Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holmes: Better The Second Time Around

I've been having a bit of a Sherlock Holmes obsession lately. I've been re-reading the books, watching Lie to Me and Psych (both loosely based on Holmes) and the new modern version of Holmes, the TV show Sherlock, and I've been to see the new movie twice. However, when I say it's better the second time around, I don't mean the second time you go see the movie. I mean that the sequel far outshines the original.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes movie. I adore Robert Downey Jr., I enjoyed the well-crafted mystery and I appreciated how well-done the characters were. Downey and Jude Law had just the right kind of chemistry to be Holmes and Watson, Rachel McAdams made a fantastic Irene Adler, and I even enjoyed that Professor Moriarty's part was similar to his role in so many of the Sherlock Holmes short stories - that of a shadowy outsider who never gets his hands dirty but pulls many criminal strings. However, in the main, the first movie didn't use much from the books other than the characters. Still, it was an adventurous, fun and exciting movie which I enjoyed greatly.

This movie though, this wonderous sequel... if you are a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels and short stories, this movie is going to have you hopping in your seat with all of its references to the books. Hollywood has finally figured out that the truer to the book, the better the movie. I'm going to try to avoid too many spoilers, but I don't consider this one since she dies within the first 20 minutes of the movie - Irene Adler is out of the picture for good. Which I applaud. Holmes is not a romantic and although it was fun to watch him and Adler play cat and mouse in the first movie, I'm glad that they didn't continue it into the second.

The books are all told through Watson's voice, he chronicles Holmes' endeavors, and he does so in this movie as well.

In fact, fans of the book will recognize Watson's opening and ending lines of the movie, straight out of the short story The Final Adventure. And while the movie does not follow the short story completely, because to be honest it wouldn't make a very good movie, there is so much from that story and others sprinkled throughout the movie that it made me absolutely gleeful.
Professor Moriarty finally steps into center stage though and I'd like to applaud the casting director because they made some really brilliant casting decisions and James Harris as the professor was one of them. He is quietly sinister, disarmingly evil, a gentlemanly exterior encasing a cunningly devilish brain. Somewhat of a chameleon, he hides his more sinister nature behind that of a celebrated academic.
How could this well-bred, mannered, amiable intellectual possibly be behind the murders, assassinations and bombings across Europe, bringing the nations closer and closer to the brink of all out war?
Harris shows Moriarty at his most sinister as he and Holmes face off. The Professor's blatant disregard for human life on a massive scale, with the most incredibly brilliant plan that astounds and impresses even Holmes, shows audiences what Holmes could have become had he been inclined to evil. Instead, these two massive intellects collide, in a battle of wits and mystery.

Two more characters from the book make their first appearance. I just about jumped out of my seat and danced for joy when Holmes' brother Mycroft made his appearance, played by Stephen Fry.
I honestly can't think of anyone better to play the large, fleshy, apathetic and lazy individual with an intellect that outshines Sherlock's (or "Shirley" as Mycroft calls him). Another moment of glee was had when, within seconds of Mycroft's appearance on the screen, Watson remarks on how incredible it is that Mycroft has ventured outside his usual haunt - the Diogenes club. BOOK REFERENCES EVERYWHERE!!!! *happy dance*

Also fantastically casted is Paul Anderson as Colonel Sebastian Moran. Referenced in the Valley of Fear as being Moriarty's right hand man and chief villian of The Adventure of the Empty House, Holmes calls Moran the second most dangerous man in England... after Moriarty of course. He's also one of the best marksmen in Europe. Which is used to great effect in the movie.

I am quite hopeful that Hollywood will continue with the basic theme of referencing the books and make him lead bad guy if (I HOPE!) they do a third.

Even Mary gets a chance to shine. When she's introduced in the books in The Sign of Four Sherlock has several complimentary things to say about her, mostly because she provides him with all the pertinent information he needs to gather clues from. He finds her charming and intimates that she might be useful in such work as he and Watson due. In this movie she gets to do some of that, first on the train when she saves Watson by pulling a gun on an attacking henchman, and later when she becomes part of Sherlock's plan to take down the Professor.

I liked Mary in the last movie, but I'm glad that she was able to become slightly more involved in this movie.

Lovers of the books will not be disappointed by the end of the movie I hope... it differs slightly from the end of The Final Adventure, but is similar enough that I was entirely happy with it. The script uses the book word for word as Watson types, he's actually typing out the end of the story, which thrilled me. This movie had so much that I love about the books, and constant references to them as well.

Not only that, but (unlike the first movie) if you are paying attention and you see, observe and deduce, you will be able to solve the mystery along with Sherlock. It's not like the first movie where Sherlock tastes things or knows random paralytics and chemical compounds. We get the same information he does, you just have to catch it and figure out how/why it's important. Watching the movie a second time, I looked for all the things that Sherlock reveals in his wrap-up and they were all there, if only I had realized it before! More than anything, that made this a true Holmesian story to me.

Oh, and you might be asking, "Muffin, what about the gypsy chick?" Yeah, she's really not important. Just part of the plot line and a way to get more of a feminine presence into the boys club of Holmes and Watson. Which, don't get me wrong, I appreciate and she needs to be there, but overall she has nothing to do with why I was so happy with the movie.

1 comment:

  1. Hubby has been begging me to see this! I just watched the first one a couple days ago, but reading this made me excited to see this next one!