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"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: The Game of Shadows (2012)



I'll be the first to admit that the Robert Downey Jr version of the British supersleuth is almost nothing like the Sherlock Holmes of the Conan Doyle oeuvre. I say "almost" because there are aspects of the characterization that still retains a couple of Holmesian fundamentals: The observational, deductive flair and the superhuman meticulous attention to detail. Downey's incarnation is also a benevolent mad professor scientist and the running gag from this and the first film is that he's constantly experimenting on Watson's pet dog.

Where this iteration largely parts company with canon is how Holmes is written and portrayed. Downey's Holmes is an arrogant Peter Pan of genius proportions. A prodigy who revels in adventure but refuses to grow up. Perhaps a commentary on a pervading malaise of our time.

In short, the film is insanely noisy, grubby and rocket-paced which could work against or in its favour.
However, for some reason, it doesn't diminish this long-time Holmesian fan's enjoyment of the latest rambunctious installment of the franchise. Maybe I'm not the purist I thought I was.

Well, in truth, I'm not.

If there's a word that sums up the film, it's "funny". The new Sherlock Holmes film is exceedingly funny... and fun. Well, at least it appeals largely to my sense of humour. Downey has great comic timing and well, his chemistry with Jude Law is palpable. And the dialogue sparkles.

The main storyline is actually fairly straightforward. Sherlock takes on his arch adversary, the formidable Prof Moriarty and a trail of killing and destruction ensues. In fact I suspect the director takes a fiendish glee in gun fights and blowing stuff up. But it wouldn't be Sherlock Holmes without the stupefying leaps of logic and the furious sparring with the villain.

The Professor is played by Jarred Harris, who is very good in the role. He's no James Bond villain but he has the ambitions of a Bond villain nonetheless. Definitely a foe worthy of our favourite Baker Street residents.

I adore Jude Law's Watson. He is so equally at home with a firearm and a scalpel that you almost believe he was born to play the role. His Watson is trying his hardest to get married and embark on a honeymoon but the relationship shy Holmes does his most to deter his longtime comrade and friend before grudgingly accepting the inevitable.

There's been a lot of criticism about the overabundance of kungfooey antics in these updates but it hasn't bothered me. Even Sherlock Holmes must succumb to the onslaught of postmodern pastiche it seems.What I especially appreciate about the fight scenes here are how much they feel like a chess game. It's more cerebral than your usual punch ups. The audience is given glimpses into the inner workings of Holmes' mind as he manages to keep two steps ahead of his adversaries.

I speak as a truly happy fangirl. In the last couple of years we've had a veritable feast with the BBC's Sherlock and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes franchise. Nobody can have too much Sherlock Holmes even if it's not kosher Conan Doyle.

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