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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
December 16, 2011 1:02 AM
13 Comments
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Rapace-Law-Downey in Sherlocki Holmes

As one who couldn’t stand the first Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie, I didn’t mind this one so much. For one thing, I knew what I was in for: more rapid-fire Downey wisecracks and meaningless disguises, more attention-getting, gimmicky action scenes. But at least it doesn’t look as if every major background has been painted on a computer screen. Better yet, Holmes is pitted against a worthy foe, the brilliantly sinister Professor Moriarty, played by Jared Harris, and enlists the aid of his older brother Mycroft, played by Stephen Fry. There are fleeting moments when this actually resembles an Arthur Conan Doyle story. (A Game of Shadows was written by Michele and Kieran Mulroney, who penned the sleeper Paper Man a couple of years back. The first Holmes had a too-many-cooks team of credited writers.)

Stephen Fry

The production is still needlessly overlong and overblown, a far cry from your father’s (or even your cousin’s) conception of the master detective. But it’s certainly lively and has clever moments that involve Holmes’ keen powers of observation, and his ability to think his way out of sticky situations.

The relationship between Holmes and Dr. Watson (Jude Law), which I found so annoying in the first film, is better delineated here, as one actually senses their mutual affection, even as Watson prepares to leave his adventurous friend behind to embark upon married life.

Jared Harris

Sweden's Noomi Rapace, who skyrocketed to fame as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has a rather thankless role as a gypsy who plays an unwitting role in Moriarty’s evil plans. Rachel McAdams returns, all too briefly, as the duplicitous Irene Adler.

As for Ritchie’s trademark visual razzle-dazzle, some of it is impressive, and some of it becomes repetitive after a while. But if, like me, you know what you’re getting into—or, unlike me, enjoyed the first Holmes outing—I doubt you’ll be bored or dissatisfied. An elaborate production in every respect, A Game of Shadows definitely gives you your money’s worth.

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13 Comments

  • Keelyy | January 4, 2012 11:26 AMReply

    I liked it except for those silly jerky/slow motion bits. They got really tiring. There was absolutely no reason for Noomi Rapace to be in the movie at all. She had nothing to do for most of it. I do like the relationship between Watson and Holmes though and everything on the train was brilliant.

  • Jason | December 30, 2011 10:37 PMReply

    I have to agree, this was a major improvement over the original. I still wouldn't call it a "good" film but it was a lot more fun.

  • Patrick M. Gouin | December 28, 2011 11:33 AMReply

    When bucolic Victorian England of the 19th century is propelled without restraint into the 21st. Sherlock Holmes a superhero? Who would have believed it? We do, mainly because of Robert Downey Jr’s unbridled performance. Always one of my favorites in spite of all his personal angsts remains a phenomenon. When will he get to tackle the role which will make him the new Brando? This one isn’t it, but amusing all the same. A true roller coaster of unrelenting action. The storyline is hard to follow at times but we can catch up easily along the way. And what about Ritchie’s (this Madonna’s Ex) style of slow motion and freeze frame shots to great effect. Are we witnessing a trademark in the line of Leone’s majestic close-ups or Kubrick’s cold reality? Time will tell. At the very least, we can say that it captivates, because I haven’t heard an audience applaud a film with such enthusiasm in a long time. This film is candy, but good candy.

  • mike schlesinger | December 25, 2011 7:04 PMReply

    Um, Avery, I hate to break it to you, but that "ridiculous" finale comes right from the original Conan Doyle, story, "The Final Problem." Yes, there's a great deal of what might be called coincidence in the picture, but as Chaplin once said, "Coincidence is convenient." Either you roll with it or you don't. Me, I'm still trying to scrub the image of a bare-ass naked Stephen Fry from my brain. Gaah!

  • Graeme | December 22, 2011 2:41 PMReply

    Why can’t they make a Sherlock Holmes movie instead of this Hollywood action movie crap, where the only similarity to the Arthur Conan Doyle characters, are their names? Here’s an idea for you Hollywood, read one of the Sherlock Holmes books and make an adaptation of that. I for one would go and see it, which I won’t be paying to do with this movie. The same reason I didn’t go and see the latest 3 Musketeers movie, when I saw the trailer for that, I thought, oh great they have managed to screw up another classic novel with great characters. Oh and while I am at it, not every country in the world has American accents.

