Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Following up on their hit movie from 2009, Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and director Guy Ritchie reteam to bring us “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”. This time around, they’re joined by Noomi Rapace (of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” fame) as a fortune-teller who gets entangled in the goings on, and Jared Harris (of “Mad Men”) as the infamous Holmes villain, Professor Moriarty.

Fans of the first one will certainly enjoy this, while those who weren’t as thrilled with the first offering probably will find their gripes represented here as well. Which is not exactly to say this movie is more of the same – Harris as Moriarty is an excellent addition to the franchise.

Yet regardless of how the new elements factor in, the crux of the issue – to me – remains the same. Your enjoyment of these films will be directly correlated to your tolerance of the directorial stylings of director Guy Ritchie.

The primary selling point for this new Sherlock Holmes franchise is the clever repartee between Downey and Law as Holmes and Watson, respectively. Here they continue their “almost too close to be platonic” bromance and bicker and banter back and forth like an old married couple might. Once again, they’re on top of their game, exchanging lines rapid fire and playing off of each other with charm and wit. Watson is going to be married, and Holmes is his best man, so even before the adventure begins, there’s plenty of comedy to be mined.

Once the adventure does ensue though, there’s a new element in the mix. Jarred Harris’ Moriarty. Harris is excellent in the role, I felt. He’s reserved but not dry, and he projects the requisite level of intellect to be believable as Downey’s Holmes’ equal. Watching the two of them square off was easily the highlight of the film for me, and they’re given several scenes together where they meet and have a battle of wits. Holmes knows that Moriarty is the mastermind behind a string of bombings currently plaguing Europe, but he can’t prove it. As he attempts to stop and/or expose the Professor, their paths cross several times… and their verbal sparring was – I felt – worthy of the legend.

Unfortunately, the charms and talents of the cast are offset by the overall style of the movie. Director Guy Ritchie is not one for hanging out in the background and letting the story tell itself. Instead, the movie is “Style Heavy”, with the action sequences (as in the first movie) comprised of slo-mo, sound effect accompanied, computer aided effects shots as Holmes does his mental appraisal of the situation, followed by a quick cut, rapid fire unfolding of the action as it “occurs”. Personally, I find it to be a detraction. It’s Sherlock Holmes meets “300”, and I’m not very fond of it. I have no issue with Holmes the action hero, I just would have rather seen less stylistic, more traditional action sequences if that was the route they were going to go.

Regardless, there’s more than enough entertainment to compensate and make it an enjoyable outing. Downey Jr is one of the most enjoyable stars of our time, Jude Law is prefect as his compadre and counterpart, and Jared Harris is a more than worthy adversary as Moriarty. Rapace didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but it may just be that she wasn’t given a lot to do. Together the cast are quite an enjoyable ensemble to watch, and it occurred to me that I wished I could see them all reprise their roles in a more traditional crack at this material.

Overall, it’s entertaining and enjoyable, but not too substantive or memorable.


21 thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

  1. Not surprised Ritchie continued with the “slow motion with voice over, then regular speed exact same thing” fight scenes. Disappointed, but not surprised. I felt it was a detraction in the first film, and that it would have worked better had he just done one or the other. Still, the first film was enjoyable despite that, and it sounds like this one will be as well. Good review, and I’m glad to hear Moriarty comes across well in the film. (Interesting, isn’t it, how an almost deutero-canonical character becomes so important to a franchise?)

      • Moriarty was part of one Holmes story, what Doyle intended to be the last one (The Final Solution, in which he killed Holmes off — at least until reader protest made him ret-con this.) But the idea of a villainous counterpart was so popular that even though Doyle never wrote more Moriarty stories, pretty much every re-visiting of Sherlock Holmes since has included at least one story in which the two go up against each other. So, canonical, but like I said, almost deutero-canonical because of the way his role is expanded so much in later versions.

        Similarly, Irene Adler, I think only shows up in one story and is referenced in another.

  2. Great review! I guess I did not expect much more from this, i’m actually a bit surprised it has gotten as many positive reviews as it has. Hope to see it soon!

  3. Good review Dan. I just finished writing mine earlier myself. Glad you liked this. It’s definitely more of the same but I thought it did improve on the first installment thanks to a much better villain and better pacing. You know what to expect with Guy Ritchie, for better and for worse, it’s all style over substance. Don’t expect anything in terms of the central mystery and you will most likely enjoy this as popcorn fun.

  4. Good honest review, Dan! I have not seen these movies but I have seen the trailers. The stories are intriguing to me, along with the appeal of the comedic banter. But it seemed the first installment had some over the top CGI and situations that I thought would ruin it for me! In this new film trailer, I felt the scenes present a more realistic tone and find it more appealing than the first? Of course not seeing either one qualifies me to clean the theater rather than review the movie.

    • I swear I had left a comment on this… guess not….

      They’re worth checking out. There’s a lot of other movies out there that aren’t as good as these, that’s for sure. There IS a lot of CGI stuff though, including basically the entire movie, LOL. So… be forewarned.

      As for only being qualified to sweep the theatre, that never stops me any. LOL.

  5. Good review Dan. I saw it on Saturday night with my wife. Not much more I can add to your review. I was thinking to myself what I would give it for a letter grade and I came up with B to B

  6. I really enjoyed the film. Just caught it last night and while it is more of the same, it’s more of the same kind of good film stuff I like to see. I like Guy Ritchie’s styling of the action sequences, personally. It’s put to good use and while some may argue it’s overused here, at least he’s done it well!

    I think there was a bit more bromance in this one, which I really loved. There were a lot of moments I laughed out loud, which I rarely do. I enjoyed it. And what is going to the cinema and watching a film but a little bit of enjoyment.

    • I agree… enjoying a movie, however that comes about, is primary to me.

      Unfortunately, as not a big fan of that action style, I had some issues with the movie. There was enough other stuff that was fun to go around though that made me feel it was pretty decent….

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