Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace and Jared Harris
Released: Dec 16, 2011

Re-invention is a wonderful thing. Take an aging formula and putting it through the works to make it feel fresh and modern, it does wonders for mainstream cinema. The first Sherlock Holmes, released in 2009, was a prime example of this, taking what was old and dusty, added a dash of Robert Downey jr, and made it cool. In its sequel, while it follows the same procedure, the novelty has begun to wear off.

The plot:
While Watson (Law) is in the process of organizing his wedding, Holmes (Downey Jr) has been tracking a notorious criminal mastermind, who has been executing schemes across Europe. The nefarious Professor Moriarty (Harris), who appears to match Holmes in every possible capacity.

Moriarty is famously known for being Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis. The Darth Vader to his Luke Skywalker. It was therefore a little strange to see our boy Holmes squaring off against Mark Strong (who portrayed Lord Blackwood, a lesser known villain) in the first film. It became apparent towards that film’s conclusion that, naturally, they were building up to Moriarty in the inevitable sequel.

Moriarty is, therefore, very much a major sell for this film. An awful lot depends on his character alone. And, strangely, he is simultaneously a success and a let down. Harris himself portrays Moriarty exceptionally well, coming across as cool, calculating and almost amoral. An early scene in which he and Holmes meet for the first time is electrified with high-strung tension, and establishes the cunning Moriarty quite well.

What is unfortunate is that, in a bid to make the adventures of Sherlock Holmes more accessible, this film loses its edge. The tone of the first film was cool and somewhat carefree, with suggestions of darkness. This is a nice balance for the modern audience. The sequel, unfortunately, is locked in a promise to deliver “bigger action, more laughs” and so on. And while the action is bigger, and the laughs are more frequent, all seriousness has been flung out the window, like a yoghurt past its sell-by-date.

Understandably, there are many that will consider this a good thing. The antics between Holmes and Watson have escalated on a near ridiculous scale. Homosexual subtext lines just about every scene, to the point that it is almost parody. Downey and Law enjoy great chemistry, and this is a saving grace for the film.

However, it is difficult to take much of the action seriously, as so much of it is sandwiched between scenes of a comical nature. It is difficult to believe Western civilization is in as much peril as Holmes suggests, when so many jokes and gay references are being tossed around. A scene in which Moriarty has Holmes at his mercy also feels like a missed opportunity to express how ruthless a villain he can be. As good a performance as Harris hands in, he lacks the cold and hard nature of Strong’s Lord Blackwood.

All of this aside, the film remains good fun. The chuckles come at a solid rate, guaranteed to give at least one or two good laughs. Stephen Fry, who plays Mycroft Holmes, provides a great deal of these laughs, and is exceptional in the role of Sherlock’s brother. The plot is also interesting enough to keep you seated until the end, even if it is hard to take seriously.

A largely successful comedy, and a mediocre action film as a result. Good performances handed in by all, though Moriarty could have been so much more. Also very gay friendly.

Rating: 6/10

“Are you sure you want to play this game?” – Professor Moriarty

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • I missed roughly the first minute of this film. If anything in that minute completely disproves anything I’ve said here, such as Moriarty cackling wildly while setting fire to some puppies, I apologise for excluding it.

This film is kind of like:

  • Doing charity work with a rag-tag gang of stand-up comedians.


  • The least serious arguement you have ever had
Published in: on January 23, 2012 at 12:41 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s definitely harder to do a good sequel than an original film. Expectations will always be higher if the first one was good. And you have to be very careful to follow the rules of the first film, while not sticking too close to the formula, in case it’s over familiar

  2. I saw the film, and I do agree with you, it wasn’t as good as the first one. Still, it’s hard to do a good sequel because advertisers tend to oversell it and you can come out very dissapointed.

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