SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

PL’s take on Guy Ritchie’s Robert Downey Jr’s latest outing as the reinvented steampunk sleuth from Baker St: 

Moriarty: Graham Norton meets Anthony Worrall-Thompson – with disastrous consequences…

 

I helped celebrate the Christmas season of 2011/2012 by going to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, “A Game of Shadows”, starring Robert Downey Jr as the titular hero, Jude Law as Dr Watson, and Stephen Fry appearing as Holmes’ brother Mycroft. Another newcomer was Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty, son of the late Irish actor Richard Harris. As with the first movie in this series, CW warned me beforehand about expecting too much authenticity, or anticipating that the plot would remain strictly faithful to the original canons of Conan Doyle. I took his warning to heart, and am very glad I did, because I was thus able to take the movie on its own merits, and found myself taking in over two hours of what I consider to be very mindless escapism and great fun.

As CW rightly warned, there was practically no link between what happened in the film and the original Holmes creation in the stories, the first glaring error being the relationship between Downey Jr and Law, with the abrasive nature of their communication between each other in the picture more closely resembling that between Bodie and Doyle in “The Professionals” than the mutually respectful regard that both had for each other in the canon.  Historically, too, there were glaring inaccuracies with some of the weaponry deployed by the protagonists not being invented until years later (I mean, a submachine gun in 1891!). 

Professor Moriarty, rather than being merely a criminal mastermind “godfather” figure, was transformed into a more Dr Strangelove type of character, bent on causing international mayhem through a major European war, which he then planned to fuel by arms sales from his munitions factories.   The plot of the story was very thin, and indeed, in at various points was a little difficult to follow (not to mention incredibly far fetched!), but it certainly had its moments. Fry was a deliciously eccentric Mycroft, and, as with the first movie in this series, the special effects and action scenes were fantastic, being fast paced and frenetic and served to hold the the plot together, sweep it along, and hold the interest of the audience (well, me at least!).

Perhaps most interesting was Jared Harris who played the part of the Jekyll and Hyde figure of Moriarty with great aplomb, and is someone to look out for in the future.

Altogether, I heartily recommend a viewing, provided that you don’t expect much fidelity to the original stories!

 
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12 comments

  1. Although I ws disappointed by the film I thought Guy “That pretend Cockney bloke who used to be married to Madonna – (for the benefit of younger readers Madonna was 20 years ago what Lady Gaga is now)” Ritchie’s casting was spot-on. Downey and Law along with Kelly Reilly as Watson’s hapless wife Mary reprised their roles well from the previous film.

    Fry as Mycroft was effectively playing himself, but as Mycroft’s character is that of an arrogant old boffin who frequents private members’ clubs (ie Stephen Fry) he makes a more convincing version of the elder Holmes sibling than the horribly miscast Mark Gatiss (who looks nothing like the boy Cumberbatch) in the BBC’s modern day take on Holmes. Still, I felt the nude scene was unnecessary.

    As PL says the revelation of the piece was Jared Harris as Moriarty who looks like a geneticist’s April fools experiment in fusing the DNA of camp comic Graham Norton, shop-lifting chef Anthony Worral-Thompson and “piano-playing anagram arsehole” Richard Stilgoe (quote courtesy of TV Cream) gone wrong. Which made him all the more dislikeable – a nice touch! He’s a much more believable Moriarty than that tosser from Dublin who plays him in the BBC series in which Benny Cucumber-Patch plays Holmes.

    What I also liked about the film was that it didn’t take itself too seriously – unlike a certain other recent version of Conan Doyle’s sleuth. Enough said!

    As the Granada series of the 1980s and early ‘90s staring Jeremy Brett was the definitive Holmes with its first rate production values and painstaking attention to period detail and will probably never be bettered there’s no point in trying to aim any higher. So the only way for Holmes to go now is for him to take the piss out of himself. I’m sure Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey were well aware of this!

  2. Indeed, Paul. But even the plot of this film is considerably more plausible and realistic than the plot of your average “Professionals” episode!

  3. And Stoffels – many thanks for your enlightening contribution – as ever much appreciated in shedding light where there is darkness.

  4. Quick comments:

    – The Game of Shadows film has numerous Canonical References; even reciting whole passages from Canon. So, to be fair, it is true to Canon in many respects and is way more than merely “mindless escapism and great fun”
    – I disagree totally re what PL says re the Holmes/Watson dynamic.The deep friendship and love between Holmes and Watson is beautifully captured in the film, and is spot on. It is completely convincing and very Canon. The deep friendship is portrayed very strongly and feels real. The rapport between Robert and Jude is excellent.
    – I disagree with what CW says about Mycroft and Mark Gatiss. In my very humble opinion, Mark is one of the best Mycrofts of all time. He is immaculately turned out, the perfect English gentleman, and has exactly the right tone in terms of gravitas and superiority. He looks and sounds the part. You can really believe that he IS the British Government. Whether Mark looks like Benedict or not is irrelevant; the rapport between the Holmes brothers is tangible and real, and I for one easily believe that they are brothers, with a history and a backstory, and a tortured and fraught shared childhood.

    Regardless of any sarky comments made here, Sherlock the BBC version is the best thing on the TV in the last few years, and has brought many new Sherlock fans to Canon. Considering it regularly has an audience of 8 million in the UK alone, is massively popular in the UK and globally, and has won a few BAFTAs into the bargain, I would humbly suggest that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are doing something right!

    I now dare either PL or CW to come back and argue with me!

  5. As to CW’s comments re Andrew Scott, CW is just being both ignorant and stupid. Andrew Scott is a genius actor, one of the best of his generation. What he can convey in his face, through his eyes, and in his voice, is phenomenal. He embodies pure evil. He has put forward a completely new take on Moriarty. When he appears, he send shivers down my spine and scares me to death. He plays Moriarty as unhinged, funny, and clever; and as totally unpredictable; that is fatal and death to Sherlock; if he cannot predict what Moriarty is going to do, how can he outwit him? I won’t have Andrew Scott dissed in this way, if you are querying his acting credentials, I suggest you take a walk through his extensive back catalogue of theatre, film, tv and radio and then revise what you have written accordingly! Please retract what you have said about Andrew Scott or there will be trouble with a capital T!

  6. Raks, i’m simply stating that Andrew Scott in my humble opinion plays Moriarty like a caricature of a pantomime villain in an over the top kind of way that lacks credibility. I think Jared Harris comes across in a much more convincing way as the mathematical genius professor gone wrong. I haven’t sen Scott in anything else so I can’t comment on his more general acting abilities.

  7. CW

    To be fair to me, you did not state that at all. You simply dismissed Mr Scott as “that tosser from Dublin”. Regardless of what I think of an actor’s performance in any role, given that they are putting themselves out there, I always speak of them with respect. Enough said.

    Comparing the two Moriartys is like comparing apples and oranges. In the Guy Ritchie film, Moriarty is very true to Canon; he is a Professor of Mathmatics. I agree Jared Harris is excellent in the role.

    Leaving aside Mr Scott’s other work and just taking in his performance as Jim in Sherlock, Jim in Sherlock is a completely new take on Moriarty; it is a reimagining. Moriarty is not an elderly/ancient Professor of Mathmatics in Sherlock. Andrew Scott has under 5 mins of screen time in the whole first series of Sherlock and yet he makes such a big and lasting impression. Even Steven Moffat described him as a “genius”. He makes the role his own, and owns the part, to such an extent that Sherlock fans want Jim to survive Reichenbach as much as Sherlock. I do not agree that he comes across as an over the top pantomine villain. He comes across as funny, caustic, volatile, unpredictable, and unhinged. He conveys evil in a young and virile way, and sends shivers up and down my spine. He scares the hell out of me. I think the new spin on Moriarty is genius. So do a lot of Sherlock fans. And I get upset when Mr Scott, and his genius reincarnation and reimagining, are dismissed so unfairly.

    Not amused of Streatham.

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