Film #46: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Language: English, with bits of French, German and maybe Romany thrown in
Length: 129 minutes
Watched on: 30 Dec 2011 (the last of 2011!)

Out of copyright works are always interesting because there can be multiple active adaptations of the work concurrently, as is essentially happening here: we have Ritchie’s Hollywood adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and the BBC’s iPhone adaptation with the man who really doesn’t look like a fucking otter. So I can now compare them directly. To be honest, I reckon Cumberbatch does a better job of the role than Downey – mainly because he exaggerates all the sociopathic characteristics that exemplify Sherlock Holmes – but since this film is actually set in the Victorian era, Downey actually looks the part. Also, compared to the BBC adaptation, this doesn’t involve nearly enough detective work – in fact, Holmes seems to use some kind of super bullet time sense to work out what’s going to happen in a fight more often than he looks around a room to determine what the fuck happened at the scene of a crime.

The relationship between Holmes and Watson, however, is just as homoerotic as it ever is in the BBC adaptation, though. Here Downey and Law are at least as much of a bickering married couple as Cumberbatch and Freeman ever were, and it’s one of the few elements that is kept alive throughout the entire film, as unfortunately the rest of it starts to unravel.

I will start here by noting that I can’t remember almost anything from what happened in the first iteration of this franchise (there was something involving Tower Bridge, I guess, but that’s about it), although I’m not sure you need to know the plot of the first movie to understand the plot of the second. That said, I’m not sure what you do need to understand the plot of the second movie, because I had a pretty hard time of it. For some reason, Holmes and Watson embark on some kind of romp around Europe chasing Moriarty, barely taking in the sights of one locale before being ushered onto the next by some contrivance. It’s tiresome, and it culminates in them ending up in Switzerland atop the Reichenbach Falls in some ridiculous castle that seems to defy all possible laws of gravity and physics by attaching itself to the side of a mountain. It was there, I guess, that the film passed out of the realms of believability for me.

I got bored during the film, anyway; it wasn’t as exciting as what I’d been expecting. Noomi Rapace’s role (as a gypsy) was completely wasted, too; she’s proved in the past that’s she’s an incredibly capable actress, and here she’s presented as some kind of romantic foil for Holmes and/or Watson when their relationship turns sour, and just isn’t that interesting altogether. I also reckon that the plot, while it gives knowing nods to the plot of the Sherlock Holmes canon (eg, the Reichenbach Falls), wasn’t as good because it was a largely original story; and the writers just weren’t as good at pulling together something coherent and interesting as Conan Doyle ever was.

Anyway, we’re still in Christmas viewing, even though I’m actually posting this in April. But I’ll catch up eventually. It’s funny that around the time when I watched this, I was essentially alternating between Sherlock Holmes and Futurama, right up until February, with a couple of blips inbetween. I also read the first Conan Doyle-written book, “A Study in Scarlet”, so that’ll be a blog post for another day. And I can compare it to the similar story in the BBC adaptation.


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