Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a satisfying sequel but at nearly 130-minutes, it does get a bit long in the tooth by the two-hour mark. Even so, the continuing chemistry between Downey and Law is fantastic and the new additions of Jared Harris and Noomi Rapace makes this at least a worthwhile rental.
Genre(s): Crime, Adventure, Comedy
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 129 min. – $35.99 | June 12, 2012
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Writer(s): Michele Mulroney & Keran Mulroney (written by)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams
Theatrical Release Date: December 16, 2011
Features: Maximum Movie Mode, Featurettes, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 35.6 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C (untested)
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Please note, this review contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so proceed with caution!
“It’s a game, dear man, a shadowy game. We’re playing cat and mouse, the professor and I. Cloak and dagger.”
In 2008, Robert Downey Jr., still riding high from his success with the Iron Man movies, got another hit playing an iconic character with different flair than had been seen before. Sherlock Holmes, albeit long in the tooth, was a fun flick with great performances and an intriguing story to booth. The sequel, entitled Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, is more of the same but suffers under what I like to call the Jack Sparrow Syndrome (JSS) where you had the quirky Jack Sparrow introduced in Pirates of the Caribbean but wore thin over the course of three sequels.
This go around we find Sherlock Holmes (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.) playing a bit of a chess game with adversary Professor James Moriarty (JARED HARRIS), who has something planned but seemingly at each turn, Holmes is there to derail it. When the movie opens, Holmes’ love interest Irene Adler (RACHEL MCADAMS) is still running errands for Moriarty but after Holmes stops a bomb from taking out a respected doctor, Moriarty decides Adler is dispensable, so exit stage left for McAdams whose appearance is basically a credited cameo.
Meanwhile, Holmes takes old friend and associate John Watson (JUDE LAW) out for a bachelor party where the only person in attendance is Holmes’ eccentric brother, Mycroft Holmes (STEPHEN FRY). Of course, Holmes being Holmes, he has alterative motives; he’s come to a club to meet a gypsy card reader Madam Simza Heron (NOOMI RAPACE) whose life is in danger when a stealthy assassin tries to take her out, but luckily Holmes has a set of skills to stave off the attack and save the girl.
Holmes decides it’s time to meet face to face with Moriarty as the pair has a dual of words but Moriarty gains the upper hand when Holmes proposes Watson (JUDE LAW) and his soon-to-be wife (KELLY REILLY) are to be kept out of their “game”, to which Moriarty politely, yet fiercely, declines. With that, the game is afoot and Holmes must rush to save Watson before Moriarty’s seemingly endless supply of henchmen, and bullets, set out to kill the couple as they journey on a train for their honeymoon.
With the help of Simza, who reveals that her brother has fallen in line with anarchist intending on stopping a peace treaty and causing general chaos to which would benefit Moriarty, Holmes and Watson must stop the professor as he tries to gain more and more power and ultimately the oldest motive in motion picture history… yep, world domination, an ambitious goal for sure and one that has no pratfalls whatsoever.
Again, MAJOR SPOILERS Ahead…
I was a fan of the first Sherlock Holmes movie mainly because of Robert Downey Jr. and the uniqueness he brought to the role of one of the most iconic characters in history. He wasn’t this dapper thinker and instead was a bruiser enjoying the physical fight just as much as solving a crime, and if he can do both at the same time, even better! But just like Johnny Depp with his outlandish Jack Sparrow character, this franchise runs the risk of falling into the same traps. In A Game of Shadows, Downey’s Holmes doesn’t quite resonate like Sparrow, but it’s getting close.
However, my biggest concern with this sequel isn’t so much the casting or even the simplistic plot (after all, it’s about the chess game between two adversaries) and instead falls into that category of a simple story that overstays its welcome. Now, the only reason the nearly 130-minute running time goes by quickly enough due to the continuing bromance chemistry between Downey and Law, which it seems the pair have more time onscreen versus the first movie, plus more time was allotted to furthering their friendship instead of simple character introductions.
