Sherlock Holmes is back for another adventure, only this time instead of witnessing amazing sleuthing powers you’ll be treated to guns, explosions and a lot of running.
Before I dig in, let me state that the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie was more or less my first introduction to the character in detail. I mean, everyone knows who Sherlock is even if they haven’t read any of the books. They know him, his main man Watson and that he was a detective that goes on adventures to stop fiendish criminals like Professor Moriarty. So whether or not the Sherlock Holmes portrayed by Robery Downey Jr. is true to the literature, I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t really care, but I say this so you know that I’ll be comparing this Sherlock Homes film to the previous one and not to any of the older movies, shows or books.
A true sequel
Sequels are dangerous territory for movies. They rarely live up to the first film in terms of interest and story. Most of the time this is just because the first movie is new. New characters, new settings, new plot…the awe and spectacle are fully intact. By the time you get to a sequel you’ve pretty much fleshed out the character in your head so it’s harder to be surprised. For better or worse, this is the case with Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows that came out last month before Christmas. I was excited to see the film since I really liked the first one but was weary of how the sequel would be handled.
Thankfully original director Guy Ritchie returned for this film, which gives us instant continuity with the first film. You feel right at home when the movie starts with Watson getting married and Sherlock investigating a rash of anarchist bombings in the city. No time is wasted in being introduced to Moriarty either, so the bad guy gets a face almost instantly, which helps set up one of my favorite good guy/bad guy relationships….when they know each other. Sherlock knows who the bad guy is, and Moriarty knows that Holmes is trying to foil him. Neither character has superpowers or anything, so when they meet to exchange theories and trash talk it is a real treat even if it’s what we’ve come to expect. Yet in true Sherlock fashion, prepare yourself for a lot of dialogue from both sides of the coin. Moriarty is pretty much an evil Sherlock.
In terms of direction, acting and visuals, Game of Shadows doesn’t really impress or surprise you…and maybe that’s okay. You feel comfortable right away even as new characters are introduced. We meet Sherlock’s brother (Stephen Fry) and a gypsy played by Noomi Rapace, otherwise known as the Lisbeth from the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Having only seen her in that movie prior, seeing her with normal hair and clothes was almost confusing. I actually didn’t realize it was her until the credits ran. One character also gets killed off early in the film, which surprised me, so I guess I shouldn’t say the movie wasn’t without its twists and turns.
If you liked the bullet time action from the first film you’re in luck, because they use and abuse it throughout Game of Shadows almost to the point where I was wishing they would just stop. Using that technique to compliment Sherlock’s ability to see the future while he is fighting is one thing, using it to put an exclamation point on every action scene is a tad bit overdoing it. However, the most disappointing part of Game of Shadows is the plot.
Keep digging, Watson
The first Holmes movie had Sherlock investigating “mystic” powers of a madman. It was a lot of fun seeing how Sherlock unlocked the secrets to each crime down to simple science rather than spiritual powers…too bad none of that exists in Game of Shadows. This time Sherlock explores a somewhat generic plan by Moriarty that involves world war and economics. The key word here is “explores” because Sherlock doesn’t really do much to figure things out this time around. There is less mystery for him to investigate so the film ends up being more of a chase movie than highlighting Sherlock’s powers of deduction and knowledge. I’m sure in an effort to offset the lack of Sherlocking, they added a lot more action to this new movie. There are a lot more explosions and a lot more guns to keep everyone in peril, but somehow that feels less interesting than having Holmes coming in to solve a bunch of crimes after they have already happened.
Don’t get me wrong, Game of Shadows is a worthy sequel to the original film and this movie is well made with solid acting. There are few surprises this time around but the pace keeps up and drags you along for the ride. This is a true sequel in every sense of word. It is a better sequel than say Temple of Doom was, but it’s nowhere near being an Aliens-quality sequel either…it’s somewhere in the middle, it’s safe. While the first Sherlock Holmes movie is already in my DVD collection, I don’t foresee Game of Shadows finding a home next to it.
Unless you’re in need of some 19th century adventure, you can probably hold off on seeing Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows until it makes its way to the Redbox for rental. You need to see it to complete the Sherlock Holmes story but you not knowing how it ends right away is worth saving $20 for movie tickets.