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Sherlock Holmes plays with Moriarty in the Shadows

It was great fun watching Robert Downey Jr. play Sherlock Holmes in his new big screen movie, A Game Of Shadows. Watson in the form of Jude Law gets married and Moriarty embodied by Jared Harris plays a skillful game of life and death chess with the inevitable result that both he and Sherlock take a misty plunge at the end. What actually happens to the characters isn’t what this movie is about, not at all — it’s the visuals all the way. Facial as well as bodily gymnastics by all the major actors was a pleasure usually seen only on computer games because they were so extreme, but much more controlled and believable when contorted by Downey. He is so unusual if we didn’t see him in trouble with the Hollywood crowd occasionally we would have to think of him as a computer-generated being. He is in the uncanny valley between humans and robots where we can’t tell the difference between flesh and android. Perhaps his name should be Robot Downey Jr., since he plays the role with such mechanical precision and perfection.

The backstage people like the casting director got their characters to perfection. But perhaps the most astonishing thing about this movie is the special effects with new twists on old visuals. The huge bullet pursuing Holmes et al through the forest in slow motion splintering trees as it comes was comic perfection. It is all supposed to be so super-serious, but it is comic book serious, so why not just call the whole movie comic? Everything about the movie is this sort of totally over the top  nonsense, but it’s fun. Sherlock will once again perform his magic of  transferring lots of money from the pockets of those needing meaningless entertainment into the pockets of those making these extravaganzas. Jack the Ripper still has the power to entertain because he had an uncanny window into the human need for violence.

Conan Doyle’s Sherlock still lives 120 years after starting his Adventures.