The first film in this franchise did not receive favorable accolades from purists of the Sherlock Holmes “fan club.” Most found it to be a degrading way to look at the sharp-witted intellectual who Arthur Donan Coyle created decades ago, and as far as critics were concerned… it was just a waste of filmmaking. If you disliked the first film, then chances are high you’ll detest this sequel – all I can find to say about it was: what fun!
Following the undoing of the formidable Lord Blackwood at the hand of consulting detective – and all around genius, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) finds himself at odds with yet another frightening enemy. His ex-lover Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is back in his life but this time her confidence may have caught up with her when she finds herself in over her head. The man paying her for seeing jobs to their completion has just changed the rules – he had her delivering bombs to people whose services are no longer needed. After Irene found herself in that same position, Sherlock learns that Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) is the man behind the voice. Well respected for his scientific genius, Sherlock finds himself snared in another man’s shadowed web of deceit – one that could be more dangerous than Sherlock bargained for.
Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) has moved out of 221 Baker Street in order to make a new life for himself with his fiancée Mary (Kelly Reilly). Despite everything, Sherlock manages to sabotage his friends honeymoon when he appears on the same train as the newlyweds, and in the nick of time to save their lives. Moriarty refuses to leave Watson out of the challenge he issues to Sherlock which in turn forces Sherlock to beg his friend’s indulgence on one last case. Along the way the sleuths pick up the stubborn gypsy Simza (Noomi Rapace) – a woman who is erroneously connected to Moriarty resulting from a search for her brother who has been sucked into Moriarty’s web. During their race through the streets of London, Paris and Switzerland, Holmes draws brother Mycroft (Stephan Fry) into their plans who decodes the messages Holmes sends him during an investigation that may be so much more than mere political corruption.
Some two years ago when Sherlock Holmes opened in theaters I knew I wanted to see the movie because it looked like a ridiculously good time. I wasn’t all that thrilled with RDJ in the role but not because I pictured Sherlock as being physically different or because I thought he was a bad actor – it was something about the actor that just “bugged” me. Nevertheless I put those doubts aside as I watched the movie and was drawn into the fabulous intrigue of the mystery and spot-on British humor. This sequel isn’t quite as fun and that comes as a result of Holmes infamous nemesis Moriarty. Using a checkers game as an analogy for their sparring “game” of intrigue, the pair of them are matched wit for wit; both are brilliant and therefore don’t make a move without the other counter-matching it. As a result, Sherlock’s determination becomes more of a personal battle of intellect to see this man taken down.
Everything about A Game of Shadows was supposed to be upping the ‘game.’ It was meant to be more of a threatening story, something with sinister undertones. And Guy Ritchie definitely succeeded with that feeling. The tone of the filming seems like there is a chill to the air, and some of the story aspects are certainly unpleasant – including a handful of deaths. Filming in all other regards is much the same. Sherlock thinks through each fight or attack as it plays out in slow motion as though in his mind before it takes place in actual time filming. It took me the entire movie to get used to it when I saw it in the first, but now I am quite accustomed to it and think it actually adds to the stories dimension as a way of further showing just how far Holmes intellectual capabilities extend. In keeping with the prior film, nearly everything is the same as far as the production values go, save for the darker elements to the story and there is a pretty ballroom scene with some gorgeous costuming. Camaraderie between the characters is hilarious and despite his eccentric personality (possibly more strange than even Sherlock), I got a kick out of the elder Holmes – Mycroft. Likely Stephen’s interpretation isn’t exactly what the original character was like, but he makes the audience laugh and that is worth something. And as I would have expected the humor is witty and hysterical – Sherlock manages to “kill” Watson’s wife and the dog (again) in addition to nearly seeing that Watson misses his big day entirely. Filmmakers assembled a great duo when casting Law and RDJ. They play off each other really well and bring alive a camaraderie that is not to be missed. Fleeting as it may be, I enjoyed Kelly’s bit in this film. No one ever quite seems trustworthy (with exception to Holmes and Watson, of course) and even Kelly’s Mary has a glint to her eye that makes us question her motives.
I found this movie to be unlike its predecessor… but I don’t think was a “bad thing.” Personally, I like similarities woven into a film franchise – those touches of humor that are familiar but only the viewer who has been with the entire series will “get” or seeing the same characters return, but I also admire the writers and Guy Ritchie for taking this movie in a slightly different direction. Given that this was Warner Brother’s turn to introduce Moriarty, it seemed appropriate to take a dissimilar yet familiar approach to the material. All around, this is a fun way to spend a couple of hours. There are some sad moments (depending on your view of certain characters) but overall, the end game couldn’t have been more entertaining.
Who else has seen this one? What did you all think of it – better or worse than the first? Do share your thoughts below. (Find out what Ruth thought about the sequel in her review.)
(Rated PG13 for… various bombs and explosions, gunfire kills half a dozen men. There are about two or three tense scenes; two men fall over a cliff, a woman is poisoned. A man is brutally tortured with a hook in his shoulder. There is a full backside shot of a nude man and barely avoided frontal nudity; only a handful of sexual innuendoes make it into the script. Alcohol consumption is prevalent and there are a few profanities.)