As far as the supporting cast is concerned, I was honestly a tad disappointed when I heard Jared Harris would be playing Moriarty after reading some of the other names that had been batted around the Net over the years. However, after seeing Harris’ performance, he was absolutely the right choice; the perfect adversary to Downey’s Holmes. It’s a brilliant portrayal, though I can only speak as a novice as the extent of my “Sherlock Holmes” knowledge is the movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s, so how close of an adaptation to the novel’s version, I can’t say.
The others in the supporting cast aren’t overly noteworthy. If you’ve seen the trailers, you probably noticed Rachel McAdams was barely in any of them which, for me at least, was a red flag that her character was not long for this world, and indeed within the first 10-minutes, she’s unceremoniously killed off.
Her replacement, Noomi Rapace, came onto the scene after her head-turning portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels (she also co-stars in Ridley Scott’s hotly anticipated sci-fi horror flick, Promethius). Her gypsy character is a nice, strong character who works well opposite Downey and Law and hopefully her character receives further development if there’s a Sherlock Holmes 3.
Once again directed by Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows doesn’t exactly break new ground over its predecessor in terms of style, but he does give us some cool action sequences headlined by the forest slow-mo/sped-up chase. Still, while I don’t think this was as good as the first movie, it still contains some entertaining sequences combined with Downey’s fun portrayal, but like Depp, he runs the risk of overstaying his welcome with each sequel; quirkiness only can take you so far.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
The two-disc Blu-ray comes housed with a glossy, titled-embossed slip cover.
Maximum Movie Mode – Warner’s staple Blu-ray feature returns, this time hosted by Robert Downey Jr. as he leads you through various content including behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, etc. I think I liked what Guy Ritchie did with the first movie (pausing it at certain scenes), but this is still entertaining.
Focus Points (TRT – 34:59; HD):
Holmesavision on Steroids (4:02; HD) – This featurette shows the evolution of the Holmesavision established in the first movie.
Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed (7:09; HD) is a fine featurette that focuses on Sherlock’s adversary and how Jared Harris approached the role.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry (5:18; HD) takes a look at the relationship between the pair and the fun the actors have working with one another.
Meet Mycroft Holmes (5:30; HD) showcases actor Stephen Fry, a fan of “Sherlock Holmes”, as he brings to life the other Holmes in the family.
Sherlock Holmes: Under the Gypsy Spell (4:02; HD) focuses on casting actress Noomi Rapace and the gypsy lifestyle.
Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine (3:04; HD) – Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and the film’s supporting cast reveal the secret ‘little things’ that make this group so special.
Holmes Without Borders (5:51; HD) – Downey, Law and the crew escape the confines of Victorian London and take the adventure to Paris, Germany and beyond.
This release also includes an UltraViolet Digital Copy and a DVD Copy.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, using cloak and dagger methods, debuts on Blur-ay with a good-looking 1080p high-definition transfer. The movie is presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio that features good looking detail levels throughout and excellent blacks and darker elements which show no signs of pixilation or artifacts. Because this is mostly a dark movie, the color palette is fairly muted, but even so, this looks very good on the small big screen.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is impressive. The dialogue levels is nice and clear from beginning to end while the action elements will envelope your home theater, giving that dynamic aural experience that tends to be missing from some soundtracks. If I had one complaint, and it’s a minor one, the LFE channel does seem to be a tad soft at times, but it’s not a big deal, just something I noticed. In any case, it is a great lossless track that will astound all.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a satisfying sequel but at nearly 130-minutes, it does get a bit long in the tooth by the two-hour mark. Even so, the continuing chemistry between Downey and Law is fantastic and the new additions of Jared Harris and Noomi Rapace makes this at least a worthwhile rental. The Blu-ray itself has an excellent audio and video transfer and while the features have much to be desired, the Maximum Movie Mode with RDJ was fun to watch, even if it only totals ~30-minutes of screen time.