Sherlock Holmes Has Kicked Ass for Centuries

Sherlock Holmes Game of ShadowsI just watched “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows” and I must say, well played. Guy Ritchie seems to have focus grouped the heck out of the first movie and decided to eliminate everything audiences didn’t like from the previous installment out. That includes Rachel MacAdams, who has very little screen time in the new movie.

No, the new Sherlock Holmes movie has a lot more in common with “The Naked Gun” and “The Matrix”. than “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”. There’s a joke about every 30 seconds or so and even though it’s extremely violent the underlying tone is playful, like you’re spending 2 hours with that hilarious guy from the bar who is always getting sloshed and making great jokes. In this case, that guy is Robert Downey, Jr.

Downey’s Holmes is an opium smoking maladjusted genius. His ability to “see everything” carries over into fighting scenes where we get Matrix esque slo mo explanations of each hit and dodge and tarry. In this entry, Holmes is up against the rival of so many classic Doyle stories: Professor Morirarity, who just may be out to engineer a “World War” between all the great powers of Europe in the late 19th century.

The movie delivers laughs and enough plausible suspense for everyone in the theater to cheer and gasp when all the right notes were pushed. Towards the end the incessant camera movements got a little ridiculous and the audience I was with started laughing during a scene that was supposed to be climactic action… but hey, what can you do?

The movie did make me reflect on the Holmes legacy, as my 22 year old companion had never heard of his Holmes as a literary character. (In fact, when asked if she liked the first movie she said, “It’s hard for me to say, because I was mostly just staring at Robert Downey, Jr.) The character has been a huge hit since the stories were written in the late 1800s by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Like the author in “Misery”, Doyle grew tired of concocting mysteries and wanted to write something more serious, so he killed of his most beloved character. There was a public outcry and Doyle brought Holmes back to life later.

The character was brought to life in many movies in Britain over the years, but none so loudly as Guy Ritchie’s interpretation.

The public seems to love mysteries and really smart people who can figure them out. Perhaps it’s an expression of a desire to actually make sense of our own lives. The theme has followed with the staggering popularity of shows like “CSI” and “Numbers” which employ the same formula of setting up a mystery and having someone who seems smarter than us use their brain and science and deduction to figure things out.

However, my favorite Holmes movie is one from the 80s, during my childhood years. “Young Sherlock Holmes” is a movie directed by Barry Levinson that imagines the meeting of Holmes and Watson and his first real case. It’s actually a very tight thriller with some real character, and some scary moments involving a hallucinatory poison dart and witchcraft.

The movie is a cult classic, with over 138 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5 out of 5 star average rating.

I actually prefer this movie to last year’s Sherlock Holmes, even though both were enjoyable. The older one has a little more imagination and less flash to it.

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