It’s become a New Year’s Eve tradition to go to the movies while everyone else is out gallivanting. Two years ago we saw Sherlock Holmes and had the unfortunate luck to have the film physically break down so that we could not see the last 10 minutes or so of the movie. Eventually we rented the movie and watched it all over, so all’s well that ends well. (Plus we got two free movie tickets each, which helped financed the 2011 New Year’s Eve movie viewing of The Tourist as well as a later trip to see The King’s Speech). This year we decided to tempt fate by again picking a Sherlock Holmes movie for the New Year’s Eve movie, this time seeing (in its full length without a hitch, might I add) its sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
After reading a recent pastiche of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed works, I’ve been slowly but surely making my way through the Sherlock Holmes canon. While I’m still not finished with that process, I now have way more knowledge about the legendary character and his friend Dr. Watson than I did when I saw the first Guy Ritchie film Sherlock Holmes. (At that point, I had only read a few short stories on Holmes here and there.) So for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, I could appreciate more of the nuances and hurrah more when I felt the characters were accurately portrayed down to nitty-gritty details. Some of the plot is taken from A.C. Doyle’s works, particularly The Final Problem, but the movie’s story is also its own. This leads to the movie being both predictable and surprising, not least of all because the viewer is unsure of how much the movie will stay true to the novels.
The sequel picks up where the original movie left off, with Sherlock Holmes tracing the criminal works of Professor Moriarty against the backdrop of events leading up to a world war. Dr. Watson, on the cusp of getting married to Miss Morstan, is inevitably drawn into this case despite his own inclinations. Also back, although ever so briefly, are Irene Adler and Inspector Lestrade. In addition, there are new characters with the ever-delightful Stephen Fry (known to Bones fan as Dr. Gordon Wyatt) as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes and Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series star Noomi Rapace as the Gypsy Madam Simza who is also drawn into the investigation unwittingly. This latter character is probably the only down side to the whole movie. With Miss Adler and Miss Morstan playing only minor roles, the otherwise male-dominated movie needed to fill this void, but they chose possibly the dullest character imaginable. Simza has the potential to be an interesting character (she’s a knife-wielding fortune teller who used to be an anarchist, after all) but she has very little to do in the way of action and has no memorable lines in a movie full of them. Furthermore, she has none of the charm of Adler, Holmes, or Watson. Rapace does not do much to add life to the character as she mostly spends her time looking vapidly from Holmes to Watson while action unfolds around her.
Like its predecessor, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is set in a visually dark London although here we also move to France, Germany, and Switzerland as well, making for a cinematic feast of locales. There are visual effects and styles similar to the first movie, including slow-motion shots such as when Holmes anticipates the moves of his opponents during fights. Also like the first movie, there are numerous funny one-liners and scenes interspersed throughout the film, which help to offset the darkness and violence. A particularly hilarious scene, rife with sexual tension of all sorts and an interesting commentary on the Holmes-Watson relationship, is when Sherlock Holmes uses one of his many disguises – this time as a woman – to intercede in attack on Watson’s honeymoon.
Overall, this movie is packed with mystery, suspense, action, and the aforementioned comedy. It will delight fans of the previous movie or of the Sherlock Holmes character in general. Yet this movie also stands on its own so anyone jumping on the bandwagon late can appreciate it as well.