Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Movie Reviews

One of the age-long “rules” of the big screen is that the sequel is almost never better than the original. Well, I’m pleased to say that this is not always the case. The continuation of the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film was, quite simply, an adept piece of work that stood on its own two feet, without relying too heavily on the previous film.

This movie contained a good amount of the familiar, while managing to stay fresh and new. If the movie’s preview swayed you in any way from seeing it, please try it out. I myself was skeptical by its preview; but, as typical, they only showed the action scenes, and not the true witty, brilliant Sherlock Holmes that is the essence of the film.



After having dealt with his former opponent, the clever detective (played by Roberty Downey Jr.—-Iron Man) must contend with a new adversary—-Professor James Moriarty (played by Jared Harris), a man with sophisticated cunning who appears to be Holmes’ equal.

The year is 1891, and tension between France and Germany is already beginning to tighten.  Moriarty hopes to profit from the conflict by selling his own brand of ground-breaking modern weapons to Germany, in hopes of stirring up the ant nest and starting a world war.

Holmes swears to beat him at his own game, and Moriarty accepts the challenge. The hypothetical chess board has been set. The “game of shadows”, Moriarty claims, will test the legendary intellectual and push him to his absolute limit.

Moriarty makes his first move by making an attempt on Holmes’ close and recently-wed friend Watson (played by Jude Law—A Series of Unfortunate Events) and forces him to play the game as well. Together, the two friends try to solve the mystery, while enlisting gypsy Madam Simza Heron (whose brother is mixed up in the mess), and Holmes’ brother Mycroft.

Together, the duo investigate Moriarty’s weapons plant in Berlin and just barely escape with their lives. After several more plays, the film culminates in Moriarty’s final move and the eventual climax of the game.


 The thing that I loved about this movie was that it was Sherlock Holmes. The thing I disliked about this movie was that it wasn’t Sherlock Holmes. Let me explain:

The first Sherlock had plenty of mystery and kept the viewer engaged through its entirety. It was clever, skillful, and suspenseful. It was classic Sherlock Holmes-and-sidekick. A Game of Shadows had all of that in it, just not quite like the first.

I personally would have liked to see some more of Holmes’ witty “oddities”. Roberty Downey Jr. brings so much ingenuity to the role, including his quirkiness. Although he appears to be near-psychotic, the detective always proves himself to be genuinely brilliant.

While Game of Shadows still had that, I couldn’t help but feel like somewhere along the line Robert Downey Jr. got just the slightest bit lazy with his character. He still brings the character to life, just not with the same magnitude as originally. I almost felt the same with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.

However, the witty banter between Holmes and Watson is still there, and Holmes continually reminds us that he is the master of disguise. I still give the thumbs up to Downey Jr.’s character. The role is brilliant, and it all works.

Irene Adler and the “Master of Disguise”

If you have watched any of the old Sherlock Holmes series, you may realize that the film makers have beefed up these new films just a tad bit. Instead of being the sophisticated, debonair detective, the new Holmes is unrefined and a bit loony. But, similar to Jack Sparrow, these things add to the character, and you eventually realize that he really is quite smart.

If you argue that this film was more of an action movie than a mystery, you do have a point. However, this is one of the ways director Guy Ritchie has changed the story. I personally enjoy the new twist. The action scenes were right in with the time period and the imminent war looming on the horizon. And it still contains an abundance of the brilliant mystery-solving skills that is the essence of Sherlock Holmes.

What I really loved about this movie, though, was that the film makers didn’t try to out-do themselves like so many film makers strive to do with sequels. I realize that you have to make it new, but there are so many other ways to do that than add lots of action scenes and coarse humor.

I sincerely felt like this film was almost just as good as the previous film. It kept you interested throughout, and was just as mysterious. But perhaps the best difference is the adversary.

In Sherlock Holmes, Lord Blackwood seemed extremely intimidating. He was such an ominous character. But in the end he’s revealed to be a fake, and all fear is abated. Moriarty, on the other hand, doesn’t seem quite as intimidating, but he is genuinely smart. Instead of relying on tricks to make him seem real like Blackwood, Moriarty is real. He seems to be a worthy adversary for Holmes, and he really is.

He plays the game with superb magnificence, and never lets anything go unseen . . . except for one thing. As usual, Holmes emerges victorious.

This sequel really felt exciting, and you could truly feel that something thrilling was about to happen. It most definitely kept up the ante from the original, which is a very difficult thing to do.

8.5 stars


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