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Sherlock Holmes movie isn't much like the books

December 18, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is just a bit too clever for its own good.

Like the first movie, also directed by Madonna's ex-husband Guy Ritchie, the movie is long on slo-mo action scenes, wink-wink, nudge-nudge jokes about Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) and gorgeous cinematography. There's quite a bit of comedy, particularly during Watson's stag party, attended only by Holmes and his brother, since Holmes forgot to invite Watson's other friends, and the wedding the next day, where the hung-over Watson and the bruised and dirty Holmes drag themselves to the altar so Watson can get married. Needless to say, the honeymoon doesn't go as planned either and Watson's new wife Mary (Kelly Reilly) has reason to be less than thrilled with Holmes and his brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry). Upon meeting Mycroft she says sarcastically: "You mean there are two of you? Oh, how marvelous!"

The plot of the movie bears only a passing resemblance to the classic stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, which is one of its weaknesses. Another is that there was so much action that it was hard to keep track of what was happening and why. In general terms, I could tell that Holmes was taking on master villain Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). Moriarty, a college mathematics professor, is secretly the "Napoleon of crime" in both the books and the movies. He reminded me a bit of a Nazi concentration camp commandant in one scene where he sings German opera as he tortures Holmes and threatens to kill Watson and Watson's new wife.

Holmes is apparently trying to avert a possible war between France and Germany. Moriarty wants to provoke the war so he can make a fortune selling weaponry and bandages to both sides. To do so, he is making it look like anarchists are bombing key sites and killing off key dignitaries. Along the way Moriarty recruits the brother of Gypsy fortune teller Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) for his nefarious plan and Simza joins forces with Holmes and Watson to try to find her brother and stop Moriarty. The climax is in a peace conference in Switzerland, located near the famous Reichenbach Falls. When it was all over I still wasn't quite clear what had happened or where.

This is probably the best adult movie currently playing in the theater, so it's probably worth going if you have some time over the holiday break. But it might take more than one viewing to figure out the entire plot.


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