  • Norm | December 20, 2011 4:20 PMReply

    Upon futher review...Sherlock Holmes when pitted against a fomidable adversary, Moriority, or Sebastian Moran is or could be an incredible taunt exciting tense battle of wits..Hollywood, just doesn't have any...or, it is well hidden...maybe they should send Holmes to find some...

  • DBenson | December 19, 2011 2:56 PMReply

    The first film was fun, in large part because the whole idea of Sherlock Holmes as a wild action hero is pretty funny. Also, the pure relief at the end when the obligatory big-movie fantasy elements turned out the be red herrings. Doyle, real-life believer in spiritualism and even fairies, nevertheless kept Holmes' world more or less grounded in a rational universe (as Holmes himself put it, "No ghosts need apply.").

    Torn about seeing the second. Now that we've seen the bag of tricks -- not to mention the genuinely inspired BBC take on "Sherlock" -- this one sound like a mid-period Roger Moore Bond film, a big-budget spectacle with little more that winking self-parody at its core.

  • Royal | December 18, 2011 2:49 PMReply

    One of the worst films I've ever seen. Part of film, actually, as my wife and I walked out after about a half hour. From the outset I started counting: first explosion, first ten-minute fight in which you can't see who is hitting whom and couldn't care less even if you could; second explosion, second ten-minute fight in which.... You get the idea. And I don't agree with the review: every background does in fact look as if it was painted on a computer screen. But that's what American action films do these days.

  • AveryMoore | December 22, 2011 1:12 AM

    Agreed: this one is a dog. It's beyond ridiculous. It's what Hollywood does worst: a lobotomized sequel rushed to cash in on what only worked with an adult-level script. Consider the 'dramatic' finale. How does Genius Holmes outfox his foe? His strategy? Murder-suicide. Clever? Accordingly, he and Moriarty plunge more than 100 feet. Into a river! In winter... Odds of survival from that height - zero. Assuming someone miraculously could survive? OK then: a quick death from hypothermia and drowning. Forget Mycroft's oxygen breathing apparatus, hypothermia doesn't care whether you get oxygen. Exit a river in winter – you do not survive. It's over. End of Sherlock franchise. But that's just the fake ending. Character arc? None. Script? Did seven-year-old game fanatics do this? The so-called genius of Holmes and Moriarty? It never shows. Need more stupidity? Holmes pushes Watson's wife from a moving train, off a bridge and into another river. In winter... She must survive this idiocy because brother Mycroft waits below in a boat. Why this idiotic sequence? Because Holmes foresaw everything - except the expedience of traveling with The Watsons on a different train. After you have reviewed all you have seen, the wasted talent, all the preposterous idiocy, the plot's black holes, it becomes obvious. Whatever else it cost in time and money: it was a waste – for everyone.

  • JudyG | December 17, 2011 3:38 PMReply

    I am pretty much in agreement with you. I am no fan of McAdams' Adler. More like the homecoming queen than a grifter so the development there was deeply satisfying. As for the rest, explosions and slo-mo are starting to get tiresome. I want to see more detecting. Lots more Mycroft and delving the brothers' relationship, and totally agree Noomi is brilliant and wasted as a sidekick in this film, where she could have been its core.

  • Norm | December 16, 2011 6:51 PMReply

    P.S. They could have easily built a story around a fiery but reclusive Tilda Swinton, someone who has screen presence...and yet overwhelms you with talent and substance...

  • Norm | December 16, 2011 6:44 PMReply

    It is not surprising to see the Newer Generation stumble so badly when they actually have to write a Detective story, you actually need a keen and creative mind, not computerized mumbo jumbo and a third rate script. But the REAL mystery is why did they pair Robert Downey jr., who has great acting ability , with Jude Law, whose only credible screen effort to date was in "Hugo", and his lines were kept to a minimum(thank god) and he got toasted(mercifully) for our sake...
    Hollywood, will they ever get it....Where are the Muppets...

  • Martin Grams | December 16, 2011 4:23 PMReply

    The Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was wonderful. I'm looking forward to seeing the American version later this month. Thanks, Leonard, for pointing out the actress as I saw her in a number of advertisements and the cover of the recent SCI-FI CHANNEL Magazine and never realized she's the same actress until now. (I didn't care much for the first SHERLOCK HOLMES, either. Rathbone and Bruce are still imprinted deeply in my mind.)

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