Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a fun sequel and watching them in succession, kind of enjoyed this one a bit better as it does include a great villain in Moriarty played by Jared Harris, and his ability to go up against Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Genre(s): Action, Suspense/Thriller, Mystery
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 128 min. – $24.99 | September 1, 2027
Date Published: 08/30/2020 | Author: The Movieman
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.
THE MOVIE — 3.75/5
Note #1: This is my original review from 2012.
“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.
Review (again, MAJOR SPOILERS):
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 (2020 Update: Will be at least 11 years until we get one)
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.
2020 UPDATE: Watching this for a third time (previously watched in theaters and on Blu-ray), I actually enjoyed this sequel a bit more than the first. The pacing was better this go around and the banter between Holmes and Watson was smoother, and the inclusion of Noomi Rapace was a fun addition, though sadly the great Rachel McAdams is here in nothing more than a cameo. Jared Harris as Moriarty was a great foil to Holmes as well, far more memorable compared with Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood. If I had any complaints, wish Moriarty was saved for the third movie, though given it will be well over a decade before there is a third film, guess it was a blessing.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.25/5
Maximum Movie Mode – Hosted by Robert Downey Jr., 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):
Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed (7:09) 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) takes a look at the relationship between the pair and the fun the actors have working with one another.
Meet Mycroft Holmes (5:30) 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) focuses on casting actress Noomi Rapace and the gypsy lifestyle.
Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine (3:04) – 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) – Downey, Law and the crew escape the confines of Victorian London and take the adventure to Paris, Germany and beyond.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
|Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is on the case, released through Warner on 4K Ultra HD and presented in its original theatrical 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and given a 2160p high-definition transfer. As I did with the first movie, I did do a quick comparison with the Blu-ray (included in this combo pack) and although the differences aren’t exactly substantial, as before, the whites are better balanced here compared with how blown out they appeared on the Blu-ray. In addition, the detail is a bit sharper and colors, such as they are in this dimly lit film, looked rather good.|
AUDIO – 4.5/5
|Presumably the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track here is probably the same, or at least close, to the Blu-ray, so no upgrading to an Atmos track. Still, it is a solid lossless track as dialogue comes through with good clarity to the point I actually could discern what RDJ was saying through his thick (fake) accent. There is a fine amount of depth on display during the action scenes with plenty of explosions and bullets whizzing by, and hitting tree trunks, as our intrepid heroes run, in slow-mo, through the woods.|
OVERALL – 4.5/5
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a fun sequel and watching them in succession, kind of enjoyed this one a bit better as it does include a great villain in Moriarty played by Jared Harris, and his ability to go up against Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes. This 4K Ultra HD combo pack includes great video/audio transfers, albeit not an incredible upgrade over the Blu-ray, and a good selection of bonus material.