Dearest Watson

Movie: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011)

I saw this movie right after Christmas, but since I’ve been taking a break from everything remotely work related, the writer in me was nowhere to be found. Perhaps waiting a bit has allowed me to really think about this movie. Read on if you’ve yet to decide to see it.

Put as succinctly as possible: you will enjoy watching this movie if you enjoyed the first one, with some reservations depending on a few details we will get to below. If you didn’t enjoy the first one then I don’t know why you’d bother, except perhaps to see Robert Downey Jr. in a dress and Stephen Fry in his birthday suit, if that’s your cup of tea. I found it was mine.

We find our Action Hero/Detective where we left off last time: desperate to find the highly intelligent and mysterious Professor Moriaty. Sherlock must team up one last time (“wink, wink”) with his trusted companion Dr. Watson to foil a mastermind plan to… well, I won’t spoil it. For those familiar with the original version of Sherlock Holmes, you’d best forget the details and just enjoy the nods to the books where you can find them.

Having seen Sherlock Holmes in half a dozen different versions, I have actually never gotten around to reading the books, and I definitely think this is an advantage. It’s not so much a new version of Sherlock as a new character with the familiar deductive capabilities. That said, I can’t help but find Robert Downey Jr.’s version both very funny and entertaining. His energy is addictive and catching, and he’s definitely the most likable and human version I’ve seen. The logical comparison is the BBC’s current modern version (a must-watch in my book), which emphasizes Sherlock’s emotional distance. Downey’s versions has very little of the anti-social aspects – though his amazing intelligence naturally sets him apart from lesser mortals – and his relationship with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) feels almost like a normal relationship.

The other actors all shine and use their screen time to great effect. Stephen Fry is probably my favourite Mycroft to date. His absurdness is just the right counterpart to Sherlock’s intensity. Professor Moriaty (Jared Harris) is a perfect blend of ruthless intelligence and a physically threatening presence.

The real star of the show, however, is the camaraderie, or bromance, between Sherlock and Watson. When Sherlock decides to “rescue” Watson’s new wife by throwing her out of a moving train, the laughter is as much from relief as comedy. Finally, the wife is gone and our duo can get back to doing what they do best! That said, I did wish for more stuff for them to do together as a team, and more dialogue between them, but we can’t have everything I suppose.

The reason we didn’t get more dialogue is because most of the movie is pure action. Sherlock is definitely more action hero than detective in this outing. Some people I spoke with quite enjoyed it, and I did as well. The action was well choreographed and a visual spectacle, but it did become tiring occasionally. It all comes down to the style of showing things up close and in slow-motion, or zooming inside mechanisms to see how a shot is fired. This trick was used in the first Sherlock Holmes movie, and it was visually impressive and felt unique, but I think the novelty has worn off.

No doubt the point of this stylish effect is to let us experience the world through the eyes and mind of Sherlock Holmes. The only problem is that we don’t have the mind of Sherlock Holmes, and thus the look through his eyes leaves us in dizziness and confusion. The movie jumps too quickly from the reveal to the next sequence, and gives the audience little time to dwell on the implications of what Sherlock has uncovered. The key to enjoyment here is to just enjoy the show and not worry about the logical leaps of the great detective. In this it’s an action movie, not a crime thriller.

I think Sherlock Holmes -Action Detective is a very entertaining version, but don’t try to compare it with the classics. Just suspend the Arthur Conan Doyle fan in you, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Dice roll: 4

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