Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

By s. Sunday, December 25, 2011 , , , , , , , ,
52/100 (129 min, 2011)
Plot: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris

Too many shadows, too little whimsy

First "Sherlock Holmes" movie is one of my all time favorites - so wonderfully light, engaging, entertaining, whimsical and funny. It had everything - gorgeous music by Hans Zimmer, lovely ambiance, lots of wit and charm and Golden Globe winning performance by Robert Downey Jr, who brought as much charisma to the character of Sherlock Holmes, that only Johnny Depp's legendary turn as Jack Sparrow can be a match for him. Sadly, the sequel only has one of those things that made original so unique and special - Downey is still delivering his A game, completely becoming his character - brilliant, hedonistic and always one step ahead.

The problem with "A Game of Shadows" is the oldest problem sequels have - the creators of the first movie want to outdo everything in sequel - more, more, more - completely forgetting that the audience loved what happened in original film. In the effect the one problem from "Sherlock Holmes" - overuse of slow motion technique - is becoming unbearable in "A Game of Shadows". The slow motion sequence happen every few minutes, only sporadically justified as the sequence portraying thoughts of Holmes, as he plans how to defeat his opponent. More often than not, instead of looking impressive, it just looks silly.
Another thing Ritchie decided to change is the location - instead of focusing the plot in London and avoid problems with justifying the change of setting every few minutes, the characters move around. In the effect, when Ritchie should be explaining the intrigue, we are thrown in the middle of the woods, opera, dungeon and million other places.

The intrigue itself is completely flat - way too contrived, unengaging and boring. Jared Harris does what he can with playing Moriarty, but the screenplay doesn't give him much material to work with. Stephan Fry is horribly underused and Noomi Rapace, who shined so bright as Lisbeth Salander in original "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" has zero screen presence. One person who tops his performance from first film is Jude Law - who is very good here as Holmes's best friend Watson - equally concerned and annoyed by Sherlock's actions.
Watson and Sherlock's relatinship is quite interesting here - Ritchie clearly has a lot of fun with the homoerotic tension and features a lot of heavily suggestive lines and situations - in the result that area of the story is much more developed than the first film, delivering few laughs and few "owww" moments. 

First movie contained many hilarious sequences and sometimes one expression on Downey's face was enough to make audience laugh - here, apart for quite amusing sequence in the train and the scene where Sherlock refuses to ride on the horse there is really not many laughs. Worse yet - Ritchie decided to add some sadness to the film allowing his writers to include suicide, melancholy and mild torture. So not only there is no good plot in this movie - there are no laughs either. It's a crime really - Downey has amazing comedy talent, but when the lines are stupid and the creator of the film is more interested in CGI than the plot, he can't do anything.
There are very few things that worked, but they are so great I may even watch this film again sometime - the last ten minutes of the film, minus ridiculous sequence thrown in for "it will look pretty in 3D" effect, are superb. The sequence where through the series of quick flashbacks we see the depth of Holmes's brilliance is on pair with the scene from the first film where he explains the mystery of Blackwood's actions. The ending's scene is also quite lovely and it has very surprising visual effect. I loved that they didn't forget about Gladstone - Watson's dog - who never fails in delivering funny moments.

Hans Zimmer's music has few good moments, but it has absolutely nothing on brilliant soundtrack from first movie, the same goes for cinematography. However, the editing in the movie is absolutely horrid and after "Shutter Island" it's another example where I seriously wondered if the person responsible suffers from epilepsy.
If Ritchie really wants to make third movie he should sit down and rethink everything. It's clear he still has the grip of the lovely climate of the first film - the scenes in Holmes's apartment or the beginning sequences featuring Irene Adler - the lengthy absence of whom is one of the biggest minuses of the film - are very good. But "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" too often made me feel as if I was watching CGI overloaded and completely boring "League of Extraordinary Gentelmen" or Ritchie's contrived "Revolver" and that is a huge red flag for the movie. Film like that has to have strong plot, thrills and only than you add action and visual effects. Elementary, my dear Guy.


  1. Great review! I'm on the fence about really wanting to see it or not. Cheers...

  2. Although all of the freshness that was part of the first one is somewhat over-used, the flick is still a lot of fun with Downey Jr., Harris, and Law breathing life into each of their own characters. However, I was kind of disappointed by Noomi Rapace’s role as she just simply stands there and really doesn’t do anything. Regardless though, good review.