Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Tuesday, December 27, 2011 5 Comments
It’s nearing Christmas, which apparently means studios are required to release ALL THE MOVIES right fucking now. It’s a winter season full of rollicking action/adventure romps, dour oscar-bait, and family-friendly crowd pleasers. With so many choices available to you during your holiday break, you may be wondering if “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” the sequel to the 2009 hit “Sherlock Holmes,” is worth your hard-earned coin. Does it provide more exciting mystery and slow-motion fisticuffs? Is Victorian London still grey as a shark’s backside? Do Sherlock and Watson just SHUT UP AND KISS ALREADY? The answers to these questions after the break!
Very quickly, the answers are yes, yes, and no but you get to see more of Stephen Fry’s very English bottom than you probably wanted to.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is once again directed by honorary British gangster Guy Ritchie, and stars Robert Downey Jr. as everybody’s favorite consulting detective. This time, the adventure is no longer confined to the crowded streets of London, as we follow Sherlock and his hetero life-mate Dr. Watson (Jude Law) as they end up traveling all over Europe in pursuit of Holmes’ brilliant arch-nemesis, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). In addition, they are joined by clever gypsy lady, Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), as well as Sherlock’s very clever brother, Mycroft (Stephen Fry).
I should start by saying that I actually wasn’t a huge fan of the first film. I enjoyed it, mostly for Downey’s delightfully manic performance as Holmes and the incredibly kick-ass musical score by Hans Zimmer. Unfortunately, I found the storytelling to be lacking in actual, satisfying mystery, which is kind of what the Sherlock Holmes series of stories are most famous for. It seemed far more interested in being simple, exciting fun. There’s nothing wrong with that goal, and it did a decent job despite being over-long and having some pacing problems. I did, however, enjoy the film’s overall style and take on the Sherlock Holmes characters, and was definitely up for going on another simple, explosion-filled adventure. “A Game of Shadows” takes what worked best about the first film, and builds on it admirably, eschewing any pretense of suspenseful mystery in favor of being a wall-to-wall setpiece machine.
On that front, the movie is indeed a success. The pacing is vastly improved from the first film, with exciting setpieces hitting just frequently enough to keep things moving at a fun and engaging rate. I was never bored watching “Game of Shadows,” unlike certain moments from its predecessor. Each action sequence is different from the last, and each is filled with exciting moments. One sequence, which features our affable heroes running through a forest of exploding trees (pictured above and prominently in the trailer), contains some of the most effective use of speed-ramping I’ve ever seen (this is the commonly used technique where the action flows seamlessly in and out of slow motion). The film also features the return of one of my favorite parts of the first: Sherlock’s analytic approach to the art of hand-to-hand ass kickery.
Pulse-pounding action isn’t the only concern on the mind of Guy Ritchie and company, however; this series also infuses the excitement with a sense of humor. While it’s by no means one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen (or even the funniest Sherlock Holmes series I’ve ever seen), the comedy does work, and adds to the comparatively light-hearted nature of this incarnation of the Sherlock Holmes property. This is helped tremendously by the addition of the always spectacular Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes, who brings a very appropriate and palpable Englishness to the proceedings. It also furthers the weirdly-close bromance between Sherlock and Watson, going so far as having them waltz together at a party. Also, the sight of Holmes riding a pony will never not make me laugh. I kinda can’t wait for those gifs to hit the internet.
Another thing the film manages to pull of surprisingly well is the adversarial relationship between Holmes and Professor Moriarty, whose evil master-mindedness is wonderfully underplayed by Jared Harris. Without spoiling too much, the screenwriters made a fantastic choice in allowing Moriarty to occasionally defeat Holmes over the course of the film, solidifying his place as a truly formidable opponent for our brilliant hero.
Overall, I can pretty easily recommend “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” especially to fans of the first. I wasn’t that crazy about the first myself, and I enjoyed the sequel quite a bit more. Is it an amazing film? No, but it’s a pretty good time at the movies. Hans Zimmer’s score is just as awesome as the first, if not moreso, and the action doesn’t disappoint. If you want a fun, loud, accented action ride, you could do a lot worse than this. You could also probably do better. If you need something to take the family to that’s relatively inoffensive and easily enjoyable, this sequel is a pretty safe bet.
Seriously, though, I’m hoping for tigers next time.