Monday, December 19, 2011

Review - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

I was super excited when I first heard the news that they were making a sequel to the recent Sherlock Holmes film. I absolutely loved the first movie. Holmes and Waston were wonderfully portrayed. The setting and cinematography were great. And the plot was absolutely enjoyable. I was also stoked when, in the first film, they introduced Moriarty as a character hiding behind the scenes but at the very end of the film becoming the prey to Sherlock's intellect. I suspected we'd see a sequel, and I suspected we'd see Moriarty play a greater role.

So yes, I was super excited going into this film. Because of the nature of the plot, I tried hard to avoid any information about the story. And I will try to provide the same courtesy here by avoiding any spoilers in this review. Instead, I'll give sort of general reactions.

The first general reaction I had was that this movie was so much LARGER in scope than the first film. In terms of setting, we find ourselves whisking around Europe investigating things in numerous countries unlike the first film that stayed not only in England, but just in London. The changing environments allowed for more over the top sets and scenes. In some of these I felt like the sets were a little too over the top and lost some of the charm of the smaller settings of the first film.

I also felt like the action and adventure had been cranked up to the extreme as compared to the first film. The fights were longer, the explosions were bigger and the chases were longer. Again, the larger than life adventure was fun but I missed some of the charm from the smaller investigations and interactions. I really did like some of the cinematic effects during the larger scenes (such as the transition between fast-and-slow during the chase scene through the forest). I also really enjoyed the effects reused from the first movie such as the panning, transition of focus and other camera effects that helped us to see the scenes through the perspective of Sherlock's observation techniques.

I absolutely loved having Moriarty as the villain in this story. I'm always a fan of seeing the hero go up against his arch-nemesis. In the books, I wish there was more involvement with Moriarty, so I was stoked to have him be in this second film. I loved the dialogues between Holmes and Moriarty…each one fully aware of the scrutiny from the other…each one respecting the skills of the other while viciously trying to undermine their efforts. I felt that Moriarty was well cast and well executed, though perhaps a bit stereotyped and lacking at times…generally he was good.

I was a little bummed that Irene Adler played a smaller role in this film...I guess they figured they needed some new female blood to pit against Holmes's wit and they figured that it would have been too much to have two female leads on screen at the same time.  The gypsy character Sim was interesting, but not nearly as engaging as Adler.

The overall plot and mystery was, like other aspects of the movie, taken to the extreme when compared with the first film (which is especially worth noting since the plot of the first film was adequately complex already). At times, this plot felt overly convoluted for the sake of added complexity. At other times, the revelations felt too simple or mundane. Still…sometimes the best plots are those that draw you in with complexity and intrigue only to stun you with something so simple that its success seems inevitable.

I felt like the various moments of investigation and revelation weren't handled quite as well in this film. Partly due to the complexity, partly to the way the various parts were solved…I just felt like the smooth, calculated Holmesian deduction from the first film was perfect…and in this film it felt a bit more rushed or unbalanced.

Finally…the ending of the film. As I mentioned, I will work to avoid spoilers. I will say that for those who have read Holmes and Moriarty, you will be somewhat familiar with what to expect…at least to some regard. While the plot of this movie is certainly a new story that doesn't map to an original from the Conan Doyle books, I was pleasantly surprised to see them pull in elements from the original Holmes-Moriarty relationship.

During the final scene between Holmes and Moriarty, we had another interesting directorial/cinematic choice…instead of just being given a glimpse into Holmes' analytical reasoning, we see Moriarty's analysis as well. I thought this was very fun to see each of them plotting out what would happen in the next few moments, even to the extent that their analysis overlapped one another. It was a lot of fun.

Scanning back over what I've written so far, I worry that you may get the wrong impression and feel like I disliked this movie. On the contrary, I absolutely loved this film. Like the first one, I was very impressed with the sets, the costumes, the music and the cinematics. They all did a great job of drawing me in to the reality of the time and setting.

I had a lot of fun with the new characters for this movie (particulary Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes…though I could have done well to have him leave his clothes on the whole movie…that particular departure left me unsettled). I again felt like Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law did a great job as Holmes and Watson and had a wonderful chemistry. This movie presented a more frantic and frenzied Holmes that somewhat unbalanced the smooth deduction skills from the first film, but felt logical given the circumstances of this adventure.

My biggest complaint of this film is also one of the things that makes it so much fun…the fact that it Went Big. The adventure was taken over the top. This gave the movie a somewhat different feeling than the first film. The story was still very enjoyable and a lot of fun but some aspects felt more like a big-budget adventure film than a methodical mystery to be solved. Fortunately I like both genres and had a lot of fun seeing this new Holmes find his way through the adventure.

So in some ways this movie was better than the first and in other was it wasn't as good…but generally speaking, it was just as good as the first and was primarily just different in tone and style. Some people may be turned off by some of the differences, but I really enjoyed it and hope they continue on with the series.

5 out of 5 stars

Today's Quote from Quoting Quotes:



Brian Miller said...

ok you sold me...i thought the first was ok...i really like will check it out...when it hits our dollar theatre...smiles.

Brian Miller said...

and hey in case i dont see you again before...have a great christmas!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My (much shorter) review of this went up this morning. I really enjoyed it. Thought the action sequences were bigger and badder and the humor even stronger. Liked it just a little bit more than the first one and can't wait for the next installment!

logankstewart said...

I've not seen the film yet, and I seriously doubt that I will before it comes to home video, but the review makes me intrigued. I enjoyed the first one, but just that. Like you, I did like the chemistry between Downey & Law. I'll be sure to get to this some day.