Sherlock Holmes, a Game of Shadows (2011)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows

The first film in this franchise didn't 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. But audiences by and large reacted much differently if the box office returns were any judge. 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, 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 only this time her confidence may have caught up with her. The man paying her for seeing jobs to their completion has just changed the rules. It's this that catches Sherlock attention and he learns that the identity of her employer: 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.

Elsewhere, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) has moved out of 221 Baker Street. He plans to start a new life 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. Moriarty refuses to leave Watson out of the challenge he issues 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). 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 wanted to see the movie because it looked like a ridiculously good time. The casting of RDJ (mind you, all this was before I saw him as Tony Stark) in the role didn't thrill, but not because I pictured Sherlock as being physically different or because I thought he was a bad actor. 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.
Sherlock Holmes a Game of Shadows

Everything about 'A Game of Shadows' is meant to be more threatening, something with sinister undertones. This is something Guy Ritchie definitely succeeded in conveying. The tone of the filming seems like there is a chill to the air. 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 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, and there is a pretty ballroom scene with some gorgeous costuming.

Camaraderie between the characters is hilarious (though we lose one or two), 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. The humor is all around witty and hysterical; Sherlock manages to “kill” Watson’s wife and the dog (again). 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.

In short, though not a “bad thing,” this film is much like its predecessor. Personally, I like similarities woven into film franchises. It's those touches of humor that are familiar to the viewer who has been with the entire series, and will “get,” or seeing the same characters return that make it shine. 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.)

CONTENT: 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. The film is rated PG13.


  1. I just saw this with my family on my birthday and loved it! I read through Arthur Conan Doyle's collection of stories the summer before last and thought Holmes's character was actually done pretty accurately. I heard one person complain about not hearing "Elementary, dear Watson," in the movie and it occurred to me then that I was glad Holmes never says that in the movies, because he certainly never does in the stories.

    Thank you for your well-wishes for my birthday and Christmas! I hope you have a happy new year!

  2. Ooooh! Goody - a fan of the books who liked this movie! Most people who respect Doyle's original work find these horrible... I just think they are grand fun. ;D I see a lot of similarities between RDJ's Holmes and the "new" BBC Holmes Character, so I can totally believe that this Holmes is something like the novels.

    I kind of missed the "Elementary, my Dear Watkins," too... but I can certainly "deal" without it.

    Again, happy birthday, Annie! I hope you had a wonderful day. =) And, happy 2012!

  3. I have to agree with Annie: I only read several of Doyle's books, but found that the movie caught quite a bit of Holmes's character, and the friendship between Watson and Holmes.

    I have watched Sherlock Holmes about twenty times. . . it's definitely one of my favorites ;)
    So to say I'm looking forward to finally seeing A Game of Shadows is rather an understatment.
    I'm glad you liked it!

  4. JR - if you didn't pick up on the fact that I am always excited when I find out there are fans of Doyle's original works who think these movies are great - I am! I have a friend who is a Holmes purist and she hates (I don't think that is too strong of a word *grin*) these films. She feels that the script really downgrades who Sherlock truly is - it is one of those things we "agree to disagree" on. ;D

    I am wanting to see the first one again - but it is a fav for me, too. Fans of the first movie will like this one, I think - although it is darker.

    I hope you ENJOY 'A Game of Shadows' when you finally get to see it. =)

  5. I finally saw this movie today and I just loved it -- in fact I think I like it better than its predecessor. So glad I finally made time to see it on the big screen!

  6. Oh! I am so glad you finally got to see this one, Ruth! I was rather wondering that you hadn't yet. ;D

    Cannot decide if I like it better than the first but definitely equally - and you are so right about a 3rd movie: if they don't make one, it will be horrid. My cousin thinks they will, so we'll see.

    Linking to your review. =D

  7. As you know - I love this one! It's just so fun, perfect popcorn movie with a bit of Sherlock thrown in ;)

  8. You are so right, Sarah! It was way fun - I think it was darker than the first but still... I loved it! Cannot wait to buy it next week. :-)

    So glad you stopped in.

  9. I actually liked this movie even better than the first one.

    Downey Jr and Jude Law had excellent chemistry as always. But the real highlight of the movie was the excellent performance by Jared Harris as Moriarty.

    Check out my review .


  10. I liked this one a lot also, Buddy2Blogger. I don't know if I liked it better than the first but equally well... On second thought I may have enjoyed this one a smidgen more since I "knew" how they filmed it and how the process worked.

    RDJ and Law are superb together - I love their rapport; it is hilarious! Harris was equally good though.


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