I have to admit I was totally unprepared for the first Sherlock Holmes movie a couple of years ago. I was not educated enough on the character himself and that made me react negatively to that film. Since then, I have acquainted myself better with the Holmes persona and I liked the first movie when I watched it a second time. When Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was announced, I was excited for its release. This time, I wasn’t disappointed.
The movie is even quicker and smarter than the first. It is a rare sequel that surpasses its predecessor. It’s not that A Game of Shadows doesn’t have its warts; it does and some of them are the same as those that plague the original. Most of these are relatively minor flaws that do not dent the many good things that make this a terrific flick.
I hate it when writers and directors dumb movies down for the audiences. This is a great insult to me. They are assuming we are too stupid to understand a smart and complicated storyline and dialogue. Director Guy Ritchie doesn’t make that mistake here. The plot twists and turns, doing justice to a brilliant hero and a genius villain. The action and dialogue are quick and edgy. There are no lulls or boring parts and this keeps our attention on the screen at all times.
Robert Downey, Jr. is at his quirky, manic best. He has always been a terrific actor and he seems more at home in this role than as Iron Man. He does have a tendency to mumble a few of his lines and his accent makes him hard to understand clearly at times. This may be the quirky character of Holmes in and of himself but Downey, Jr.’s personality probably isn’t too far from Holmes’.
Jude Law, who was the best part of the first film, follows up as the perfect foil, Dr. Watson, who must be the sane, but loyal voice, to Holmes’ ungoverned behavior. Law is as smart and snappy as his literary counterpart, downplaying his importance to Holmes’ process. Jared Harris (Mad Men, Fringe) is eerie and creepy as the villainous genies, Professor James Moriarty. Harris just exudes intellect and evil in a quiet, subtle way. His voice is always calm but his words seem to drip hidden venom. Moriarty is almost an evil intellectual twin for Holmes’ genius. They are evenly matched and that is the main thing that kept this film smart.
Noomi Rapace gains some post dragon body art exposure as “the girl”. She plays a mystic gypsy named Simza Heron, who is trying to rescue her wayward brother from the mental clutches of Professor Moriarty. She joins forces with Holmes and Watson ands holds her own in the action scenes. Her character lacked levity and I would have liked to see less stoicism from her but for the most part, she held her own against her talented cohorts.
At times, the film felt herky-jerky. This is due to Ritchie’s preferred directing style. He has a penchant for numerous slow motion segments. He especially loves to slow down the action scenes and drag them out with overly dramatic slow frames and close ups. At times, this works just fine, as when are heroes flee through a dense forest. The slow motion frames of bullets and artillery shells ripping through trees are pretty cool but other times it is just distracting. It is a nifty signature but he uses it just a little too much.
At times, the dialogue and plot felt just a tad bit too clever; almost like it was being clever just the sake of being clever. The more I thought about this, the more I think this is a good thing. It kept the movie intelligent but also served as homage to the character of Sherlock Holmes. It would be a big mistake to dumb down Holmes, his sidekick, or his villains. Hopefully, if any more films are made for this series, Ritchie will be at the helm because he gets it.
I enjoyed this movie thoroughly and it garnered applause from the audience as the credits rolled. There is some violence and salty language but most young teens would find this movie entertaining. There is enough to draw audiences without falling back on cheap tricks like sex and nudity. Holmes doesn’t need it and this film doesn’t use. This film is just fine for any child used to seeing typical PG-13 movies.
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