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Stewart Smith

Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows posterI love logic. Critical thinking, problem solving, I can’t get enough of the stuff. I suppose if you go more fundamentally, I love plot. I love deep feeling in the characters. I love it when thought is put into the way a story is told beyond the most simple of explanations. This is why I didn’t like Cowboys &. Aliens, why I didn’t like Shrek Forever After. They lacked heart. They lacked thought. You walk in, ACTION, that’s it. Don’t get me wrong, I like action, but you can’t have a good story if you don’t have something to ponder beyond “Big explosion, gun shot, wait is he going to die? No wait, never mind, he’s the main character.”

So naturally, a couple of my favorite genres are Mystery and thought driven Thriller. Now you may say, “But Stewart! You just went through all this time discussing why action is bad!” No, I went through saying why action alone is bad. Looking back at my first statement, I like action if it walks hand in hand with plot. And in the thriller movies I like, usually both are retained nicely.

The classic Sherlock Holmes series of books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is without a doubt the most well known set of detective novels ever composed. Written in the nineteenth century, the stories are told from the perspective of Watson, assistant to a man named Sherlock Holmes. A private crime fighter, Sherlock is known for his extraordinary abilities of deduction and observation. The perfect character for a logical thinker such as myself.

Now with the two recent Sherlock Holmes film adaptations by Warner Brothers, Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, I get the best of both worlds! I have a character that can think logically and thoughtfully, and I get him punching people! How fun. But that’s a double edged sword, as this leaves me to obsess over the details of how it relates to the books.

And yet thankfully, that is patched up as well! Sherlock Holmes is a character who, like James Bond, can be put into a story out of context. So as long as the characters are preserved along with the basic setting, all can fit nicely in a sweet canon bundle. And the movie makers managed to do this, and in the end that helped them enormously. They had no book to stick to and no story to stretch and squeeze over a two hour period. It was all original, and thus could be adjusted more easily without causing fissures in the plot.

The action itself in these films was, for the most part, original. The fight scenes were played off first in slow motion as Sherlock thought about them and then were reenacted in real life with regular speed.  I myself absolutely adored that; detail stands out more when you can stop and calmly watch the ripples in a man’s injured cheek as his tooth flies into the air. It takes some getting used to, but in both films it was abandoned before long to preserve the essence of unpredictability. Which was a little disappointing, but it was good nonetheless as it preserved the unpredictability of Sherlock Holmes, who would, in the books, never reveal his plans and would always leave you guessing as to what he will do next.

I heard there was some controversy to how Robert Downey Jr. portrays Sherlock Holmes. Some people  think he is too young. I agree, as he takes some getting used to. As for Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law, I always envisioned him as short and chubby. Of course, this is probably because my first actual Sherlock Holmes-style experience was with Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. Rachel McAdams starred as Irene Alder (Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia, anyone?), the female lead in the first film. She makes a dramatic (ahem) early exit in the second film, making way for Noomi Rapace (star of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattooas Madam Simza Heron. Other major appearances included Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty, Stephan Fry as Holmes’ Brother, and Kelly Reilly as Watson’s betrothed.

These movies, however, do have their downsides. I should have mentioned earlier that I also adore humor, but as a comedy, these were fairly weak. Well, I must be fair.  The first was quite witty, but the second lost most of that. In the end I found that I enjoyed them more when I pushed past the comedy stance and just saw each as a thriller/mystery.

Age Recommendation: As with most mysteries and thrillers, death is a common theme. Be sure that your child can take such blows before whisking them off to the theater and/or television set. My parents say that I am more sensitive to death than they ever were, however, so maybe that’s just my overreaction. Lots of children nowadays play violent games consistently anyway.

Final Verdict: An exceedingly well thought out series with plenty of action and yet story to go around. As a comedy, the second film failed miserably, but I don’t see it as fair to rate them as a pair (rhyme!), so I give the first movie 8.5/10 and the second 7/10.

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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Bruce Stewart January 1, 2012, 5:52 pm

    Well done Stew. I think I might just watch them both.

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