Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Bombastic, that's the word I used to describe the first Sherlock Holmes movie. This one was excessively bombastic, too, except this time there was a reason for the bombs. Still, the thing that truly works about this series is the wonderful chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes) and Jude Law (Watson). Add to those performances a really excellent villain and a better plot, and you have a much better movie than the first.

Downey has again given us a really spectacular performance as Holmes, and that performance really drove the movie. Jude Law brought a lot of suffering wit as Holmes's reluctant partner. And there was Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty. He brought the right level of menace and intelligence to feel like a true foil for Downey's Holmes. Painted as brutal and brilliant, he elevated every scene he was in. Especially the scenes he shared with Downey.

Unfortunately, Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, was basically wasted here. She was fun and a good plot device, but she could've easily been replaced or removed without a significant loss to the movie. To be fair, I don't think this was her fault, as much as it was a lack of writing and/or directing for her character.

I won't go into details to avoid spoilers, but this wasn't really a mystery this time. Sure, there were mystery elements involved, but it felt more like an elaborate game of chess played out on a world stage. Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, the characters got around a lot. There were a lot of trains, fighting on them or trying to catch them. It promoted the idea of motion, that the plot was really moving forward, even if it wasn't. The only real problem I had actually was that it never really slowed down, throwing details at us and hoping some would stick for the final few scenes. I was never lost, but I did have trouble remembering which elements that were shown to us at the beginning were actually relevant in the end.

There was some fantastic visual effects. Using a series of bombings as a plot device, the idea of greater explosions was used in a way that was both captivating and engaging. One sequence in particular used a type of extreme slow motion that was just breathtaking. It conjured the awe of the dodging bullet's scene in The Matrix, at least for me. The other stand-out for me was the fight scenes, especially the ones where Holmes predicted the motions of his opponents in a slow motion vision before the actual fight. At least they didn't use the effects as an excuse not to write, because the dialogue was really well crafted. Subtlety, nuance, double meaning, and evasion were used to great effect.

I wouldn't go so far as to say this is a great movie, but it was an improvement over the first one. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I almost feel I have to see it again to fully grasp all the details.

3 out of 4 shadowy chess pieces.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

4 comments:

CrazyCris said...

",i.Add to those performances a really excellent villain and a better plot, and you have a much better movie than the first.,/i>" Music to my ears! I've been looking forward to this one fro a while! I jsut have to wait 2 more weeks until it comes out in Spain... :o)

Mark Greig said...

Nice review, J.D. I just got back from seeing it and enjoyed it thoroughly, a definite improvement over the first film. Was a shame that Noomi Rapace was so underused but Jared Harris was excellent as Moriarty. Andrew Scott, please take note, that is how you play the Napoleon of Crime.

Juliette said...

I preferred the 1st film but I enjoyed this one too, especially the climax, which was well done. Saving the world isn't quite so satisfying when you know they haven't actually saved it, just put things off for 20 years or so, though...

sunbunny said...

I wanted to be all bitchy and critical and say that this movie "...is a tale./Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing." But I can't in good conscience say that. Guy Ritchie is not an idiot. He's just the kind of director who prefers to find cool ways to blow things up than to fill his films with understated drama. And that's just fine.

It's lucky for the movie it has RDJ and Jude Law. They could be in the shittiest movie of all time and make it watchable. Not that this is a shitty movie; it wasn't that bad. It was...long. Did anyone else think it was very long?

And I have to agree with Juliette. It feels sort of pointless to cheer for the lack of world war at the end. Because, you know, it ended up happening anyway. Twice.

I really should read the original Sherlock Holmes stories, but it's one of those things my dad always really pressured me to read and like and that always zaps enjoyment out of things. It's also why I've never read Lord of the Rings. Although I have started LotR at least six times.