Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Art 2/5 Ent 4/5 Worth 2/5
Well, that’s one way of making a movie. Guy Ritchie has constructed himself another beautifully stylized retro action pic full of razzmatazz and showmanship, aaaaand I just fail to give a shit. Somewhat based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem, where the first superhero Sherlock Holmes finally has it out with his arch-rival, the first supervillain Professor Moriarty on a snowy cold ledge in Switzerland overlooking a frothy, icy death fall into Reichenbach Falls. Readers of the original book are very likely to have heard of Reichenbach Falls, so it serves as a powerful reference in their mental imagery. And viewers of this film? What do they know of the late 19th century? So little that the writers have to sex it up with allusions to an event 2 1/2 decades in the future (World War I), to help them maintain orientation in the unknown past. Condemnation of our historic/geographic ignorance, or a condemnation of lazy writing? Maybe more the latter.
Robert Downey, Jr. is the fuckin’ man, but unfortunately he is still just a man. Subject to the wild fluctuation of fortune as a major Hollywood star, where one can only hope to make a living being the best thing about crappy bullshit dime-a-dozen hack movies that win big at the box office, Downey is doing just fine for himself. Johnny Depp doesn’t bother doing many of the independent or art house movies that were his knack in the ’90s (and so infinitely more interesting than the garbage he’s involved with today), so it’d be unfair to hold Downey to some idealistic standard. When he and Mad Men’s Jared Harris as Moriarty are having dueling inner monologues plotting out their martial artistry like chess moves, I facepalmed. I seriously laughed in deep disappointment. The gruelingly dumb ’70s Kung Fu movies that so inspired Quentin Tarantino had more dignity than that.
But it wasn’t sooo bad. The crystal clear imagery of steel and wood mechanics and machinery is a lovely match for the themes behind this representation of Sherlock as the embodiment of Victorian industry and science. As I hinted before, the style and rejuvenation of the era’s aesthetic is nothing short of fetishistic gothic brilliance. Now if only such style was given to something other than a roller coaster ride, I’d be sold. The inclusion of Stephen Fry as Holmes’ brother is a bit of fresh air, but his notorious wit is woefully underused by unfunny writers. Also underused, much to my bemusement, is the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Noomi Rapace, as a pedestrian cardboard cutout given a more interesting backstory (as a Gypsy anarchist) than actual story, despite playing an almost central part in the film. And I’m just whining at this point, but maybe they could have done more with Kelly Reilly from Cédric Klapisch’s fun little series L’Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls, as Watson’s wife whose few seconds of attention are when she’s thrown from a speeding train into the drink.
Of course, I don’t want to take anything away from Mr. Downey’s inspired work, but for my money, Benedict Cumberbach is doing Holmes better in the current BBC series Sherlock. Take my word for it and check that one out.