Monday, December 26, 2011

Game of Shadows Plays Well

Just in time for the 2011 holiday movie blitz, the latest Holmes is a fun, convoluted and wildly unrealistic ride—sounds like another box office hit!

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): There has been so much material presented over the years for Sherlock Holmes, but there does appear to be a “canon” continuity. Sir Arthur (not our Arth Vader) Conan Doyle is the creator of Holmes and wrote fifty-six short stories and four novel’s about the character. Although this movie presents the very first meeting between Holmes and his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, it carried many elements from the real written record of Doyle’s account of the first meeting between Holmes and Moriarty. Both the book, “The Final Problem” and movie “Game of Shadows”, end with both men going over a water fall in Switzerland, seemingly to their deaths. Kudos to the writers for researching the character and not just completely making something up out of thin air.

ARTH VADER (AV): Well, Pontificator, Guy Ritchie's has done it again. By somehow avoiding the traditional 'sophomore slump' and common pitfalls of follow-up or poorly planned sequels, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows is a delightful indulgence. One would have a pretty difficult time finding parallels between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's prolifically gifted British super-sleuth and the overly-clever, itching-for-a-fight , semi-inebriated manic depressive portrayed by the living legend of acting, Robert Downey Jr. The movie, takes a grossly unrealistic swipe at history, suggesting key villain Moriarty (Jared Harris) is fixing to start the first world war more then 20 years before the the real thing. This concept blurs the already muddy historical context of arguably the most gruesome war known to man. If you're looking for historical accuracy, you will need to steer away from this film, Ponty.
Casting, Directing and Acting
AV: Returning as the perpetually perturbed Dr. Watson, Jude Law balances Downey's flamboyantly eccentric Holmes as the two struggle with the implied dissolution of their partnership due to Watson's impending nuptuals to the lovely Kelly Reilly who plays Watson's oddly attuned fiancée. Terrorist/anarchist Moriarty is a fitting adversary for the film's ridiculously convoluted story line. Also appearing in a disappointingly brief on-screen performance is the stunning Rachel MacAdams. Finally, Girl with the Dragon Tatoo's Noomi Rapace appears in an elusive role as the traveling gypsy-turned- reluctant ally, Madam Simza Heron. Despite the presence of three strong females actors, a female lead is honestly nowhere to be found. How about you, Pontificator?

The casting was superb. Robert Downey Jr was excellent as Sherlock Holmes. His portrayal of the sleuth is the best I’ve ever seen as he nails the furious and scattered, yet precise genius, of the character. Jude Law was also great as Dr. John Watson in what I see as an excellent departure from the short, round tradition of the character. The big surprise was Jared Harris. Professor James Moriarty needed to be sinister, scary and every bit the equal and opposite of Holmes...and Harris nailed this.
Special Effects
TP: Spectacular. The special effects bring this movie right in your face in the most wonderful way. The use of slow motion with normal speed filming is simply brilliant. The best part of it is that it isn’t overused, but used precisely at the right times to highlight the action and heighten the effect. The fight scenes are specifically enhanced by this technique.

AV: Pontificator, I too found the over-the-top, special-effects-laden story-telling technique quite enjoyable. Ritchie's vision–which feels oddly misplaced–is terrifically realized. Holmes' pre-cognitive ability to foresee the outcome of an impending conflict is fun and well-handled. With the use of eye-numbing freeze-forward film techniques, the movie also has no shortage of gun play, fisticuffs and a surprisingly reserved number of explosions. Though I will admit, the real indulgence of the Sherlock Holmes movies is the still-shot-into-woodcut illustration effect in each movie's closing credits. Now, I am sure it is some Adobe After Effects filter applied in post-production, it is so beautifully done, I almost wish the film's transitions would have been handled the same way.

Taking A Deeper Look
TP: It’s all here...drama, comedy and action. They even threw in a healthy dose of mystery as icing on this very tasty cake. Any movie that has all these qualities and delivers them well will have wide audience it’s a no-brainer this was a winner. It was made all the better for me because this movie made me doubt what I should never have doubted...namely Holmes himself. Moriarty was every bit the villain he should have been and to see Holmes operate from a disadvantage was s great story twist to present from. The interaction between Watson and Holmes was powerful and accented the real danger of the mind of Moriarty.

AV: It's hard not to dislike these movies–but what the hell, I'll give it a shot! Throughout the movie I feel like I am in a time warp. I am watching Victorian-era English characters tool around in pre-20th century Europe with the sensation that the storytelling technique is too fast-paced, too laden with effects and honestly, downright too cool for this movie. Don't misunderstand here, old friend, because I love the ride it takes you on but I honestly can't help shake the feeling that the whole film is just a bit... off.

Looking Ahead: Sequels
AV: What would a trilogy be without an impending third installment? Of course they will make another one, this movie is busting up the holiday box-office and is another runaway smash hit. Hollywood's slave-to-the-almighty dollar personae will not allow the powers that be avoid making another Holmes installment. I just can't help but ask... why? Having said that, I look forward to be dazzled by another senses-stunning foray into the action-packed world of industrialized, post-Victorian era England.

Of course there could be a third installment...but I have to wonder where they can go from here. I’m seeing Moriarty as the pinnacle of villainy and a very hard act to follow...unless, well...I’ll leave my speculation in the wind and defer to the mind of Vader.
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows: I loved the first movie and this one was even better. The story was top rate, the action was spectacular and the elements of humor and mystery made it easy to follow the clues to the eight and a half blocks this movie busted.

ARTH VADER rates Sherlock Holems: Game of Shadows: The half-baked script, delightfully over-the-top special effects and overly complex–if not implausible–story don't seem to derail the runaway train of success that is the Sherlock Holmes holiday franchise. On the surface the movie is fun, fast and deliciously overindulgent, and despite its flaws–and Ponty, there are some noticeable flaws–I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it and if you are looking for a good time without too much reflection, then this movie is worth a seat and a bag of popcorn–and I am willing to drop seven and one half busted blocks to back it up. Whatever you do, stay for the closing credits.

Oh, and you might want to bring a little ibuprofen, just in case.

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows:
8/10 Busted Blocks

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