Sherlock Holmes 2: The Game’s Afoot
Here’s how I saw the first Sherlock Holmes movie: it’s a Sherlock Holmes movie as directed by Guy Ritchie. Sure, it sounds like stating the obvious, but a deeper meaning lies in the statement. Guy Ritchie makes his name doing action movies, British ones to be exact. His movies involve guns, fights and explosions. So when you hear that he’s doing something like Sherlock Holmes, you know what to expect. However, it does help to keep the deductive manner that made the literary detective so memorable, which fortunately he did. So the first movie wound up being pretty fun and enjoyable albeit uncomparable to the original films about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s contribution to literature.
The same can be said about its sequel: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. It uses that which worked in the first movie and adds little variation. That which is different doesn’t add much punch to the movie, becoming forgettable. But the movie doesn’t stop short from capturing the adventure of being in the middle of a conspiracy, and a life-threatening one at that. Sure, it can barely be considered a Sherlock Holmes movie, and Robert Downey, Jr. can barely be considered Holmes himself; but both Downey and Ritchie put in enough energy and excitement to let it slide.
Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) finds himself against Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), who rivals him in intellect but opposes him morally. With the unvoluntary help of Dr. Watson (Jude Law) who’s on his honeymoon, Holmes must locate the brother of a gypsy (Noomi Rapace) and figure out how Moriarty fits in a conspiracy between Germany and France.
Robert Downey, Jr. is not a bad actor; it’s just hard seeing him as Holmes. Holmes in both Doyle and under the care of Basil Rathbone always had sophistication and poise with intellect coming naturally. Whenever he deduced something, he made it seem rather simple, hence the catchphrase “Elementary, my dear Watson”. His intellect was strong, and he knew how to make everything seem plausible. Downey on the other hand makes Holmes rather uncouth. He’s a genius, no doubt, but a dirty, unorganized, and even unorthodox genius. He doesn’t fail at portraying him, especially with the scenes where you see how he deduces; but you don’t see Holmes being this unkempt. Jude Law never fails at being Watson. Tall, proper, and eloquent, Law gives the perfect foil to Holmes (probably justifies his character). Jared Harris disappoints as Moriarty. The script writers wrote this character well, easily having him waltz his intellect and craft with Holmes’s, but Harris doesn’t really give his all. Unlike Downey who actually tries to make his character work, Harris rides with the writing.
This was the first time I saw Noomi Rapace, since I haven’t seen the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (P.S. I won’t see that until I see Fincher’s version). From what I saw, she gives promise. In fact, her situation is inversely related with that of Moriarty: she gives what she can with the little she got. We don’t know anything about her character other than she’s a gypsy whose brother plays a part in Moriarty’s plan. In character’s terms, she’s merely a McGuffin: doesn’t really do anything but get the plot across.
The movie has its faults with the characters but makes it up with the action and story-telling. Like any good mystery, Ritchie makes what seems merely pointless play an integral part somehow. Every small piece, including those of chess, has its place in the importance of the story even if its made pretty obvious. In fact, Ritchie really incorporates the Chess motif everywhere. Ritchie’s action scenes really make this fun, but it’s the scenes where Holmes deduces everything that’s the star. The moments when we see Holmes break everything down in his head bridge the gap between Sherlock Holmes and Guy Ritchie. Here is where we see the “Elementary, my dear Watson” at work, even if many of these things require some suspension of disbelief. Ritchie really borrows elements from Zach Snyder, especially in these moments and in the chase scene in the woods (a little of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I in there as well). It’ll be a while before we see the end of this, and I’m pretty sure few will want to see the end of it anytime soon.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has its faults and doesn’t really contribute to the canon, but it doesn’t fail to entertain. The excitement of the mystery and the controversy blended with the action make this movie pretty fun. Where characters fail, the story, cinematography, and even the input from the actors make up. Ritchie sacrifices the mystery for suspense and action, but the loss isn’t too great. If all you want is to see Sherlock in action, then maybe you’d be better off in the old films, maybe even The Great Mouse Detective. If you’re like I, and you don’t mind getting sucked into the mixture, then you’ll enjoy this movie. I do recommend watching this with subtitles because it’s sometimes hard to understand Robert Downey, Jr. in his accent.
Final Rating: 6.5 (I’d Go)