Monday, 24 August 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows

Continuing on the series of posts where I take a magnifying glass to a certain Holmesian adaptation, today I look at the sequel in the hit Robert Downey Jr duology as the Great Detective.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Doctor Watson), Noomi Rapace (Madame Simza), Jared Harris (Professor Moriarty) and Stephen Fry (Mycroft Holmes) with Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler)

Synopsis: After a spate of bombings cause tensions to brew across Europe, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson travel across the continent on a hunt for the man who wants to create a world war for his own ends - the Napoeleon of crime, Professor James Moriarty...

Doyled or Spoiled?: While Doyle never wrote such a James Bondian adventure, many details of the film are lifted from the canon, as if to compensate. The story is extrapolated from 'The Final Problem' where we are told that Holmes and Watson travel across Europe in pursuit of Moriarty. The death of Irene Adler could be a reference to the unexplained mentions of The Woman being 'the late Irene Adler' in the canon. Watson marries Mary Morstan, as per Doyle and Sherlock (though Holmes is a far less obsessive Best Man here than he is in that version). And, finally, Colonel Sebastian Moran is Moriarty's right-hand man and assassin, just as we are told he was in 'The Empty Hearse.' Also, it's not Doyle, but one of Moriarty's victims is Professor Hoffmanstahl - the real surname of Holmes' love interest Gabrielle Valadon in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Highlight: For me, it's probably the several references to Doyle, as they help to remind you that you are watching a Sherlock Holmes film. The use of Watson's eulogy of Holmes being taken verbatim from 'The Final Problem' is a lovely touch and probably my favourite Doyleism in the film. Elsewhere, another highlight is Downey and Law's partnership. While they are not my favourite Holmes and Watson they have an enjoyable banter-masking-fierce-friendship relationship.

Verdict: Without a specific mystery for Holmes to solve - rather more of a globe-trotting manhunt - and the loss of London, this sequel lacks the the feel of a Sherlock Holmes story unlike the first film which cleverly trod the line between Sherlockiana and being a modern action film. Likewise, the cast is squandered - Noomi Rapace is in a thankless role as Simza, Jared Harris is nothing special as Moriarty and, worst of all, Stephen Fry is fantastic casting (he's a perfect match for Sidney Paget's drawings) but his Mycroft is sadly played for comic relief. Apart from Downey Jr's idiosyncratic Holmes then, it's a decent run-around with fights and explosions and other things people like in blockbuster films.*

*I really like the first one which is why I'm extra grumpy in this review.

Sherlock and friends run away from an explosion. They do a lot of that.

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