“Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows” unmysterious but fun

“Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows” earns 3 out of 5 stars for its stale visuals and lack of mystery.



“Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows” opened in theaters Dec. 25, 2011. | Courtesy of collide.com

Nathan Fan, Writer

2011 was a year of many sequels: many part twos were introduced to some franchises, although none were received all that warmly. Why so many sequels? That’s a whole other matter in itself, but let us focus our idea on a particular one: “Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows.” In this review I plan to address two questions: Was it a good movie? And was it a good sequel?

Sequel focuses on two main characters

The first “Sherlock Holmes” holds a very fond place in my heart. It was a very intelligent and entertaining action flick with a pair of very intelligent and entertaining main characters, not to mention an awesome soundtrack, production design and a lot of quotable one-liners. Given its source material of a myriad of novels penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in addition to the financial and critical success of the first, it seemed that a sequel was inevitable.

“Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows” picks up where the first one left off, and to help the readers recall, I shall recount the major plot points. After a series of political bombings all across Europe increasing the tensions between the major powers, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is convinced that these attacks trace back to a certain Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). To all the fans of the books, you will recall Moriarty to be Holmes’ main rival. Meanwhile, John Watson (Jude Law) is gearing up to be married to his fiancé Mary (Kelly Reilly), of which Holmes disapproves because it would mean the end of the Holmes-Watson partnership. And to raise the stakes, the dissolution of his partnership is on the eve of Holmes’ self-proclaimed “most important case of his life.”

“Game of Shadows” really centers around two brilliant figures, Holmes and Moriarty, as they engage in the namesake: a game of shadows. The referred game is an intense one: Moriarty is working to plummet the world into a new type of chaos with the advent of new technological weaponry. Holmes is moves to counteract, prevent and hopefully reverse the damaging course of events set into motion by the diabolical Moriarty. Moriarty counters by sending assassins, armies, and the new weaponry to put an end to Holmes and his loved ones. All these events play out like one intense chess game as the two players try to keep up with the opponent, while also trying to get another two steps ahead or foil the other’s advantage.

Film offers fun, lacks mystery

All in all, the film is a thrill-packed, visually striking and quite humorous piece of work that highlights the unique traits of Holmes and Watson we saw developed in the previous movie. It is a wildly entertaining film and a fun one to see on the big screen, and all in all a nifty production with great costumes and good cinematography. Additionally, you get to see a new more compassionate human side side of Holmes, as one who actually cares about the people, rather than just caring about “playing the game” as the good guy. You also see more depth in his relationships with others, particularly with Watson. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law excel at playing their characters and share a wonderful chemistry, making the film lively.

While this film was fun to watch, it still does not compare to the first film, and it has a misleading title. The mystery of the first film was what made it so much fun to watch. “Games of Shadows” had no mystery to it; essentially, there are no shadows. You have Moriarty and you have Holmes, both are playing an action-packed, high-stakes game that moves like a typical action movie plot, not like the suspenseful, tense, convoluted-but-later-unraveled plot you would expect. I would have enjoyed the movie much more if it had me more stressed.

Another critique of this film is how they moved away from the visual style that so trademarked Ritchie’s grungy London rowdiness seen in the first film. This sequel jumps all over Europe but remains visually stale; it would have been preferable to see that dirty pre-war London style carried through in this sequel. At times you feel that the filmmaker was just being lazy with how he glazes over certain events, not taking the time to give the attention and detail that we saw in his first movie. So, no, this film fails to live up to its predecessor.

But take heart! If you are a fan of Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes, you will certainly be entertained with “Game of Shadows.” The last minute in particular is well worth watching, but do not expect the film to appear on many critics’ top 10 list or garner any award nominations.

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