A Game of Shadows reminds me of the pretty girl in the room that every guy wants to meet. She’s hot, she’s confident, she’s available. And then a guy meets her, and within about 10 minutes, he realizes why no guy is wasting his time talking to her: she’s all looks and no substance.
In a nutshell, that’s the best way I can describe the second installment of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
What Was Good
- This film was visually appealing in so many ways. My biggest comparison of it was last year’s TRON: Legacy that came out right around the same time. The story line lacked, the writing was weak, but it was pretty to look at. One of the very first scenes in the film where Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) fights off four guys at once was incredible. At one point in the scene, the camera made a complete 360 degree turn. It was visually dazzling. The other memorable scene, visually, was the run through the forest. The slow motion action, the fight sequences, the explosion–by far, one of the most stylistic scenes of the movie. I had thoughts go back to when I had seen 300, but I found myself more enthralled with the visuals and special effects in Game of Shadows than I did in 300 or in the previous Sherlock Holmes installment.
- Robert Downey Jr. Need I say more? Although I’m of the strong opinion that there are far better British actors out there to portray the famous criminal investigator, RDJ has a special magnetism to crowds of people. He’s funny, he has great facial remarks, and he knows how to make people laugh without blinking. He talks fast, moves fast, and looks good all the while doing so. Although he makes a far better Iron Man than Holmes, he knows how to attract a crowd and then hold its attention.
- The bromance between RDJ and Jude Law. No one can deny the hilarious chemistry between Holmes and his partner in crime-solving, Dr. Watson. Although Watson is practically forced to accept his sidekick role, he keeps Holmes alive and works as a pretty good support system when needed, be it shooting at people, shooting him with adrenaline, or completing part of a mission. And at the end of the day, there’s this unspoken care for one another.
- Perhaps one of my favorite parts of this movie were the fight scenes. Not only were they visually appealing, but they were also fun and interesting. The choreography, the narration preceding what RDJ was about to throw down on the villains, and then Professor Moriarty’s interruption in that final narration–all captured and edited well.
- The ending stayed true to the story. While the movie franchise is utterly miscast, poorly written, and held together by a storyline that is both confusing and disjointed, the ending proved to be a rare part of the movie, with both Sherlock Holmes and the professor falling to their deaths. This is how Arthur Conan Doyle wrote it. And yes, Holmes does come back to life. This is the only scene I would applaud Ritchie for forming.
What Was Bad
- I’m very disappointed to admit that the soundtrack was a letdown. Hans Zimmer is one of my favorite film composers today, but this soundtrack didn’t do it for me. While it held onto some of the same themes as the first film, it failed to go anywhere beyond that. It was all over the place, and it lacked the build up and the originality of the first soundtrack.
- The writing is probably the most obvious problem with the film. Difficult to follow, with random things happening, and no one understanding why. Lots of running, fighting, shooting, and overall craziness, but not much point to them. Or is there a point, and we just don’t know it because it’s just bad storytelling? I’m going to have to hand this baton to the screenwriters, Michele and Kieran Mulroney. While the first movie lacked the spunk, thrill, and overall enjoyment that the second offered, Game of Shadows failed to explain itself and decided that looking pretty was a far bigger priority than making much sense or explaining itself.
- Although the cast really brought it together for this second film, it added great actors, but misused the supporting cast in practically every way. Stephen Fry, who played Holmes’s brother, was funny and added a nice element to the movie. So what’s the problem? In the Sherlock Holmes books, Holmes does have a brother–a twin brother. While this may seem like a nit-picky dislike, the fact that RDJ and Fry share literally no level of similarity in look is just a poor choice. With today’s CGI capabilities, why not use RDJ for his twin? Noomi Rapace, another great addition to the cast, was also poorly used. While she did the best she could with the material, she really had nothing to do except function as an onlooker. This is disappointing when you have such a great physical actress on set. The choice for a better villain was then utilized, bringing Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) into the story. Harris, portraying an intimidating foe to the much-loved Sherlock Holmes, was great. What wasn’t great is that Moriarty rarely, if ever, talks in the stories. Someone is always playing messenger for him. This is just another big, purposefully-made mistake–we lose the ability to be surprised or taken aback when the villain is constantly showing himself when mystery could have been played well here.
- Guy Ritchie’s direction is the biggest issue to blame, bad writing taking second place. While he likes making visual beauty on screen, it seems that he wasn’t interested in creating a Sherlock Holmes franchise that is much like Sherlock Holmes in the least. From the onset of poor casting choices, to forcing the stories to be more of summer popcorn flicks with big explosions and witty dialogue than anything much like is true to the story of Sherlock Holmes, Ritchie’s misguided attempts at making a good Sherlock Holmes has proven itself to be a failure once again.
- As much as I appreciated the ending, as Richard Roeper mentioned in his review, Ritchie decided he rather have the audience leave on a happy note than leave anything to mystery by ending the movie with the return of Sherlock Holmes. As funny as it was, Ritchie blew a great opportunity to leave viewers in the dark and be able to present a great surprise in the next film while leaving everyone in suspense. It’s ironic, seeing that viewers felt completely lost during the movie, but had all suspense removed at the end.