Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Written By: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams
When you hear a sequel is “Bigger & Better” then the first that is often code for overblown and messy. Often a sequel attempts to overdue the original so much it ends up being a caricature of the first film. I had some worries that would be the case with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The film’s concept is one that can easily become more magnified then it needs to be. There was certainly apprehension that the plot would be boggled down with too many jokes, and forget all about character development. With these worries I walked into theater with limited expectations. When I walked out I must say I felt it overcame my early trepidation. While Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows does suffer from some sequelitis it is overall a worthy successor to the original.
A Game of Shadow picks up shortly after the end of the last film. Holmes is on the brink of breaking what could be one of the biggest conspiracies in the history of mankind. A series of assignations, bombings, business ventures, and even petty crimes all seem to lead to one man, Professor James Moriarty. Playing the role of Moriarty is Jarden Harris who “Mad Men” fans will quickly recognize. Harris shines in this role as the perfect adversary to Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes. Downey’s bombastic personality going against Harris’s cold dry wit made for a great contention throughout the entire film. Their never ending struggle had you continuously wondering who exactly was leading who. Every time a moment came were victory was seemingly ensured for one, an event would occur that would completely change the game. For example even though Holmes has cracked this impossible code he has no evidence to pin on Moriarty. Holmes quickly realizes he may have stumbled upon the one man that can equal his own intelligence. While Holmes is attempting to save the world Dr. Watson is on the verge of getting married. Jude Law returns for the role of Watson, and he and Downey continue their excellent chemistry. Their relationship has the perfect mix of tension, comedy, and heart. That relationship has hit some rocky ground as Law is moving on with his life and leaving the detective business behind. Holmes of course thinks this is a bad idea and that marriage will ruin him in every conceivable way. Now on his own Holmes embarks on stopping Moriaty from completing his master plan. His biggest move was stopping the assassination of the Madam Simza Heron (Noomia Rapace), a gypsy fortune teller. After Holmes thwarts this would be assassin he attempts to discover why Moriarty wanted this gypsy dead. In the meantime Moriarty has grown tired of Holmes and attempts to hit him were it would hurt the most, by killing his only friend Watson. Holmes must now save the life of his long time confidant, discover Moriaty’s master plan, and save the world for what could be its ultimate destruction.
Unlike the first film that took primarily in London, the plot of ‘Game of Shadows’ had the group traveling all over Europe. That was part of the reason I had some doubts about this sequel. A world tour can quickly bog down a story as the writers attempt to legitimatize why we are traveling from place to place. They avoided that for the most part as the transition from each location happened rather fluidly. There was a horse riding sequences that feel really flat for me. Basically a joke was attempted by giving Holmes a specific type of transportation. It felt overly silly and took me out of the movie, and it seemed unnecessarily tacked on. The director of ‘Game of Shadows’, Guy Ritchie has a few of those moments. I am a fan of Ritchie’s work past and present. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are two of my favorite films. I even enjoyed RocknRolla, though to a lesser degree. Even with my fandom for his work I’ll readily admit he tends to over direct. He did it in the first Sherlock Holmes, and he does it even more here. For example the overuse of speeding ramping has become an epidemic since the success of 300. While visually appealing it can grow tiresome when it occurs in every action sequence. Don’t get me wrong Ritchie can still use it to great effect. There was a forest gunfight chase that I found greatly entertaining. Watching the artillery mow down trees in slow motion was a site to be seen. The overall quality would be even greater if Ritchie reserved that tactic for just that sequence. Another big issue I had was Noomia Rapace’s character Madam Simza Heron. Repace’s performance was fine, it was just the character became nothing more than a plot device. We spend a lot of time with her determining her importance in this plot, but in the last third of the film the character became forgotten. The film wanted us to invest into her story I just could never find a reason why.
While I didn’t invest in her story I did enjoy the story as a whole. The loose ties to real world events were a welcomed surprise. Though the speed ramping was tiresome overall the action sequences were easy to enjoy. The three main leads of Downey, Law, and Harris are what make the film what it is. The script is demanding of all three and each rise to the occasion. The comedy, action, and even the dramatic moments are all handled well. The Sherlock Holmes franchise to me provides everything you would expect for crowd pleasing entertainment. While there is some complexity in the plot there’s enough fun to make it an easy watch. Perhaps the biggest issue I had with film was how they choose to end it. Without giving spoilers away, there is a moment that occurred the completely shocked me. My admiration quickly turned to disappointment as I realized they were not willing to follow through. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but couldn’t help but hold out hope. I can’t deny that choice hurt my overall feeling towards the film. Overall Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is without a doubt a worthy follow-up . If you enjoyed the first film I can see no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this one.