PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is investigating a seemingly unrelated series of crimes around Europe, believing them all connected to Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), a criminal mastermind just as smart as Holmes. After Moriarty arranges for another assassination, he poisons Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), as her feelings for Holmes have compromised her usefulness. Meanwhile, Holmes takes Dr. Watson (Jude Law) out with his brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) for his stag party, and saves another intended victim of Moriarty’s, a fortune telling gypsy named Sim (Noomi Rapace). Holmes meets with Moriarty, who warns Holmes that if he persists in investigating him, Watson will become a target. Holmes stows away on the train taking Watson and his new wife Mary (Kelly Reilly) to their honeymoon destination, knocking Mary off the train to the safe hands of Mycroft while he and Watson battle Moriarty’s men. When the duo arrive in France, Holmes tells Sim that Moriarty targeted her due to her brother Rene’s work with him, and she was a loose end.
In Paris, Holmes, Watson, and Sim go to the opera where they believe Moriarty will strike, but Holmes realizes too late that Moriarty has deceived him; a hotel is blown up instead. As Holmes looks over the bodies, he realizes the bomb was a cover for a gunman of Moriarty’s, Colonel Sebastian Moran (Paul Anderson), to shoot a specific guest at the party. Tracking the man’s ownership of an arms factory in Germany which has recently had a large number of shares bought by Moriarty, Holmes and Watson investigate, but Holmes is captured. Moriarty reveals he owns shares in companies across Europe in cotton, guns and other goods, and plans to start a war that will create a large demand for them and make him a fortune. Watson rescues Holmes and the two escape the factory on a passing train. Holmes surmises Moriarty’s next target is a peace summit, where he will create an incident between world leaders to spark war.
At the summit with Mycroft, Holmes deduces that a set of twins working for Moriarty are not actually twins, and was an experiment to give a man the face of another. Realizing that Rene has been made to look like one of the party guests and will act on Moriarty’s behalf, Watson and Sim find out which guest he is while Holmes invites Moriarty to a game of chess on a balcony over a waterfall. Watson and Sim successfully stop Rene, but he is killed by Moran. Meanwhile, Holmes reveals to Moriarty that in Germany he stole an account book tracing all of Moriarty’s assets, the only piece of evidence linking him to his deeds, and Mary has taken it back to London, where Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) is confiscating them. Holmes and Moriarty mentally plan a battle and both realize Holmes will lose; with no other option, Holmes blows soot from his pipe in Moriarty’s eyes, distracting him so Holmes can grab him and knock both of them off the balcony and into the waterfall. Some time later, Watson and Mary prepare to go on another honeymoon while Watson finishes writing of his last case with Holmes. A delivery of Mycroft’s oxygen breathing device alerts Watson that Holmes survived, and he runs to question Mary about the delivery while Holmes reveals himself concealed in Watson’s room, rushes to the typewriter and adds a “?” after the words “The End”.
When the first Sherlock Holmes was released a couple of year ago, many people found it to be fresh, but unmemorable. I can’t say that I disagreed with them. I like the film, but if you were to ask to me tell you something that etched a place in my memory, I just don’t have anything for you.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows unfortunately follows the same path, except for the test of intellect between Holmes and Moriarty really makes this film memorable, even more so than the numerous explosions and slow motion action scenes.
Let me start with those, as a matter of fact. In the first film, this tactic was used to more or less let the audience know how Holmes saw things, and in this one it is pretty much the same, but it seems as if we get more of it here, ad nauseam at times. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I fear that this may be the next step in bullet time. Heaven help us all!
I love explosions as much as the next red blooded male, but something about this time period and big explosions doesn’t mix, if you know what I mean. It is perfectly fine to blow up Chicago like they did in Transformers: Dark of the Moon because that was modern day, but to have these random dynamite infused destruction scenes just didn’t work. At the same time, though, they really helped move the film along, I will say that. I dread to know what this would have been like without them.
Now, anyone who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes will tell you that he is archenemies with Prof. Moriarty. This is one of the biggest criticisms of the first film; the fact that he only made a faceless cameo at film’s end leading to the possibility of a sequel. In retrospect, it produced this film, yes, but there was no guarantee that would have happened. If they wanted to hold him off, that’s fine, but they still could have had him pulling the strings. That being said, not using the Joker worked in this current Batman trilogy, so there you go.
The battle of wits between these two genius mountebanks is something to behold, let me tell you, especially their final confrontation. In many films, the hero and the villain meet in a final battle and it ends up in fist to cuffs, gunplay, or something else. With Holmes and Moriarty, we get that, but not until after a game of chess and their attempts to prove that they have one-upped each other the whole time.
Storywise, I enjoyed every minute. The film moves along at a decent pace and doesn’t drag down, except for the lull in the middle before the climax that all film’s have. Are there things that I would change? Sure, but can’t we say that about any and every film we’ve seen in our lives? This is no exception, really.
I do think that the early demise of Rachael McAdams could have either been left out or told through flashback, but at the same time, it served to set up the story, so I’m torn.
There seems to be a lot more comedy in this one, which I particularly like, but I’m sure there are those that felt this should have been left out. Did it go overboard? Eh…I won’t say that, but I can see how some would see it that way. For me, it was the right mix, and besides, it wasn’t like it was Moriarty cracking the jokes and whatnot.
Downey and Law reprise their roles beautifully and their chemistry is sharper than it was in the first film.
Jared Harris brings the complex, brilliant Morairty to life masterfully. Does anyone else think this guy looks like an older version of Conan O’Brien in some ways?
Stephen Fry is a welcome addition as Mycroft Holmes, a character that I didn’t know even existed until I just looked him up. If we get a third film, hopefully we’ll get more of him.
Finally, with the demise of Rachael McAdams’ character, we need new eye candy, and we get that in the form of the gypsy Sim, played by Noomi Rapace. There really isn’t much to say about her, as she doesn’t do much, even though she comes in with a bang. I liken her character to Gambit from X-Men Origins: Wolverine in that she comes is a bona fide badass and then more or less disappears for a good chunk of the movie until near the end.
So, what did I ultimately think of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows? Well, it is an improvement over the first film, but not by much. That isn’t to say either are bad films. It is like if you lose 1 lb. You may go bragging about it, but the only one that will really realize it, even though everyone may be happy for you, is yourself. That being said, this is a good action flick with hints of comedy and romance thrown in to make the perfect December flick. I highly recommend you go rush and see it!
4 out of 5 stars