Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
First, let me just say, I love the subtitle. I tend to be fond of subtitles, but A Game of Shadows is a great title or subtitle. I wish I'd thought of it. [Because, if I had, I might would use that for my Tib stories, which are still untitled.]
Second, I'm a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I've read (and own) all of the Holmes stories, so, when I say I like Holmes, it's not just some vague notion of Holmes formed when I was a kid from watching movies and television shows about Sherlock.
Having said that, Guy Ritchie has done an excellent job of adapting the stories into movie format. There have, of course, been some changes (like with Sherlock's fastidiousness), but, overall, he kept all the fundamentals of Holmes and has made a faithful adaptation rather than just making some detective story and calling the character Sherlock as in many of the previous incarnations of Holmes.
Of course, the acting by Robert Downey, Jr. is superb. Looking at these movies through a James Bond lens, I would say that Downey is the Sean Connery of Sherlock Holmes. He's more rugged and less refined. More of a brawler than a fencer, which, actually, also holds true to the character; although, I'd be interested in seeing someone do a Roger Moore version who is more of the gentleman and fencer. This also falls within the realm of Holmes. Okay, so, maybe Pierce Brosnan for those of you out there hating on Roger (but I grew up with Moore Bond films, and I love them most). However, I can't actually think of anyone that would be better at Holmes than Downey has been.
Add Jude Law to that, and you have a pretty perfect team. I'm not a huge Jude Law fan. Not that I dislike him, but I think he often comes off the same from movie to movie. However, I think he's been the perfect pairing for Downey in these movies. Their combination is... well, they make an excellent team.
I've heard a lot of mutterings about how this one wasn't as good as the first, but I don't know that I can agree with that. Sure, they've removed the romantic element (and I was sorry to see Rachel McAdams go), but, really, the romantic element is not exactly appropriate as an ongoing thing in Sherlock Holmes. In almost all ways, Holmes is above romance. Adler was the only woman Holmes was ever interested in even remotely and that was because she bested him. They do add the tension of Watson's wife to the mix, and I think that serves adequately as a substitute for any romance for Holmes. His romance is with "the game."
Jared Harris was an excellent choice for Moriarty. He's not someone I would have thought of, but he was great. Quiet and under spoken, rather like a spider. He was quite chilling.
If you saw the first Holmes with Downey and liked it, this one is definitely worth seeing. For those of you that haven't read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, be aware that many of the smaller details are actually from the stories and not just inventions for the movies. Those kinds of things being included made these movies a very enjoyable experience for me. If you haven't read Doyle, you should.
But don't spend a lot of time looking for Moriarty. He's really only in two of the stories and was an invention by Doyle to provide an adequate nemesis for Holmes in order to kill him off. Which he did. And, then, brought him back later because of public demand. See that thing with bowing to public pressure in writing goes back a long way.
Stardust is another excellent title, but, then, Neil Gaiman tends to come up with some pretty excellent titles. Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book come to mind.
As I've stated previously, I've been a fan of Gaiman for quite a while. For much longer than he's been writing novels. I was introduced to The Sandman fairly early on (definitely before 1990) and often described Gaiman to friends as the best writer in comics (as opposed to Peter David (who also wrote novels) whom I described as the best writer of comic books writing novels)). I waited a long time for Gaiman to get around to the whole novel thing. And, then, sort of missed out on some because I was busy having kids. Good Omens is one of my favorite books, and I caught it right away, but Stardust and Neverwhere slipped past me, and I'm only now catching up.
But I loved the movie! Stardust is a beautiful movie, and I've been wanting to watch it again for quite a while (but it's buried in a box in the closet that still needs to be unpacked). Reading the book, finally, has only heightened that desire.
The problem here is that the movie and the book are not exactly the same thing. Rather like with Coraline. I really enjoyed reading Stardust, but I loved the movie. The book is less streamlined. It has a lot of fairy tale type elements in it, like people showing up to help at just the right moment. But, then, it is set in fairy land, so I'm sure those things are that way on purpose. They do add so amount of whimsy to the plot.
What I like most about the book is that it is unconventional in telling its love story, which is, also, unconventional. The movie makes it more of the kind of love story we expect from a movie, but the book, although containing the same love story, approaches it completely differently and doesn't really provide a happy ending. Not that it's not happy... well, you'd just have to read it to understand, because I'm not giving that away.
At any rate, if you like Gaiman, Stardust is definitely worth a read. I don't think it's as good as what he's been putting out more recently, but the same elements are there, and it's a good story with interesting characters. Be warned, though, if you're a fan of the movie, it's not quite the same.