“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” (A Nickell-odeon Review)

January 3, 2012

"Ah, Watson, do come in. I see you have just been to that latest, ah, ‘movie,' supposedly based on what you so faithfully romanticize as my ‘adventures.' And I perceive you were extremely dissatisfied with it.

"You seem surprised that I know where you have been and what you have seen and thought. No, I have not become one of the supernaturalists. It really is quite elementary, old chap.

"Would you mind handing me that cherrywood pipe from the rack? You know it well from that case of mine you wrote up as "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches." Yes, that's the one. That's a good fellow. I apologize for what you call the ‘poisonous atmosphere' I am about to unleash, but I'm in another of my disputatious moods, and it's either the black shag tobacco or a seven-percent solution, and I know which you, with your medical mind, would prefer me to abuse myself with.

"So, how did I know your actions? I deduced them, of course. You know my methods, if you do not always see how to apply them.

"Well, then. I could scarcely help but notice those traces of an orangish powder—one on your right cuff, another on your waistcoat—that can only be from that infernal substance known as popcorn salt. Really, Watson, if we are to talk of unhealthy substances. . . .

"Anyway, those traces indicate the movie theatre, and, if there remained any doubt, I needed only to glance at your waistcoat pocket. I plainly see there the protruding corner of a movie ticket. I know that your afternoon stroll is apt to take you to a matinee, and, considering both the time and the fact that the theatre nearest these Baker Street lodgings has promoted the movie in question—premiering this very day, if I am not much mistaken—and the rest is child's play. Your disapproval of the movie was evident in your expression as you strode through the door.

" Now, of just what did you disapprove? Let me tell you, and—no, no, I am not guessing. As you have heard me say more than once, I never guess. Guessing is destructive to the logical faculty. Can I not infer that, since you find the movie so objectionable, it is little if any improved from the previous such travesty? Your almost imperceptible nod just now encourages me that I am on the right track, and I can empathize with our occasionally borrowed sleuth-hound, Toby, when he has clearly found the trail—tremulous yelps, strained leash, and all.

"I cannot be very wrong then in inferring that once again the writers (you should pardon the expression) have mined your collective chronicles, Watson—what some call ‘the canon'—for elements to embed in their imitative work. Irene Adler, probably. Professor Moriarty, most assuredly. Perhaps Colonel Sebastian Moran, this time with his remarkable rifle. Possibly, I am eternally and ridiculously disguising myself. But let us not be too critical of their pilferings: How else would they dare to affix the good name of Sherlock Holmes to what I perceive is another frenetic, steam-punked string of melees, mayhem, and madness.

"We have been subjected to pastiche and caricature before, but usually we could be recognized—as in a fun-house mirror. What's next? I can only say that, whatever it is, I will not be surprised. Will no one ever represent us as we are?

"Well, I shall not go witness the outrage. I have better uses of my time. But dear fellow, why not go where there is fresh air, while I open this letter I have been waiting for. I anticipate that it presents at least a three-pipe problem, but then I have hopes that it will, in turn, lead me to the solution of yet another mystery you may wish to chronicle."

Rating: two wooden nickels (out of four)

Two Nickels