Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"

Director Guy Ritchie reunites Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law in the even more bromantic sequel to 2009's Sherlock Holmes. Holmes (Downey) is up to his usual nonsense on the eve of Watson's (Law) wedding, disguising himself as a bookcase in the jungle he's created in his office (much to the exasperation of his housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson). This time, Holmes is after the evil mathematical genius Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who is intent on amassing a fortune from munitions sales by initiating a world war. 

Joined by gypsy fortune teller (the original Girl with the Dragon Tatto, Noomi Rapace) who is a reformed anarchist, Holmes and Watson journey to France, Germany and Switzerland in search of their prey. Holmes' brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) is also on hand (and occasionally naked). Rachel McAdams makes a brief return appearance as Holmes' love interest, joined by Kelly Reilly; Gerladine James and Eddie Marsan who also reprise their roles from the 2009 film, brief as those reprisals may be (though Reilly gets a bit more screen time this time around).

D and I really enjoyed the first movie, which was funny, smart and had a hint of supernatural elements in its plot. And while we, for the most part, enjoyed A Game of Shadows, we couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed by it. Holmes is almost completely out of control here; swilling formaldehyde, dressing in more and more outrageous disguises and behaving like a kid with ADD who hasn't taken his Ritalin. His behavior is in fact so outrageous, one must wonder why Watson puts up with it all. It must be true love, especially after he continues on with Holmes after Holmes throws Watson's new wife off a moving train into the river below (don't worry - she's rescued by Mycroft).

Ritchie relies even more on the 'slow-mo/stop-mo/reverse-mo/full speed-mo' camera work he used in the first film and after the third time, I wanted to say "Enough, already!" The overly-complicated plot (courtesy of screenwriters Michelle and Kieran Mulroney) would have been a complete bore, if it wasn't broken up by several exciting and generally well-executed action sequences. 

Downey and Law are fine, though neither brings anything new to the table. Rapace struggles against the stereotypical Victorian gypsy fortune-teller character, but the role is so poorly written, she can't help but fall back on those old tropes. Fry is wonderfully acerbic as Mycroft, but no more so than in anything else he's ever done (though I do applaud him for displaying his very far-from-perfect body for all to see). Harris (well-known for playing villainous types) is appropriately creepy as Moriarty, but once again, brings nothing new to the table.

In the end, D and I both expected more from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. At  nearly two and a half hours, it could have benefited by being about 20 minutes shorter; employing a less heavy-handed editing approach; a less complicated plot and better character development. Should there be a Sherlock Holmes 3 (as the movie's end suggests), we'll probably go see it. But with much lowered expectations.  ** (2 out of Four Stars)

More, anon.


David said...

I have not seen the first, and sadly, your review seems to reinforce me desire not to see the sequel.

Part of the problem of all these type of tent-pole films is the story is lacking anything to hang my attention on. Explosions, stunts and tricky camera work do not replace a well worked out story.

And I refuse to see such stuff because everyone else is going to it. And I'm tired of this excuse when I point out its flaws: "Well, its so cheesy its good." Or "Yeah, it's story is dumb, but the explosions..."

I'll see Young Adult and be entertained by a movie that is character driven any day of the week.

Stephen said...

I would like to be locked in a room with RDJ & Jde Law, but I don't need to see this film.

My favorite Sherlock Holmes film is 1976's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.

Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

I really liked this show. I enjoyed it much better than the first to be honest. I thought the guy playing Moriarty did an excellent job and I do love me some Jude Law and some Robert Downey Junior. How could you not like a movie with such handsome men in it?