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At The Movies: Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Making Them As Married As Possible

2011 December 23

Beware, gentle reader! For this fair review contains those demons known as SPOILERS!! While they are not major plot spoilers, there is mention of Stuff That Matters, so if this causes your brow to sweat, TREAD CAREFULLY! And you might want to skip the entire review and just look at the picture at the bottom.

Father Christmas begins his judgement of whether or not potential gift recipients have been Naughty or Nice well back in February. January is his holiday month, where no paperwork is done. It all starts in February, that judgement process. He’s got a lot of people to get through, and the judgement of Naughty or Nice is perilous. Some people write him letters. That makes it easier; except those bastards who write something extolling how such a polarised morality system is flawed, and the whole concept of “Naughtiness” is subjective. These people usually get a lump of coal, a black top hat and the GPS location of my bedroom.

As you can imagine, the more Father Christmas can mass-judge and dispense identical recompense or reward – known as “blanketing” – the easier his job is. So any opportunity he has to reward an entire section of humanity in one go, he takes it. Of course he does. Wouldn’t you?

Anyway, that’s why Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows exists. Father Christmas noticed that an awful lot of people who had exhibited exemplary behaviour this year were linked by their communal desire to see Robert Downey Jnr. touch Jude Law with as much of his naked body as possible, and pulled a few strings at Warner Brothers – he has fingers in many pies, you see – and here we are.

I got all this, incidentally, from a few of my double-agent elves stationed in his workhouse. I intend on repurposing his operation for my own, er, purposes.1

Poster for the film. Holmes and Watson stand in a dark alley lit by blue light, brandishing pistols. Image via Wikipedia, shared under Fair Use guidelines.So: Sherlock Holmes 2 (let’s call it that for short) follows in the grand tradition of making Holmes and Watson as blatantly married as possible without allowing them to actually kiss. From my perspective as an audience member, it looks almost like a game directors (in this case, Guy Ritchie) play: given that both Holmes and Watson have female love interests, how can they convey just how deeply involved with each other they are without resorting to boring, obvious techniques such as having them snog or surreptitiously shag in a train? Ritchie leaps the first hurdle – that of the lady interlopers – with little difficulty. He kills off Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) in a single scene with no ambiguity or remorse. Thought she was fun and interesting and looked forward to seeing more of her in this film? Tough! Down she goes in a fit of unceremonious bloody coughing under the impassive gaze of Dr Moriarty (the terrifying Jared Harris) from behind a teacup.

Watson’s wife, Mary (Kelly Reilly), though clearly a bit of an unflappable, gun-cocking badass herself, gets about ten lines in total, and is dressed up and polished as a dreadful gooseberry to Watson and Holmes’s gay domestic bliss. It’s a shame, and, you know, I’d hiss and spit about it more and about how it seems that people are resentful of any differently-gendered third party to a homoerotic pairing (canon or not) as if any hint of heterosexuality immediately ruins everything like bisexuality or polyamory don’t fucking exist BUT YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND, THERE WAS HALF-NAKED SPOONING AND LOTS OF HURT/COMFORT. I CAN’T STAY ANGRY AT IT.

I just penned a paragraph listing all of the things Holmes and Watson do or say to each other that could have been replaced wholesale with extended, visceral scenes of them fellating each other’s tongues, but then I ran out of recommended wordcount for the article and I don’t want to anger my editor. Suffice to say, it’s a lot, verging on ALL THINGS. You’re probably not very surprised. I did say the film was a reward for the RDJ/JL cabal and the Holmes/Watson contingent. That’s a lot of people who’ve been basically Mahatma Ghandi this year. Well done those people.

But it does bring me back to the point I always get up in my grill when I watch “bromances” such as this, and that is: it’s not enough. Don’t you dare call this a queer film because it isn’t. It mollifies, rather than actually addresses any visibility issues. It flirts, but is ultimately a bit of a cocktease. I know there’s the argument that emotionally intense (but not actually sexual) relationships between women get a lot of screen time in fictional media, and intimate inter-female friendships have a bigger presence in the collective conscience of Western culture (that group toilet trip thing, for instance) so it’s not fair that men can only slap each other tentatively on the back or – gasp! – they’ll be branded as “gay”, but what I’m most concerned with is the abandonment of all this bollocks heterocentrism. Let’s just stop erecting the acceptable-emotional-involvement barricade just shy of physical intimacy just in case we end up ruining Western civilisation with these thoughtless same-gender relationships. Go the whole bloody hog, would you? Or are you only flirting with the idea of homoeroticism because you think it’s ridiculous? Neither is good.

And I know a million people before me have complained about the lack of queer visibility in mainstream media, and how mixed-gender couples get an awful lot of privilege in terms of representation, but seeing something like Sherlock 2 – whereby the two heroes come so close to just coupling it up all over the screen but are clearly prevented by the fear that the merest hint of consummation will send the Straight Cis Male audience members fleeing like Bill Bailey from the Trollhunter – just makes me see red. The Rage Cage descends. (I have actually written this part of the review through the Rage Cage after all!)

