SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS
***1/2 (out of 5)
December 16, 2011
Robert Downey Jr. as SHERLOCK HOLMES
Jude Law as DR. JOHN WATSON
Noomi Rapace as MADAM SIMZA HERON
Rachel McAdams as IRENE ADLER
Jared Harris as PROFESSOR JAMES MORIARTY
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sequels can be a tricky business. On one hand, they should capture the freshness and flavor of the previous film and tap into what made it a hit. However, they also have to further a story and actually give characters something new to do. Sometimes, sequels can be just as good or possibly better than the original (such as “The Empire Strikes Back” as a follow-up to “Star Wars”). Other times, they’re simply excuses to cash in on more money, leaving a lackluster or forced story (like the second “Ice Age” movie).
It certainly helps to have all the same players involved, and that really gives “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” an edge. Not only do Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson, but director Guy Ritchie is in charge of the film again.
In this installment, Watson is planning to get married, and Holmes is being passively-aggressive against the whole thing. He’s trying to stay distracted with a new case, at the center of which is the dastardly Dr. James Moriarty (Jared Harris). As Holmes tries to uncover the plot to take over a portion of the European economy, Watson attempts to balance his new family life with doing the greater good.
The best thing I can say about this film is that it feels like a genuine continuation of the first film. Downey Jr. and Law slip into their characters – and their chemistry – perfectly. Ritchie brings his trademark of high-energy pop action to the otherwise somber character. As with the first film, if you’re a Sherlock Holmes purist, you might not enjoy the more edgy version of the classic detective. But I found the whole business quite fun.
The biggest difference between these two films is that “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” doesn’t take itself as seriously as the previous film did. It takes a few chances to make fun of itself and the elements from the first film. For example, we see Holmes plan a fight from the beginning by narrating the steps needed to win. However, a few times we see the plan thrown into a tizzy with something unexpected happening.
Ultimately, the things that made “Sherlock Holmes” great are in this movie too, including the energetic action, the whimsical nature, the slick cinematography and the fun performances. However, the same problems that 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes” had are here as well. For as relatively simple as the story is, it gets needlessly convoluted in the middle. Part of this might be because there’s an attempt to hide a mystery, and making things too straightforward leaves no surprise for the audience. I get that, but it hurts the film in the long run.
Ritchie is less restrained in this film, unlike the first movie that was plagued with rewrites and reshoots. That ultimately streamlined the first film more, I suppose. However, in this new movie, the action gets down to Ritchie’s roots with out-of-the-box techniques in slow motion and bullet time, similar to what we saw in films like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”
But in the end, I enjoyed the heck out of “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” It was a worthy follow-up, and there was enough going on to keep my interest for the full film, which clocks in slightly north of two hours. The action is fun, though not as awesome as its weekend competition from “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”
If you liked the first film, you should like this one as well. It plays almost like a second half of a four-hour movie, after all.