February 7, 2012


I LOVE that there's even an official
character poster for the frakkin' dog
My first choice for my next film was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, to complete the Benedict Cumberbatch triumvirate. However, A Game of Shadows maintains some sort of consistency to the pattern: Cumberbatch of course plays the famous detective in the recent BBC miniseries and A Game of Shadows also continues the World War I through-line begun with War Horse - SPOILERS! - as Moriarty's big plan is to start WWI some 25 years early.

I enjoyed the first Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law starring Sherlock Holmes enough. It was no definitive edition of Doyle's famous sleuth, but it was a bit of rock 'em sock 'em adventure with a wonderful chemistry between the two leads; it was pulpy, a little silly but it had enough momentum to it to carry you through. Since that first film, however, I have gone back and re-read the original short stories and have become enamoured of the BBC series. Guy Ritchie's less nuanced approach to the Great Detective can only pale in comparison.

Jude Law's Dr. John Watson is soon to be married, while Holmes obsesses over a new, grand case involving many tenuous links, seemingly masterminded by one man: Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, is a villain who looms large not just over the Sherlock mythos but over literature in general and is one of the few people able to match wits with Holmes. He is an equal opposite number; the flip-side of the coin. Holmes is chasing him down and, once again, uses Watson in his deductive quest. A gypsy fortune teller in the guise of Noomi Rapace is also swept up in the cross-country gallivanting as Holmes et al chase Moriarty - as he travels about on a book tour no less! It all culminates, as we all knew it would, in Switzerland at the Reichenbach Falls.

There's plenty of running about in between, with Ritchie really pushing the use of speed ramping during action scenes. Because, I dunno, it's cool or something I guess. It's a technique that makes some story & character sense in the mental planning Holmes does before each physical confrontation - the audience can see precisely how Holmes goes about disabling an opponent. But when the action slows down and speeds up while shit explodes around the characters, it becomes more of an affectation with no real basis beyond looking cool.

The relationship between Holmes and Watson or, more specifically, the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law seems decidedly more strained, more high-pitched than the previous film. Where in Sherlock Holmes you genuinely felt that these two were close to being a bickering old married couple who feel a closeness and affection for one another, in A Game of Shadows the feeling is more one of one-upmanship and yelling at one another. Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler makes a return from Sherlock Holmes, although really makes less of an impact than her character deserves while The Gypsy With No Tatoo seems to have just been brought along for the ride.

Both Holmes films have taken the "who" out of the central mysteries; there is never any doubt as to who is behind the dastardly deeds (Mark Strong in the first and Moriarty here), rather the mystery is in the "how" and "why". And, frankly, the "why" behind Moriarty's grand plan is really rather pedestrian and boring. Hell, he's just doing it all for the money. Woop-de-doo. It strikes me as really far too vulgar a reason for the greatest criminal mind in history to do what he does.

A Game of Shadows was enjoyable enough, with a number of nods and shout-outs to Holmes history. But it is a film I struggled to remember anything about a day or two after.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review of the movie :)

    I too liked the first one, which atleast made some effort to be faithful to the canon. The second movie on the other hand is just a flat out Hollywood action movie.

    Have you tried the Russian adaptation with Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes.