Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows

27 Dec

You need to know something about me – I loved Guy Ritchie’s first Holmes adaptation. Loved is not a strong enough word, perhaps. It was a movie that was everything, EVERYTHING an adaptation should be, and gave me characters I enjoyed watching tremendously and it was madly in love with the source it was based on but at the same time extremely aware of itself and the fail and biases in that original canon, and it had gorgeous action and pretty people and amazing, amazing acting, and a really, unbelievably well written script.

So, I was ready to love the second movie as long as it stayed true to the spirit of the first. And it was. And it wasn’t nearly as good, imo, because… because the first movie is, on an emotional level about Sherlock Holmes who is love with two people at the same time, and all he wants to is to have them, for them to be his forever and ever, to help him solve mysteries and fawn over his genius while also providing a challenge for his intellect or someone he can confide in. But that can never, ever happen. For various reasons. Because life is life. Sherlock is never going to get to have the people he wants on a string, waiting for him whenever he needs them. And the thing I love about that movie is that Sherlock isn’t immature, exactly, he’s just someone who feels that he’s smarter than everyone and hence the world should accommodate him and favor him, on a basic, fundamental level. And the world usually does! Except when it comes to John Watson and Irene Adler.

I mean there’s a scene where Sherlock wakes up in an attic to discover Adler (who he thought had left) and Watson (who was gravely injured last he checked) dressed and spiffy if slightly bruised, had snuck into his room while he was asleep and are now surprising him by greeting him warmly when he wakes. And it’s like. EVERYTHING SHERLOCK HOLMES WANTS in that one moment. An attic where he can just live with Watson and Irene and they’ll never leave and always be there to solve cases with him and indulge him and bicker with him occasionally have sex with him, depending on your interpretation.

But unfortunately Watson’s getting married, and Adler has her own adventures to get around to and, well. Sherlock can manipulate the world to give him anything, but he can’t manipulate it to give him them.

And I think that tension, that emotional arc, is what’s missing from the second movie. It’s what makes it sort of boring in places. I mean I really, really, really enjoyed it, I thought it was marvelous, I’ll take 10 hours of Ritchie over 30 minutes of that wretched BBC Moffat adaptation that I wish to wipe from humanity’s collective memory. But it began with Sherlock and Watson being BFFs, continued with that, and then ended with that. The laughs were still the laughs, the situational comedy worked, the actors were marvelous, the waltz or whatever it was was refreshing, they had a lot of rewarding, interesting Holmes/Watson scenes. And I’m not even mad about Irene (OK, I lie, I am SO MAD) because it’s not her death I mind so much as the fact that eliminating her (and Mary) from the main plot meant there was… no conflict. No journey. No character development. Holmes wanted to go on a honeymoon with Watson and he did. That’s the point of this movie. And that’s a great happy ending, but it shouldn’t be the beginning and the middle as well, you know?

Anyway aside from that my favorite part was everything. A short list:

* RDJ’s hair. HIS HAIR *________* It’s like, THE PERFECT LENGTH. There were scenes where I literally couldn’t focus because I just kept staring at his gorgeous beautiful long hair and how gorgeous beautiful he looked with it. And I love RDJ but I don’t usually find him all that jaw droppingly attractive? BUT THE HAIR WORKED SOME MAGIC. OH MY GOD I need to rewatch every scene with that hair, RIGHT NOW. *______________*

* More than the waltz, more than the crossdressing head-between-Sherlock’s-thighs, more than the WONDERFUL moment of actually letting us see Watson gambling, I loved the scene on the train where Sherlock is lying there half dead and Watson is half dressed and covered in blood and he’s working on mending Sherlock’s wounds (no lie, the long hair reached ASTRONOMICAL LEVELS OF HOTNESS combined with the hurt/comfort) and it’s just… RDJ is very good at playing vulnerable, he injects it into every character and that’s what makes them all so compelling. But that scene is just NEW HEIGHTS of Holmes being vulnerable. Lying helpless and letting Watson and some girl he doesn’t really know take care of him? In the previous movie he was ALWAYS alone if/when grievously injured or inebriated. In this Ritchie just brings it all out there and then Holmes DIES (and I found myself thinking “oh no, Ritchie, don’t even go there, we all know how Holmes is supposed to die”, which, ahaha OF COURSE COMES ALONG LATER because Ritchie loves the canon more than anyone) and Watson’s all I’M NOT GONNA MAKE THIS EASY ON YOU and it’s so much intimacy and intensity in one line and then they PULL HIM OFF and holy shit, that needle to the chest was almost a let down.

* So, not only did this movie get rid of the two female love interests, it introduces a woman who is… not the love interest of either Holmes nor Watson. WHAT. LOLOL. Rock on, movie, rock on. I don’t think I’ve seen a blockbuster movie where a major female character doesn’t have a love interest in YEARS AND YEARS. That shit just doesn’t happen.

* OK let’s talk about the scene of Watson gambling. JUDE LAW, MY LOVE FOR YOU, OMG. Those brilliant, brilliant little bits of characterization. I would have liked it even more if Watson had lost and not won so overwhelmingly (Sherlock does keep his checkbook and boxing match winnings under lock and key, in the first movie, and they both act like Watson having loose change and being out in the street is a bad thing to happen). It was like he was an entirely different person, the person he is when he’s essentially indulging in his addiction. Very different than the person he is with Holmes.

* UGH THE SOUNDTRACK. I loved the soundtrack SO MUCH. Last movie it was SUPERB and this one continued the tradition.

OK, now some things I didn’t like:

* Fail /o\ In the first movie I felt they handled the problematic aspects PERFECTLY. It was Steampunk but it didn’t dwell nor glorify the Awesome Time With the Brits Ran Everything. Watson and Holmes had their own perspective, but the movie never adopted it and never indulged in it. And of course, unlike the BBC adaptation set in modern fucking day any bits of blatant racism/orientalist in Conan Doyle’s writing didn’t make it to the screen. In this one though… sigh. They went a further on every count, with the racism, the portrayal of “gypsies,” the mentions of Watson’s military record. Where in the first movie I felt like the canon was “clean” enough that I didn’t have to edit it and work around it much, in this movie it’s just… no. Which is sad because they clearly worked hard to make the script as fail free as possible in the first movie so, what happened, guys. Come on. Ritchie had managed to avoid something I’ve seen creators do WITHOUT specifically going to the 19th century – adopting colonialist attitudes and inserting them into their make believe worlds (for example, a hugely successful fantasy book I’m reading which was published in 2011). But in this movie they drew a bit more heavily from Conan Doyle’s contemporary attitudes and… no.

* Watson’s injury. One of my FAVORITE things about the the first movie was how they portrayed his mobility issues with care and consistency. In this movie it seemed to be something Watson sort of forgot about whenever it was convenient? I would have LOVED to see Watson be bad at riding, for example, because he hadn’t counted on it fucking up his injury, and he can’t actually stay on a horse for that long. Or IDK, anything. I love that, like the new Bond films, Ritchie does AMAZING, extremely physical fight scenes, but I don’t actually need Watson and Holmes to be action adventure heroes. I like them better for being a little too old for those shenanigans, and a little tired and a little bruised most of the time.

* MORIARTY. The truth is, I thought the actor was wonderful (I’m a HUGE fan of him from Mad Men) but I’m not sure I like the Moriarty the movie portrays. There’s something interesting about the twists and flourishes they’ve added to his character, but at the same time I felt like he was a little flat. Maybe that has to do with the general emotional flatness of the movie, to me. It feels like Moriarty shouldn’t just be a genius who outsmarts Sherlock and tries to ~destroy the world~ (nice quoting of 1940s Freud at the end there, btw). He should be Sherlock’s greatest nightmare and greatest desire all wrapped into one. Maybe Sherlock’s a little bit in love with him, maybe for the first time in his life he’s a little terrified. IDK, somehow it needs to be personal the way it’s personal, not just “I’ve killed your girlfriend and I’ll kill your boyfriend next.” That’s not emotional drama. Sherlock was WRONG in this movie, SEVERAL TIMES. I wish they’d paused on that, given him some freaking out time, explored what that means to him and the people who know him. It would have given Moriarty more weight as an adversary.

* IRENE. Are you shitting me? Are you really? I’m just, I’m not really mad about any of it, I’m mad they had to KILL her. Not send her back to New Jersey, not imprison her, not do anything of the sort. KILL. Thanks for RUINING MY FANDOM FUN, ASSHOLES. Irene Adler is like, one of my foolproof kink characters in this fandom. SHE IS POSSIBLY MY FAVORITE PART OF THE FIRST MOVIE. Fucking hate you, Guy Ritchie.

(Having said that, I did love the way her relationship with Sherlock was portrayed postmortem. I loved that he grabbed the handkerchief, kept it with him, that it clearly affected him, that it was clearly a major loss (RDJ, YOUR FACE ♥) and then when Watson questions him about it he just gets up and tosses it in the ocean. That’s it, that’s Sherlock Holmes. He doesn’t linger, he doesn’t deal, he just moves on and tells himself he’s fine. With shallow cuts he’ll wallow and complain, with the deeper wounds he’ll clam up and put on a brave face. It’s the perfect way to end their relationship and I was surprised how much I liked it from a characterization standpoint.)

In conclusion, a few days ago I saw an interview with Jude Law where the interviewer was like “so, you and Robert Downey Junior have quite the bromance going in this movie–” and Law interrupted him and went “why does everyone keep using that word? What’s wrong with ‘romance’!” and the interviewer is like “haha, no, no, see for that you and he would have needed to be in a romantic comedy together–” and Law’s like “WE JUST WERE! HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THE FILM?”



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