Guest Review – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Hello all, today’s review comes courtesy of Andy from the blog Ramblings of A Minnesota Movie Geek. Isn’t that an awesome name or what? Andy is a self-confessed geek in every sense of the word. Need proof? Well, he signs off his email with ‘May the Force Be With You’ 😀 He’s currently consumed by his TV watching, but when he did have time for some movies, he’s kind enough to send me a review to share with all you fine FlixChatter readers, so here you go:

Sherlock squaring off against Moriarty. Now that premise alone sold my ticket. This is Moriarty, ladies and gentlemen, Sherlock’s dark reflection, the one man who is just as clever as him, if not more, always one or more steps ahead of the ‘game’, merciless, brilliant. Any tale that has these two locked in intellectual (and eventual physical) battle should be something extraordinary. Ultimately, A Game of Shadows doesn’t quite reach that. In fact, the movie doesn’t seem entirely concerned with the story at all, which is good news for fans of the Sherlock/Watson banter which is given the classic sequel ‘more more more’ treatment, but is detrimental to the overall quality of the film. I wanted Sherlock vs. Moriarty, a battle of the minds as they constantly try to outsmart the other, and I wanted a real sense of jeopardy to every action – hell, every scene, because that’s what a Moriarty story deserves.

A Game of Shadows has plenty of moments of fun, loads of them. The much loved Sherlock and Watson relationship that was so central, no doubt, in making the first film hugely successful, is greatly expounded upon with delicious results. No exaggeration: Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law’s chemistry and complete bromance rules this movie every second they’re together. And rightfully so. In summary with those two, Sherlock and Watson are handled perfectly here. The filmmakers having their friendship down, but they’re not the ones who make Game of Shadows a movie that I was really, really, really looking forward to. No, that was – in case you couldn’t tell – the sinister mastermind Moriarty, and he arrives in the Hollywood ‘reimagined’ world with mixed results.

Jared Harris as Moriarty was good, he was solid, but he wasn’t great. That’s not to fault Harris, I feel, but instead the script. Harris portrays Moriarty with that cool, calm, restrained demeanor, very much in control of his emotions, his words, all his faculties. Plus Harris just looks like a man who has this wide web of a plot in his noggin’. But the script doesn’t allow Moriarty to come across as anything uber-spectacular (except the final Sherlock/Moriarty confrontation, which is nothing short of extraordinary and one of my favorite scenes of 2011), or rather, a force to be reckoned with. At one point, Moriarty breaches cliché, as he tortures one of our protagonists while singing along with classical opera. It’s not creepy or unnerving as the filmmakers may have intended, unfortunately. With the right script, Jared Harris could make the Moriarty of our generation. But for now, I’ll settle with a really, really good one.

To continue the ‘more, more, more’ vibe of Hollywood sequels, director Guy Ritchie is sadly not immune to that trend. Slow motion is used far too frequently, and not always necessarily. That said, one instance of Ritchie using slow mo to great extent is the Sherlock vs. Moriarty face off before the climax, as the two adversaries size up what action they’re about to take. In the same way Ritchie gives us ‘Sherlock Vision’, where he anticipates his opponents moves and how he’ll respond accordingly, we have Moriarty utilize the same skills against Sherlock, making that final scene a tense one, as they both seem even matched. Ritchie’s style is now a trademark of the franchise, and overall, it works. It’s much of the same as the first one, so all I’ll say is that when the inevitable third one enters production, he tries to change it up a bit, give us something new.

Ultimately, where this movie falters is the screenplay. It’s the source of Moriarty’s lack of badassery, and also the source of making this movie not all that engaging and, dare I say, confusing. By the last two bits, I mean this: Sherlock Holmes stories are first and foremost mysteries. It’s the unraveling of these mysteries that drive Sherlock stories, that make them so damn fun to watch. The BBC series Sherlock understands this, and masterfully delivers equal weight of interesting mysteries and highly enjoyable Holmes/Watson scenes. As for A Game of Shadows, I spent more time wondering what the hell was going on and why the characters were doing what they were doing. The plot, and how Point A connects to Point B and that connects to Point C, it just all seemed lazily pieced together, almost like an afterthought. In the end, the strength of the Sherlock/Watson relationship made the lacking script sufferable. A second viewing of the movie some time ago helped clear a few of the plot-points up, but there was still that feeling of disinterest. Furthermore, the side of me that wanted a battle between Sherlock and Moriarty on a grand scale – well, what the writers came up with, didn’t so much deliver on that expectation.

You might have noticed neither the lovely ladies Noomi Rapace or Rachel McAdams have been mentioned thus far. Thing is, they’re hardly in the movie. One more than the other, but even then, she doesn’t make that much of an impact, sadly enough. This leads in to me saying Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is pretty damn decent entertainment. If what you’re looking for is to have a blast watching Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law banter back and forth and have some spectacular action-y adventures, this film absolutely delivers. If you, like me, wanted a battle royale of the minds between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, then it doesn’t fully deliver the goods. But what we have here is a movie very much in the same spirit as Sherlock Holmes (2009), with high points and low points, and if you even seminally liked that flick, you’re going to enjoy the hell out of this one. See y’all for the third one!

3 out of 5 reels

So have you seen this movie? Please do let us know what you think.