Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (DVD Cover)

Cast: Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), Mary Watson (Kelly Reilly), Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry), Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams)

Director: Guy Ritchie

Theatrical release: 01/00/1900
DVD Date: 06/12/2012

Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 129 minutes

Note(s): An original screenplay based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Review: It took me two weeks to watch Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, ten to fifteen minutes at a time. That statement alone probably says more about my reaction to the film than anything else.

Robert Downing Jr. and Jude Law reprise their respective roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson in this sequel to the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, which I rather enjoyed. But the first half hour of the present movie sets the tone for what follows: nothing happens. Seriously. OK, that's not strictly true. All but 30 seconds of the first 30 minutes have absolutely nothing to do with anything relevant or important. During those 30 seconds — if you yawned, you missed it — Holmes tells Watson that Professor Moriarty has a network of crime in the city and is planning something sinister and evil. There has rarely been a more pointless, or wasted, opening half hour to a film than what is presented here. It's not as if the characters needed to be introduced; anyone watching this film knows who Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are.

Eventually, Holmes meets Moriarty, the latter threatens the former and everyone the former has ever known or associated with, and the adventure begins. Though there is a lot of action, there is little of substance, and that's another problem with the film: there doesn't seem to be any screenplay … or even the barest outline of a storyline. (Michele Mulroney and Kieren Mulroney are crediting with writing one, however.) It's as if the director, Guy Ritchie, assembled the cast and crew on the set every day or two or three — the direction here is also a bit lazy — and told them to do something. Anything. It would be reconstructed later during editing into something having to do with Holmes and Watson preventing the collapse of civilization.

There is a lot of wasted talent here. Setting aside the two principals, Noomi Rapace plays a gypsy, whose brother Holmes must find in order to stop Moriarty … from doing what, isn't all that clear… something having to do with his creating a need for bullets and bandages … but the whole subplot in the French countryside has a flimsy foundation and plays out in a sloppy, frequently awkward manner. It seems to be mostly filler anyway. Rachel McAdams has at best a cameo role as Irene Adler. Stephen Fry plays a naked — yes, naked — Mycroft Holmes; embarrassing can hardly convey my true feelings here. (He is dressed later in the film, however.) Jared Harris tries to be menacing as Moriarty, but comes across little more than an authoritarian academic — John Houseman was far more impressive in The Paper Chase, but you probably get the idea — than a criminal mastermind.

The weakly developed characters … the direction (or lack thereof) … the script (definitely lack thereof) … enough with all that's wrong with the film. Here's what works. The rapid sequence scenes where Holmes reconstructs what he's seen giving him the clues to what is about to happen. These were clever in the first film, even more so here. The slow-motion special effects are really quite astounding; they really don't add anything meaningful to the story, but they are worth mentioning. The interstitial landscapes are creatively designed and beautifully rendered, especially those leading up to the peace summit in Switzerland and most especially the visuals associated with the Reichenbach Falls. Are these enough to recommend the film? Not really. The second half is much better than the first, but still. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a missed opportunity of unimagined proportions. What should have been a victory lap for all involved after the success of the first film never really makes it past the first turn.


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