularly liked the scene where she held Sherlock's head in her lap and hummed a lullaby as he lay dying.

Speaking of Sherlock dying.

I liked the fact that Sherlock passed away at that point. Some may say it only created pointless drama but I appreciated the acknowledgement that a human being cannot endure the sort of beating Sherlock received and survive. And the way he died was just as realistic. There was no gasping or heartfelt sentiments or dramatic last-breath-then-go-limp shenanigans. Sherlock is simply lying quietly in Simza's lap, watching Watson, and his eyes slip shut. I honestly thought he had fallen asleep. It wasn't until the gypsy girl held her hand beneath his nose and said "He's not breathing!" that I realized what had happened.

I liked Mary's role in this film, I feel like she got to do a lot more this time. I particularly liked her participation in exposing Moriarty. Firstly, it shows how capable she is, and secondly, it shows how much Sherlock has come to respect and trust her.

I also liked how they expounded upon Holmes and Watson's bromance in this film. There was more than one moment where they stopped and made oogley eyes at each other and I couldn't help but go, "Aww." Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr.'s chemistry alone makes this worth watching.

One of my favorite aspects of these films is the humor. There were plenty of laughs in this sequel, most of which lied in the dialogue.

"I'm getting married tomorrow."
"Oh! Embrace me."

Robert Downey Jr. is a natural comic, making one of my favorite moments the adrenaline shot. Unfortunately, I can't quote it. But just take a moment to remember the way he leapt to his feet and charged at the wall, shouting something like, "Satanic pony!"

And lastly, Jared Harris' portrayal of Moriarty was fantastic. I like how the casting directors chose a very average-looking Joe to play a morally insane super villain.

I think this throws the audience because they're expecting someone with an evil brow or glint in his eye, like Mark Strong's Lord Blackwood.

Then again, Jared Harris is a ginger.

One of my favorite scenes was when Moriarty and Holmes are going through their final physical confrontation in their minds, step by step, both coming to the conclusion that neither could win, thus resulting in the waterfall plunge. Another moment that was pretty harsh but extremely well done would be the hook torture scene.

(For those of you reading this without having seen the movie, that hook is in his freaking shoulder. Yeah.)

First of all, it lets you know that Moriarty means business. He knows so limits. Second of all, it lets you know that Moriarty is completely bonkers. I mean, who does that?

So, overall, I really enjoyed this film and I plan on seeing it at least one more time on the big screen. But between it and the first film, I prefer the first. It was perfectly balanced with just the right amount of humor, action and mystery. The sequel, on the other hand, was overloaded with action that left hardly any room for mystery or a compelling story.

I must therefore diagnose this film with the dreaded disease known as 'Sequel Syndrome'. It's bigger, it's louder, but it's not better.

Go see it anyway.

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