Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

26 Dec

Title: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Year: 2011
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, based on the characters by Arthur Conan Doyle
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material
Runtime: 129 min
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%
Metacritic: 49


When Guy Ritchie made Sherlock Holmes in 2009 it turned out to be a really successful film, not only being genuinely fun, and scoring a Golden Globe for Robert Downey Jr. in the process, but also being a great commercial success, with grosses of over $520 million worldwide. A sequel, then, was a no-brainer. And while Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still definitely hugely entertaining, it falls short of matching the heights reached by the original, even though the bromance between Mr. Downey as Holmes and Jude Law as John Watson is truly all you need to make this one well worth a watch. But I don’t know, I still feel like this one was a step below from the original, it didn’t feel as smart as its predecessor.

The fact that this one isn’t as witty as the first one was is actually quite surprising considering that the villain of the film is Professor Moriarty, a guy who’s just as smart as Sherlock, but a man who has no conscience, which makes him a truly deadly and worthy adversary for our favorite detective. Brad Pitt was once rumored to be in the running for playing Moriarty, as were Gary Oldman and Sean Penn among others, but instead we got the less-famous but just-as-awesome Jared Harris, who you might know from Mad Men. And the interactions between Sherlock and Moriarty are indeed quite eloquent and do feel smart, Mr. Downey and Mr. Harris playing beautifully off each other, but I don’t know, I guess I expected more from such an awesome villain. What Moriarty is trying to accomplish is just a grand evil plan that, if it’s to succeed, would pretty much alter the course of history. The plan would go on smoothly were it not for Sherlock realizing that the death of the Prince of Austria was not a suicide as it was reported, but a murder, and just a small piece in the evil endgame Moriarty is planning towards.

In an attempt to up the ante from the first one we get cross-dressing and the threat of a world war while Mr. Ritchie is designing new crazy ways in which to shoot action sequences, because that’s what he’s best at. And I actually think that may be part of my troubles with this film, as huge fun as it may be, the fact that it’s just so hyper kinetic didn’t do it for me. I mean, I know that we can’t expect a Sherlock Holmes movie to be released as a Christmas tentpole with a $125 million budget to be super faithful to the Arthur Conan Doyle novels I love so much, but still, this one was missing the essence of those novels, it just moved too damn fast, too busy with the explosions and the special effects to show just Sherlock being Sherlock and thinking stuff through. Though it obviously still employs that nifty tactic of showing Sherlock going over fights in his head before they happen in slow-mo, and those are awesomely done, though they get to the point of overkill, happening way too often.

I know I’m actually being really picky because it was known from the get-go, especially considering the first film, that other than the Victorian setting and costumes this would play like a modern action film,  but I don’t know, they tried to go overboard with this one in comparison to the first one, and while it’s a helluva lot of fun I guess I wanted just a tiny bit less fluff a and bit more classic Sherlock. Because while the set pieces and the disguises the characters use in this one are just so over-the-top, sometimes laughably so, the best bits about any Sherlock story, and about the first film, are the ones in which you can see the detective’s mind at work to figure out the case and eventually solve it. We get some of that here, it’s just not as in-depth as it was before, not as awesome to behold.

The film opens with an obstacle thrown into the best victorian bromance ever, as Mr. Law’s Watson is soon to be married to Mary, but as soon as the wedding bit is out of the way, we get fully thrown into the international political schemings of Moriarty, who stands to gain if his plan works because he also runs a secret munitions factory that would earn a nice profit from an international war. We also reunite with Irene Adler, the character with whom some romantic involvement with Sherlock is hinted at and who’s again played by the incredibly gorgeous Rachel McAdams. And then we also meet two new characters, Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s brother, and a Gypsy fortune-teller called Madam Simza Heron. Both new characters are played by good actors, the hilarious and all-around genius Stephen Fry plays Mycroft, and Noomi Rapace, in her first big role after breaking out in last year’s Swedish versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (a performance I ranked as my tenth favorite given by an actress in a leading role in 2010). However, good as the actors both are, the results of the characters are different; Mycroft Holmes is incredibly fun, and Mr. Fry was obviously having a blast using his impeccable sense of humor to bring this character to life, but even though Ms. Rapace does everything that’s required from her as Madam Heron, it’s not much that it’s asked for her, an underdeveloped role that doesn’t add much to the whole thing.

Still, this is obviously very much Robert Downey Jr.’s show, and he’s still one of the most charismatic actors working, and he’s still awesome as Sherlock, an iconic role he’s made all his own much like Johnny Depp did with Jack Sparrow. He’s just such a cool actor, and he embodies Sherlock’s smart but playful demeanor perfectly, and his chemistry with Jude Law is truly tremendous, as the British plays the other half of the bromance, the one in charge of keeping the eccentric detective grounded. And this is a fun film I can definitely recommend; the cinematography by Pilippe Rousselot (an Oscar-winner for A River Runs Through It), the costumes by Jenny Beavan (an Oscar-winner for A Room with a View) and the art direction by Sarah Greenwood (who was nominated for the first Sherlock film as well as Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice and Atonement) are all seriously well done and do a lot to get you to into the Victorian era. I just thought it was too busy with the action stuff to really get us immersed in the smart dialogue, which is still here but in lesser quantities than I would have liked, less action and more dialogue would have been better, and it’s why this one doesn’t reach the greatness of the first film.

Grade: B


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