Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I write this review never having seen the first film in this series, so with fresh eyes and no expectations, I was ready to enjoy Robert Downey Jnr.’s portrayal of the famous detective.

 I will say this--it was a lot of fun, it does follow the new fashion of the two-and-a-half-hour movie that came about a few years ago. A few problems, though, really left me cringing, and without spoiling the film, I’ll elaborate on those.

There’s an accent dissonance whereby English actors are cast alongside American actors, and while English actors simply keep their natural accents, American ones seem to adopt an antiquated accent reminiscent of early British radio broadcasts. 

The fight scenes are, in a word, stupid. Lots of clicks and whizzes and snaps and slices are used, cheaply, to give the illusion of something happening when in fact, not much is. The first fight scene we’re given even uses the old trope of something dropping to the ground to see the henchmen dispatched with before it hits the ground (in this case, and apple thrown in the air). Surely that was over, wasn’t it? For this and other similar reasons, we can’t treat this film as any type of period piece. This establishes a further problem that Holmes is just so infallible that I never actually question whether he’ll make it through the next sequence or not.

The film-makers don’t seem to make any attempt to tone down this stupidity either. In an early scene, Holmes can be seen quaffing down a brandy glass full of Formaldehyde, which is extremely poisonous, for no other reason that it establishes the character as ‘quirky’. Later, Holmes gives us narration for a fight scene, but rather than describe his thoughts, he instead gives us a recipe for scrambled eggs. What? Yes, that’s right. The intention is to show that Holmes approaches a fight like a chef would approach the cooking of breakfast, but the execution of this idea is so hammed up I did literally find myself cringing.

RDJ is fun to watch on screen--he is essentially playing himself (right down to surviving on caffeine, cigarettes, and coca leaves... cough cough) and the relationship (or partnership) between Holmes and Watson is interesting and entertaining.

Look, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is most definitely a film that can be enjoyed if you switch your brain off and go along for the ride. The fact that it’s that kind of film, however, left me disappointed. Shouldn’t enjoying a Sherlock Holmes story be about switching your brain on?

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