Poster for the film showing Noomi Rapace, a Caucasian dark haired woman with long wild hair, brandishing knives. Image used under Fair Use guidelines, copyright Warner Bros…Which might explain why there’s very little actual review. I’m sorry. Let me fix that. The violence is up in this film: it’s very gritty and very hard-hitting compared with its predecessor, and there’s a lot of Ritchie’s favourite slo-mo impacts and explosions. A lot of the violence focuses on the militaristic, rather than the directly interpersonal as in the first film. There’s a scene wherein our heroes and the amazing Noomi Rapace (who was Lisbeth Salander in the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo films) as a tousle-haired “Gypsy” knife-fighting fortune teller (oh my god I’d bloody love to see a Traveller character of any ethnic background who wasn’t at least one of those things) charge through a forest whilst being shelled by heavy artillery. They all survive, miraculously, but the actual filming of the ballistics in graphic, almost comic-book-style, all slow motion and muted sound, makes it so brutal that I found it quite difficult to watch. And I’m all over my violence, usually – as we know. It was probably the intended effect, anyway; so a winner is you, Mr Ritchie! You harrowed me out with artillery explosions, and this isn’t even a “war film”. Well done.

As this film also caters to those steampunk kids, there’s lots of machine porn: lots of mechanical extreme close-ups and sweeping racks of armaments. Everyone gets armed with new, shiny, extremely destructive firearms. Bullet-holes are examined, and Watson’s military past is brought up often. War pervades. Terrorism happens: “extreme political movements” and “anarchists” are framed for the detonation of bombs, carefully engineered to pit the European powerhouses against each other in bloody conflict.

With this backdrop of indiscriminate, impersonal violence, Watson and Holmes’s adoring, frequently tactile relationship sticks out like a sore, er, thumb. It’s amazing. Their emotional interplay – the most profound moment for me was when Watson fished Holmes out of a collapsed tower and stroked his hair – is like a warm, soft thing in amongst rubble and bullets. Ahhh. It’s ever so nice. Still not enough, though.

But I wish they’d had Rapace’s lovely lady in it more. She was resourceful and believably earnest; her performance refreshingly down-to-earth and human next to RDJ and Law’s saucy ping-pong. There’s several gorgeous scenes where Mycroft (played by the oozingly lovely Dame Stephen of Fry), Sherlock and Watson have a sort of banter-off, and Simza sits watchably increasingly perplexed, alternately following their conversation and letting it pass her by. She was very real. She even bled and reacted to pain in real, non-dramatic, human ways, which is unusual in films of this genre – and makes a particular contrast with the theatrical, fancy-hatted Irene. But she didn’t have nearly enough presence, losing out drastically to Sherlohn Watsolmes in terms of screen time – which, you know, fair enough: the film is about them, but she really was wonderful. I think she and Fry’s Mycroft should have their own spin-off where they ooze and stab their way around Europe in search of the perfect hat.

A three panel comic drawn on textured card and coloured. PANEL ONE: a close-up of the profiles of Holmes and Watson, Holmes apparently on the floor, and Watson above him. Watson says, 'Oh Holmes, are you hurt?' PANEL TWO: an even closer close-up, this time with a dark background and Holmes's bloodstained hand on the side of Watson's face. Holmes says, 'Ah, Watson. Thank you for finding me. Allow me to witticism you into kissing it better.' PANEL THREE: the perspective has changed to show that the action is between Jude Law and Robert Downey Jnr. on the Sherlock Holmes set. They are on the floor, in the set rubble, entwined in each other. One of them is saying, in all-caps, 'LET US KISS WITH TONGUES'. The the left, a crowd of displeased onlookers - including Simza, the director and a sound tech - disguises a lasciviously grinning Father Christmas at the back. Image by Markgraf.

Actual photographs from the set.


  • It’s very funny
  • It’s very beautiful to look at
  • The action sequences are slick and well-designed
  • Moriarty is well hot


  • Er.
  • Well, it’s quite violent, I guess? If that’s not your thing, you should leave it aaht
  • Moriarty hangs Sherlock on a meat hook and tortures him while singing Schubert’s Die Forelle no wait that’s a reason to see it
  1. If you read to the end of this sentence, you will forget everything I have said in this article. No! Wait! Not all of it! Remember the review! Remember the rev- bugger. []
8 Responses leave one →
  1. Terri permalink
    December 23, 2011

    Hee, love this review! (Have already seen the movie twice, am contemplating a third trip.)

    • Markgraf permalink
      December 23, 2011

      I’m definitely taking my boyfriend along, and seeing if I can engineer myself a third trip after that. I mean, I’d wait until the DVD release, but that’ll be ages, and I really think the effects benefit from huge-ass screening!

  2. me_and permalink
    December 23, 2011

    Sod the film, I think I’m falling in love with Markgraf after that review.

    • Markgraf permalink
      December 23, 2011

      That’s very sweet of you. I am trivially seduced with tea and trousers.

  3. Aisling permalink
    December 24, 2011

    tbh I think Irene’s bustle may count as a reason not to see the film. I mean… magenta!? WHY? (I may or may not have spent the first half hour horrorfacing over the dress, ahem.)
    Still, the living incarnation of the Kate Beaton Pony made up for it. Ponies make EVERYTHING better.

    Anywho, spiffy review as always. :{D

    • Markgraf permalink
      December 30, 2011

      I would wear that dress. Just saying. It’d be a sartorial event.

  4. Sarah Cook permalink
    December 29, 2011

    Viktoriya and I went to see this and I spent most of the film with my face aching from the grinning, clapping my hands together like an over-excited child and thinking “I bet Markgraf would love this”

    • Markgraf permalink
      December 30, 2011


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