Friday, July 27, 2012

Holmes for the Holidays

Something I've noticed over the past several months in my reading and film-watching habits recently has been a sharp increase in stories starring Sherlock Holmes. While I've long been a fan of the Greatest Detective, these things tend to come in waves, and right now the Holmes-wave is cresting.

Most obviously, the arrival of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in theaters last December was an occasion of some welcome. I see that the first Guy Ritchie-directed Holmes adaptation came out during my own hiatus, and thus went uncommented on. I'll just take this opportunity to say that I found it an excellent movie, one that hewed close to the spirit of Doyle's stories, if not being perfectly accurate in every detail.

And I swear the tagline is an amusing coincidence.

The sequel is the pretty much the same, only more so. I do have a few quibbles with it - the liberties taken with the storyline were somewhat more noticeable, given that the film was adapting an existing Holmes story rather than making one out of whole cloth. I was also rather irritated at the fate of Irene Adler in the film, though I take some comfort from the fact that we never saw the body. So to speak.

Holmes and Watson, though, were in top form. Especially gratifying was the expanded use of Holmes' "plot-out-the-fight-in-slow-motion-in-advance" brawling technique, even considering the time that Holmes' meticulous sequence was derailed by a third party throwing a knife. And of course, his final encounter with Moriarty took this form as well, with amazing results. And let's not forget Watson -  I especially appreciated his use of deductive reasoning concerning Mycroft's appearance at his "bachelor party", as well as his penultimate confrontation with Colonel Moran.

Finally, I thought Jared Harris' portrayal of Professor Moriarty to be pretty good, with just the right amount of civility papering over seething menace. His plot was refreshingly prosaic, though it reminded me quite a bit - OK, it was pretty much identical - to the Fantom's plot in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And we all know who he turned out to be: