The Christmas break finally gave me enough time to head to the cinema for an afternoon. Our choices were either Sherlock Holmes or War Horse, and since none of us were really in the mood for the horrors of trench warfare, we went with Sherlock.
As purely escapist cinema, this isn’t bad: it’s got explosions and excitement and pretty people. It’s even got some decent performances. But as a film, it’s got issues. Take its plot, for instance. The first film was all about Sherlock investigating some mysterious cult-like group and proving that they did not actually have mystical superpowers. It was about grounding something that seemed otherworldly in solid facts and (ok, probably pretty questionable) science. Plus, it was kind of fun. The plot of this film involves a series of bombings across Europe that make Holmes go full ‘Beautiful Mind’ as he tries to tie them and a bunch of seemingly unrelated business deals and other crimes to one Professor Moriarty. Holmes decides that the fiendishly clever Moriarty is trying to kick off World War I a couple of decades early so the cotton mills and weapons factories he’s secretly been taking over will become hugely profitable. Fiendish? Yeah, I guess, but clever? No. Here’s the thing: you don’t really need a war to make weapons and cotton factories profitable. People buy plenty of weapons in peacetime. Cotton too. So Moriarty’s bizarre, dangerous plot is already unnecessarily complicated. And where’s a college professor getting that kind of cash anyway? All that, however, takes a back seat to the jaw-dropping absurdity of the final solution to this particular case, which is so dumb I’m not even going to spoil it here. Just trust me: it makes the first film’s denouement seem totally reasonable by comparison.
The movie does have some great performances by the leads–Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, with assists from Jared Harris as Moriarty and Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes (who hilariously calls his brother “Sherley” as a nickname). Harris comes across as an excellent foil for Holmes, as he should, and I just wish his character hadn’t been so wasted in this utterly dumb plot. It would have been nice to see him really go toe-to-toe with Holmes and truly match some wits, instead of hiding behind a hired minion with impossibly good aim and some proto-SS officers. Oh well, at least Fry’s pretty awesome. And the chemistry between Law and Downey Jr. is even better this time around (you can tell they’re good friends offscreen), though I wouldn’t have minded if they’d dialed down the homoerotic suggestiveness between Holmes and Watson. It wasn’t funny, and it kind of got in the way. Noomi Rapace as the obligatory girl in the cast is all right in a role that doesn’t give her all that much to do. As in the first film, the female character comes across as rather flat and superfluous.
For those who like that sort of thing, there are explosions and chase scenes galore, though I found many of the action scenes almost difficult to follow (and I wasn’t the only one in my party to say so). The camera keept speeding up and slowing down and pausing randomly, making it extremely hard to focus on what was happening. Remember those nifty fight scenes from the first movie, where Sherlock would pause before the action started and explain exactly what he was going to do to drop his opponent? Hope you didn’t get too attached, because there are few of them in this film, and the first one is disappointing because Holmes apparently gets psychic and somehow just knows exactly what weapons each of the five men attacking him are carrying. It’s a shame to lose those moments, because I thought they were a neat glimpse into Holmes’s rather cold, calculating brain. Oh well.
Movie Fans: C
History/Holmes Fans: D