Monday, 2 May 2016
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
After I reviewed the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes film, a friend of mine dropped me a message on Facebook about how much he disliked the second film. Which, even if I hadn't already picked up the DVD of the second film, would have been like waving a red flag at a bull, really.
I can definitely see why my friend had issues with the film. It makes two major missteps: one early on that left a very bad taste in my mouth, and a second that pretty much ran throughout the length of the film.
But let's start with the positives, because - even though on balance I wouldn't recommend it - the film does have some. The leads remain charismatic, and Ritchie remains a deft hand with the action scenes, despite his excessive fondness of slow motion.
Hmm. You'll notice that's a pretty short list of positives, isn't it? So does it mean everything else went wrong? Well ... not necessarily wrong, but some things definitely don't work as well as they might have. Casting Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes probably seemed like a fine idea at the time for instance. And Fry certainly seems to be enjoying himself. But the execution doesn't work for me. Much like his role in The Hobbit films, I felt he was too much Stephen Fry and not enough the part he was hired to play. Noomi Rapace, meanwhile, is a fine actor: but she is given precious little to do by the script.
Also not given enough to do, at least in the first hour of the film, is Jude Law. The first movie did a great job of making his Doctor Watson seem an important part of Holmes's successes. This film initially makes him an almost clownish figure. I think the intent is to give a reason for the villain to underestimate him in the later parts of the film, but I can't help but think that sabotaging Watson was not the way to go about it.
None of these issues, however, are the two major missteps I referred to earlier. Those are coming next, and well: here be spoilers.
The first problem is the fridging of Irene Adler. Having spent the first film making her a central figure - someone who could outwit Holmes - this movie kills her with unceremonious haste in a pretty blatant attempt to make the new villain (it's Moriarty, of course) seem like a big deal. Now it's entirely possible that the rumoured third movie will bring her back - such tricks are part of Adler's schtick after all - but this film does nothing to suggest she wasn't taken out like a chump.
The second problem is Moriarty himself. The characters on screen constantly tell us how brilliant he is, but nothing in the script actually shows it. Quite the opposite, in fact. I mean, the bad guy in the first film had a goofy plan, but at least the steps he took to enact it were logical. For instance, he did his utmost to actually kill Holmes when he had the chance. By contrast, Moriarty has a sound (if improbable) end goal in mind, but his means of achieving it are extravagant and sloppy. And while it is fine for a villain to be extravagant and sloppy, it's not fine for Sherlock Holmes not to notice that.
Ultimately this is a film that is less than the sum of its parts.