Also, will now spend one thousand words expanding on “did not like it”. Will not add much solid content beyond that, though.
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I went and saw the movie “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”.
To start with, what a stupid, bland, bloodless, faux-dramatic subtitle! Ho ho! Because there’s this evil guy who works in secret, unlike all the other bad guys who do their dastardly plotting in open daylight! And it’s a game because… because he and Sherlock play chess! Ho ho, the very acme of cleverness! Memorable! To be continued in Sherlock Holmes: The Deadly Mystery, Sherlock Holmes: Hidden Secret Secrets and Sherlock Holmes: Excitement Corner.
To continue, the plot was very much the usual insulting “excitement”. As if we are to care when the heroes gallop away from machinegun fire. Sure, some mook will shoot and kill Sherlock Holmes — not a chance of that. (And if he gets beat up a bit — bah, there are no crippling injuries in this world. The plot protects all.)
And because of that, the whole slow-motion woods sequence becomes a bore. I would call it a parody if I had that much trust in the writers — some four Gypsies (more on them in a bit) come to the heroes’ rescue. One of them has had a line before. What surprise when of the rescue squad he’s the only survivor. The heroes survive all, of course.
Well, Sherlock has the temerity to attempt dying afterwards, but after some meaningless, stakeless, utterly predictable drama, Watson remembers the adrenaline antidote Sherlock gave him previously. Why how convenient, just exactly the very one unique thing that was needed; and he still had it. Bah! No-one thought they would kill Sherlock before the movie’s end, before the villain was done. It’s not even a clever trick; just the painfully, grindingly, stupidly obvious bang of a clownish Chekhov’s gun.
How are you supposed to be excited when you know there’s no chance in hell the hero’s in any danger of death, defamy or lasting injury? Fuck 3D glasses; I’m starting to yearn for a icepick to reboot my brain so I’d have a chance of enjoying some more movies.
(Oh, and “kill Sherlock before the movie’s end”? Well, not even then. Because this is a hilarious action movie where nothing really bad can happen. Except to villains, some mooks that happened to have the wrong employer, and to one brother that had no personality, no characterization and not much motivation.)
(Not that her sister, the Gypsy girl, was much better — her function was to run around after Holmes and Watson, looking action-girly, worrying about this phantom brother, and not contributing to the plot. Irene Adler at least had agency.)
Oh, and the heroes. There were three of them. Let me tell you.
1) Sherlock Holmes. A detective. An unmitigated asshole with magic deduction. The original Holmes was a wee little bit implausibly good; this Sherlock is ludicrous. His deductions are driven by the need of the bullshit plot to move from point A to point B.
It’s frustrating to see that the main reason Sherlock’s deductions and gambles work is it would be a short movie otherwise.
Also, the original Holmes was, or I recall he was, a person that didn’t care about the manners of his day; unconventional; Bohemian; the like. How that morphed into this bullying asshole of a person, I don’t know.
2) John Something Watson. A chew toy. Sherlock pissing all over his life is supposed to be hilarious; I just kept hoping W. would pick up a gun and shoot his tormentor in the head.
The plot begins something like this:
Holmes: “Ho ho! So you’re getting married tomorrow, Watson? Well, I’ll drag you along, pretending I’m taking you to your stag party. Except I’m not. I’m dragging you along for no perceivable reason and lying to you. I’m divesting you of the company of your friends; of your dignity, money and decorum, let you self-destruct in the company of uncaring strangers, and then I’m going to wake your beaten ass up with a heigh-larious bagpipe blast minutes before your wedding starts! Then I’m going to throw your wife off a train and into a river! Because I am Sherlock Holmes of magic deduction, and I know she won’t hit a rock, hit a boat, snap her neck hitting the water, go unconscious and drown — in fact I have no real reason to think I haven’t just killed your wife, so why are you so angry Watson, it’s hilarious how angry you are!”
Because obviously Sherlock drags Watson along… well, for no particular reason. Maybe he had planned on dragooning Irene Adler but couldn’t. (“Oh well — my bitch Watson will have to do. Who the fuck cares if he has a life; I need a warm body! By the way this is not narcissistic jerkassery; this is hilarious comedy.“)
It might have been an interesting movie if Watson’s protests, worries and injuries had been fuel for more than honking low humor. If coming and wrecking your so-called best friend’s life would have caused, you know, a meaningful discussion about why Sherlock is such an asshole and why it’s best they don’t see each other anymore. But no; abuse is hilarious when it’s the hero doing it, and when the cowardice of the plot ensures no characters will suffer lasting harm from it.
(I know it’s all to stop the evil criminal, and Holmes is not good with people — but he just goes beyond what I can watch without wanting to stove his smug face in. I’ve never understood this comedy where ruining a nice ordinary person’s life is funny. And I’ve laughed at Mai-chan’s Daily Life, including that over-the-top absurdly cruel part, which is every part of it; but this ordinary sadistic thing I just don’t get.)
(Also, here’s a fantasy. The duo break into Moriarty’s lair; they find Mycroft there. Surprise! The war plan is as foreseen, and is an instrument of British foreign policy. What will our heroes do? But no, that’s a conflict that will not do in a film of explosions and people blandly disliking each other.)
Since we’re past the halfway mark I can admit the character of Watson was where the movie turned sour for me; all this other nagging snowballed from that. When everyone else in the movie seems to be a callous fast-talking asshole, you tend to root for the butt monkey of the universe. And when all he gets is abuse and a half-assed explanation afterwards, and he’s supposed to see it’s okay, that’s how the thing works, he ought to revere the Sherlock bastard… well, not sympathy gold.
3) Third, there’s this Gypsy woman. Her job in the movie was to have an anarchist brother, and to be a Gypsy: her functions could have been replaced by three lines of extra exposition by Sherlock. Oh, and she probably had breasts too; I did not happen to notice, but I can’t think of any other possible reason for dragging the meaningless bulk of her through the movie.
Oh, and did I mention she was a Gypsy? Who are introduced, and maintained, as people with three attributes: they’re thieves, they’re likely to kill you for any minuscule reason, and they’re smugglers. Also they dress in rags and are dirty.
With this loving attention to ethnic diversity, it should not amaze the bad guys in the main action sequence are Germans; the villain’s plot is to make principally the Germans angry; the villain’s weapons factory is in Germany; because you know, French weapons manufacture would just strain the audience’s suspension of disbelief. All they’re missing is a SS captain in a black raincoat. (And of course the factory can’t be in dear old Britain. Because the audience might be a little bit unwilling to see the wholesale slaughter of Brits in uniform. But some subhuman Germans, who cares!)
(Well, the Gypsy and German things might be my imagination; but by that time in the movie I wasn’t in a mood to assume innocence.)
As for clever wordplay, well, come back when it’s not a shell for bullshit deductions. The botany book and the potted plant, for crying out loud; obviously you can’t have a botany book in a room full of books in a building full of books if your potted plants are pining. (Whoever thought those jerky deduction montages were clever — should be beaten with bats made of hedgehogs. They were annoying, because Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be clever, not prescient. Scary smart; not a fucking medium. That was the Gypsy’s occupation.)
I’ll give the movie one plus: I was so very sure Irene Adler — a character I hate because every single Sherlock adaptation is so hell-bent on obsessing over the woman — I was so very sure she wasn’t really dead. I was surprised by her non-reappearance.
Not to fear, I’m sure she’ll be back when the next film rolls around. She and probably Moriarty too.
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And having vented, I’m all calm again.
Seriously, it was either this or no review and a post about why everything in the world is ‘orrible and the Vogons should come already.