Thursday, January 5, 2012

movienotes: Best

So: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. Lets talk.

Fun factor: about 110%. If the homoerotic potential dripping off the walls doesn't get you, the sheer energy coming off the screen should catch your eye. It isn't even energy by all means -- there are weird scenes in the middle that lag badly -- but there's enough to carry you through.

As far as story goes (mild spoilers - RAYOR), well, there's not much. It's kind of a hash job of Scandal in Bohemia (so they can use Irene Adler) and mostly The Final Problem. Other than that, if you're looking for canon Holmes, look elsewhere -- possibly in the canon? There's Mycroft and Moriarty and they're both basically who they are in canon -- even in nouveau 2010 BBC canon, if you're a new fan -- but other than that, Ritchie is making it up as he goes.

Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. Conan Doyle wrote the original stories to make money. He wasn't aiming to create a deathless character and the stories are not high literature; some of them barely make sense: The Lion's Mane? Please. And lets not even talk about The Sussex Vampire. So, if you think about it, a confusing, backtracking, deus ex machina storyline is pretty much par for the course.

Apart from the bits that just flat out make no sense -- what's with that thing in the middle after the bomb at the Paris hotel where we get the same dialogue repeated between the same three or four characters at least three times? did someone hiccup while photocopying the script? -- I have one niggle niggling at me and that's sort of with the last half of the plot as a whole.

As far as I was able to tell from the back of his head, Thorston Manderlay did a fine job being shot in the temple (as Alfred Meinhard, the arms dealer being used as a cat's paw by Moriarty) but, since the character was so obviously based on the Krupp family, I'm a little confused as to why they didn't simply use an actual Krupp, since there was more than one extant at the time. Perhaps libel or slander laws? I don't know if there are any scions of the family still left alive -- I suspect so, even if the blood relation is pretty thin -- and I don't know who would be in charge of such a suit but I'm sure it would be possible.

My problem is not with Meinhard as such but -- there's something about that last half of the storyline that just makes me twitchy. Perhaps because I actually know something about it? perhaps because I don't think arms races which resulted in the deaths of millions of people are really ideal fodder for a flash-bang action movie?

Which is then odd because, if I was going to tell someone who didn't really want to watch World War I movies -- a position I could easily understand! -- but who wanted a feeling of what the war was (sort of) like, I can think of worse films to tell them to see than Shadows.

No, not the bit in the "racy" club at the beginning -- that's less sex and more about Guy Ritchie flexing his muscle as a filmer of fight scenes, something at which he excels, by the way. No, I'm thinking of the 'running through the woods escaping from the arms factory' bit. Again, a pretty direct reference to the Krupp arms factory since not only the geographic location but also the names of the guns are similar: one of Krupp's most famous productions was the gun "Big Bertha" -- anyone notice the name of the gun in the movie? Anyone? Yeah -- "Little Hansel." I'm thinkin'...

But I feel the race through the woods -- mostly quiet with explosions of noise around the shells, bits of debris flying everywhere, weird lighting, strangely hyper-real colors -- was weirdly effective as an evocation of a World War I battlefield. It made the whole thing feel oddly out of time, actually, since it was a story ostensibly taking place in 1891 or thereabouts and Holmes never got any closer to World War I than that weird-ass story about the German spy and Laurie King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

In any case, Shadows is excellent popcorny fun. See it for the fight scenes. See it for the slash. See it for the double -- and single! -- entendres and don't, for the love of heaven, take it at all seriously.

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