Friday, December 16, 2011


One thing can be deduced easily when watching Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movie adaptations; he must have been the kid who was bored out of his mind when watching the various TV adaptations that have been made based on the character. Those early works, whether it be a BBC production or Basil Rathbone feature, were admittedly chock full of old men sitting around talking, but still offered plenty of thinking-man’s drama. Ritchie’s final solution to the problem of making Holmes relevant to the current simple-minded YouTube generation is to pack the film tight with action, while occasionally stealing a page or two out of the source material. The end result in Ritchie’s SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS is a mish-mash of ideas that occasionally work.

Consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his best friend Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) embark on a world-wide chase of the notorious criminal mastermind Prof. Moriarty (Jared Harris), who has embarked on a scheme to bring about world-wide destruction.

SHADOWS starts off with a literal bang; there is a huge explosion in the first 60 seconds (don’t any of you lot dare to poke fun at Michael Bay again), and it’s clear right away that this is a film searching for an identity; not knowing whether to be a straight-up actioneer or a crime-solving mind-game. It tries to do both; SHADOWS spends a lot of it’s time focusing on Holmes trying to outthink Moriarty and his thugs, and for the most part is interesting to watch. But, just when things feel like they are taking a turn for the smarter, SHADOWS takes a left turn into DIE HARD land, with plenty of gunfights and booms and bangs and explosions; tons of action sequences that do little to move things forward. The few thinking-man’s elements are outnumbered by the loud noises, and leaves SHADOWS feeling unbalanced.

Ritchie is clearly not realizing that lots of action does not always equal good drama, and another fault of SHADOWS is a missed opportunity in the chemistry between Holmes and Watson, who are incidentally being played by massive amounts of talent in the forms of Downey and Law, respectively. The two characters are given few opportunities to clash and contrast, and while they are good, they are just too few to leave a lasting impact. The few personal moments between the old friends are very good; ranging from Holmes’ loneliness to Watson’s search for stability.
Unfortunately for SHADOWS, the moments are not capitalized upon and leaves untapped talent and opportunities in the dust of its many explosions.

In crafting the film, Ritchie does manage to do well. The landscapes of London and various locations across the world are brought to life vividly. The ten-thousand action sequences do manage to be of some fun; even the ones that are ho-hum CGI driven. The many looks inside the inner-workings of Holmes and Moriarty’s minds are well executed, although seldom. The score is fairly magnificent, but does lack a memorable theme.

Downey seems to suffer from the film’s confused state; he doesn’t know if he should play Holmes as a genius or an Indiana Jones, so he tries to do both with mixed results. Jude Law probably suffers the most from the lack of development; while he acts his part well, his poor character seems to exist only as an occasional counter to Holmes’ behavior. Jared Harris turns in a noble effort as the ultimate villain, but again suffers from an underwritten script; his character is paper-thin with absolutely no motivations hinted at.

The finale begins with a remarkable verbal-chess match showdown between Holmes and Moriarty; a battle of mental wits that is an absolute joy to watch. The final battle is nearly too good, and it becomes clear that the film could have, and should have embraced such psychological mind-games. SHADOWS is a fun ride, never really bores and is loaded with laughs, but anyone looking for something with smarts ought to search elsewhere.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.