When watching a film in the cinema, on several occasions I have left the screening rambling about how in actuality, after all of the hype and excitement, the film has let me down completely. This has happened on several occasions, but after re-watching the film several times at home when it’s released on DVD I then come round to the fact that maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
For Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows I am wondering whether or not this will happen.
So in the sequel we are thrust into the action as Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jnr) tries to unravel the dastardly plans of Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), the supposed napoleon of crime, and, with help from his friend Dr Watson (Jude Law) and the gypsy girl Simza (Noomi Rapace) he races across Europe to stop deadly assassination attempts and a larger, darker scheme.
Contrary to what I said about rambling and re-watching I enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes outing quite a bit. The mystery and occult goings on made it an interesting watch and the introduction to Holmes mind sold it to me. However the sequel seems to have lost the plot a bit.
And that’s the main problem with this film. There doesn’t seem to be a general plot or big mystery. When Moriarty’s master plan is discovered we find out that he’s just the same villain from The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. He’s doing the exact same thing (kind of), but there’s no fun, hammy acting from Sean Connery in this film to back it up. The first film painted Moriarty out to be a shadowy figure/serial killer (somewhat like Jack the Ripper in appearance) yet here he’s a university professor who goes on book tours.
Along for the ride is the gypsy Simza, who, is looking for her brother. The part is completely underwritten and I see no point in casting such a wonderful actress for a part that is side-lined completely by the homoeroticism of Holmes and Watson. In all honesty the character wasn’t needed and the character arc of her and the brother was laughable and incredibly preposterous, but for a film that has no plot what did I expect?
…this technique is used ridiculously too many times…
Action wise from the beginning and already used to the style in which Guy Ritchie showed us previously a fight between Holmes and four thugs is shown in great detail through Holmes’s mind then shown again in reality. This is fine, but the cuts are fast and unfortunately this technique is used ridiculously too many times which, after the second fight, becomes rather boring. Understandably Ritchie is showing off the prowess of Holmes, but, if that’s the case, move the camera back and film the fights in real time, showing the majestic nature of the martial arts he is demonstrating.
The fights go from a seamlessly indestructible Cossack assassin, blowing up half a train in drag to a visually stunning, but boring chase sequence through a forest where a large cannon is fired at Holmes’s and his friends. A bit of slow motion is fun. Every ten minutes and it’s monotonous.
…the worst part of the film…
The couple who wrote the screenplay were big fans of Sherlock Holmes and this can easily be seen by the inclusion of Holmes’s brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry), Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) and the Reichenbach Falls (featured in The Final Problem, the Conan Doyle’s short story about Moriarty and Holmes’s final fight), but unfortunately, to put it bluntly, Mycroft has no purpose to the story other than to add in some more Holmes background characters and Irene Adler is only in the film for five minutes. Her departure is the worst part of the film and after seeing her in the first and how much they built the character up from her novel counterpart (she was only in one story) it was the biggest mistake to remove her.
Overall A Game of Shadows disappointed me. I found myself bored half way through and although the banter between Holmes and Watsons makes you laugh a few times it unfortunately cannot carry the whole film. I left the auditorium and heard people saying “it was Ritchie’s best film by far!”
If so then maybe I’m with the minority on this one. However I’m pretty sure now after some careful thinking that I won’t be trying to come round to this film after a few re-watches.
Images courtesy of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows