I remember when I saw the previews for Sherlock Holmes in 2009, that there was a moment where Watson (Jude Law) said to Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.), "Does your depravity know no bounds?" And that moment made me say, "I am never going to watch this movie!" Because the Sherlock Holmes created by A. Conan Doyle is the complete opposite of depraved. Though he would doubtless deny it, Sherlock Holmes is the very model of a Victorian gentleman, morally upright and unswerving in his pursuit of justice. So I refused to see this movie. My dear friend DKoren agreed. But then, last year, she accidentally saw part of the second movie on a plane, without sound, and found RDJ so compelling that she had to watch the real movies. And she discovered something wonderful.
When Watson asks Holmes if his depravity knows no bounds, they are discussing doilies. Yes. Doilies. And patterned tablecloths and china figurines and all the womanly fripperies that Holmes is convinced will overwhelm Watson as soon as he gets married. Watson is being sarcastic and annoyed, and there's no depravity involved. Once I'd been assured of this fact, I agreed to watch these movies with my friend when she visited. And I enjoyed them! I didn't love them, but I enjoyed them. Here's a bit about each, and I'll get into plot points, character deaths, etc, so it's going to be pretty spoily. Don't read beyond this if you haven't seen these yet, but want to!
Unlike in most Buffy eps, however, it turns out that the monsters and magic were all a sham, and there are logical, human reasons behind all the seemingly magical occurrences. Also, unlike Buffy and Doyle's stories, clues are withheld from the audience. In the stories, Watson sees what Holmes sees, and records all the data for the readers, who can follow the clues and figure out the case if they're very clever. This movie felt more like an Agatha Christie mystery, where several key bits of information get withheld from the readers just so the detective looks really brilliant when we get to the reveal. Never a good plan, folks.
I liked Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) much better. It pits Holmes against Professor Moriarty, his archnemesis from the original stories, who "killed" Holmes in the Doyle story "The Final Problem." Now, I'm not a huge fan of stories involving Moriarty for the simple reason that he's overused. I've read quite a lot of non-canonical Sherlock Holmes stories, and it seems like Moriarty pops up in a third of them. It gets old! Like having the Joker in every third Batman story, or Lex Luthor in every third Superman story. Plus, Moriarty is so often over-written (or over-acted) and just... I get annoyed, okay? But this Moriarty (Jared Harris) is subtle and crafty and shifty and oh-so-pleased with himself. Creepy, in other words, but a worthy adversary for Holmes. The movie as a whole was more of a chase than a mystery. No withheld evidence, no red herrings.
Also, I absolutely loved this movie's portrayal of Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry). He's fat and jovial and so obviously smarter than he wants you to think. Loved, loved, loved this Mycroft. Plus, he called Holmes "Sherley," which cracked me up no end.
Plus, they killed off Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) at the beginning, and I reeeeeally didn't like this Irene Adler -- she was too pert and too dumb. Without her in the way, the rest of the movie was great!
In both films, I loved the portrayal of Watson by Jude Law particularly well -- he's all the things Watson should be: loyal and brave and intelligent and somewhat exasperated by Holmes on occasion. Plus, he's quite funny. But... when has Jude Law ever turned in a bad performance?
I also dug Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. He has that almost-hidden sorrow, the pain lurking in his eyes that hints at past darkness... he's a bit broody, really. Catnip for Hamlette, in other words.
I loved that Holmes' disguises are awful. Dreadful. Transparent. But they buy him extra time when he needs it, which is all they really need to do. It's a sweet twist since, in the stories, Watson is always calling Holmes' disguises undetectable and so on.
Things I didn't care for, other than the ones I've mentioned already? The wonky film editing. I liked it for the glimpse-inside-Holmes' brain parts, but not the other times it's used. Got really old and annoying really fast. And Mrs. Hudson (Geraldine James) was too snarky, not kind enough.
As for costumes... loved them! Especially since both Holmes and Watson spent considerable time in suspenders. I have this thing for guys in suspenders. Strange but true. Yummy.
This is a long post already, so not going into anything about costumes other than that. Sorry! There are pics available all over online if you're interested in seeing more. (Oh, but Irene Adler does have the biggest bustles I've seen in... maybe forever. Freakishly shelf-like, really.)
Is this movie family-friendly? Um, not really. A little bad language, some innuendo, lots of violence.