Saturday, 19 May 2012

Sherlock Holmes (2009) & Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I'm a huge fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and I'm currently obsessed with the BBC series. I love it so much it's almost scary! As I've said before, even though the BBC series is a modern-day update it's still very faithful to the Conan Doyle stories and is an absolutely brilliant TV show. This makes it the exact opposite then of the two Sherlock Holmes films that Guy Ritchie has made for the big screen in the past few years. Although Ritchie's films are set in the correct Victorian time period they're much less faithful to the original stories, and for a long time I refused to watch either of them because I thought they'd only make me really annoyed.  But out of curiosity I finally gave in and decided to give them a watch - although I felt like Judas when I paid for them at the counter! Anyway, I've now seen both films and they brought out very mixed emotions in me. In the past I've read reviews from people who love both films, people who hate both films, and people who enjoyed one film and not the other. Now I make up part of the latter.

Why, why, why???
I really did not like the first of these two films at all. Firstly, because I hated what they did to Irene Adler and the backstory that they gave her. They still keep her character American but they change practically everything else about her. In this film she's now Sherlock Holmes's ex-girlfriend and she and Holmes are still in love with one another. Well this certainly isn't accurate! In Conan Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia story Irene marries another man (who she genuinely loves) and she and Sherlock only speak to each other for about two minutes. And Sherlock certainly didn't have romantic feelings for Irene. He was definitely fascinated by her and had a huge amount of respect for her but that's as far as his feelings went. As Watson notes "It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love" for her. Also, Sherlock Holmes is quite clearly an asexual character in the Conan Doyle stories and is regarded as a bit of an icon by the asexual community. I think it's a real shame that this film had to turn him into a heterosexual. OK, I wasn't thrilled with how Irene Adler and her relationship with Sherlock was portrayed in the BBC series either but this film is by far the worst offender.

Another big problem that I have with this film is its out-of-character portrayal of Sherlock. Now I get the impression that the intention of Guy Ritchie and the screenwriters was to move their Sherlock Holmes film away from the classic Basil Rathbone/Jeremy Brett adaptations by showing more of the active, energetic Holmes that you read about in the Conan Doyle stories. However, whilst it IS nice to see Sherlock boxing and being less placid the film takes it too far to the other extreme. It's like they're saying "We give you Action Hero Holmes! Now with Karate Chop Motion!" Also, Sherlock Holmes is far too bumbling and dumbed-down in this film. It's actually Watson who comes across as the more intelligent and capable of the two the majority of the time. Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes comes across as extremely intelligent and sharp but Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock often comes across as Jack Sparrow-esque in places. Now I love Jack Sparrow as much as anyone but I don't want Sherlock Holmes to be like him!

My third problem with the film is that it's just generally not a good film. It has a weak, confusing and overly-complicated plot and it's rather poorly-paced. I was amazed at how boring so much of it was. I'm not saying that the film is all bad though since there were some aspects of it that I did like. The first 15-20 minutes of it or so are great and Jude Law makes for a surprisingly excellent Watson. Oh, and I liked Gladstone the dog. But these few good things still didn't stop me from really disliking the film overall so I give it 2/5.

My feelings on the film's sequel A Game of Shadows are quite different though. It's inspired by the Conan Doyle story The Final Problem and takes many liberties with the original story... but I actually really liked it! The second film is by no means perfect and still can't hold a candle to the BBC series but it's a huge improvement from the first film and is very enjoyable. I think this is probably due to the second film having different screenwriters to the first film. A Game of Shadows is much funnier than the first film and is far more entertaining. The plot is still a bit confusing and overly-complicated in places but is much less so than the first film and it certainly has much better pacing. Jared Harris gives a very good, creepy performance as Moriarty and I really liked the actor who played his right-hand man Sebastian Moran. I think the actor's name is Paul Anderson but he doesn't have a Wikipedia page. We also get Stephen Fry in this film as Mycroft Holmes. He was very good fun in this film even though I really didn't like the scene where he goes naked! I don't want to see Stephen Fry naked! Ever! As far as I'm concerned he was born wearing clothes! Robert Downey Jr gives a much better performance in this film as well. Downey Jr's Sherlock is still a bit too bumbling at times but it's more tolerable (and even funny) this time around and his acting has mellowed considerably. He never manages to achieve the emotional depth of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock but he does get some nice, emotional moments. If you're interested in seeing either of the two films then I'd suggest watching A Game of Shadows first. I wouldn't suggest skipping the first film entirely, purely because you'll appreciate how much better its sequel is once you've seen it. A Game of Shadows stands on its own and would still make sense to people even if they hadn't seen the first film. The story-lines between the two films aren't really continuous, apart from a brief appearance from Irene Adler in the second film and the fact that Watson's wife Mary Morstan is in both films. Although the BBC series is still far superior this second film is very enjoyable and it's the best film that Guy Ritchie has made in quite some time. I give it 4/5.


Anonymous said...

hmm. I agree with you about dumb Sherlock in the 1st one, but I love Irenelock and... I don't think the plot is too thick. Totally agree with A Game of Shadows, haven't seen Sherlock, (BBC), but I want to. I share a lot of your interests,
if your interested. ☺

Indigo Montoya said...

Well... I think Irenelock has its place in fanfiction but I have a big problem with it being in adaptations. It's just not canon at all and I think that Sherlock's asexuality is one of the most interesting aspects of his character. I didn't like the first RDJ Sherlock film but I was really surprised at how much I liked GoS. I'm sure I'll see the 3rd film at the cinema when that comes out.
I love, love, love the BBC series! I was really sceptical about it for some time because I usually dislike modern day updates but when I saw it I was completely won over. It's VERY cleverly written and it has a lot of comedy. The acting's great especially from Benedict Cumberbatch. It really captures the FEEL of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories too. Have you read them? I've had a look at your fanfiction page and, yes, we do have many of the same interests : )