Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Flicker Between the Frames - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

If you like watching movies in theaters, then having kids isn't for you. Needless to say, I have yet to see this.
Written by: Kristian Depue

A couple years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was adapted into a film, released as a major motion picture, and was a financial success at the box-office. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law portrayed Holmes and Watson, respectively, and Rachel McAdams had a significant role as Irene Adler. My general review of that film, the predecessor to A Game of Shadows, was that I liked pretty much everything except the villain and the plot. The acting, dialogue, character interaction, costumes, sets, and the musical score by Hans Zimmer were all superb. Downey and Jude Law were fantastic together, and Rachel McAdams brought a lot to the film as a charming femme fatale. The story, or more specifically, the villain and his plot, were disappointing. Now, I have not read the Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, but going into a Sherlock Holmes movie, I was expecting mystery, twists and surprises. However, what I was given was an action-adventure with a plot that resembled a James Bond movie.

The new film, A Game of Shadows, took my complaints about the first film and, rather than diminish or erase them, gave me extra helpings - heaping more of what I don’t like onto my plate. The villain, Professor Moriarty, was shown only in the shadows of the previous film - whenever he appeared, his face was not disclosed. This foreshadowed that he would be the villain in the sequel. Out of the shadows, Moriarty turned out to be little more than a bland James Bond villain. The pacing of the film felt rushed, leaving me confused as to why events were occurring - in the midst of explosions and gunfire, I would find myself asking “How did the characters get here?”

The female characters were given very little to do. Most disappointing was that Rachel McAdams, who was very entertaining in the previous film, made little more than a cameo appearance in this story. Kelly Reilly portrays Mary again, Dr. Watson’s fiancĂ©…and then wife. However, in this film, she seems dismissed and disrespected as a character. Noomi Rapace is new, playing a gypsy whose name I don’t remember. For the most part, she just tags along with Holmes and Watson through the adventure.

The character interaction and humor between Downey’s Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson, which was superb in the first film, seemed rather forced, excessive and unoriginal this time around. Something else I appreciated in the first film that was missing this time around was Inspector Lestrade and his frustrating working relationship with Holmes. In this film, he makes an even briefer appearance than McAdams’ Irene Adler. A positive addition to the cast of characters was Holmes’ older brother played by Stephen Fry; he brought some fresh humor to the film.

If Guy Ritchie and company decide to make a third Sherlock Holmes film, my advice to them is to slow down. …and I’m not talking about adding more slow-motion sequences - enough of those! Focus on the characters, giving them and their relationships with one another intelligence and emotional depth. Focus on the story - provide mystery and suspense. I don’t want to sit back through a detective film watching only the characters in the story having “ah-ha!” moments. As an audience member, I want to be on the edge of my seat, engaged in the mystery as a “detective.” Perhaps I am wrong about what Sherlock Holmes is all about, since I have not read the stories, but I want something smart, not a dumb action flick.


  1. Thank you for writing this, DePue... now I have even more evidence to show my wife to make sure she doesn't drag me in to see this garbage!! Wow, I don't even know where to begin.

    To begin with, when one says of a sequel's predecessor, "I liked pretty much everything except the... plot," that's not a good start! It sounds like you still enjoyed the first movie more than I did, and I guess I can respect that, if you were entertained by it. But seriously, what were you expecting, that they'd do better for the sequel? Did you see the trailers they were putting out - not the SLIGHTEST indication of what the movie is about!! One TV spot literally consisted of 45 seconds of context-less explosions, with a coule 1-second RDJ lines spliced in strategically. The producers were straight up telling us, "Hey guys, we didn't even try, but please come see our explosions!!"

    As for the bantor between the main characters, I love me a good RDJ one-liner, so I can understand if you were disappointed that even this element of the movie didn't meet expectations. But even then, can you really say you didn't see this coming? I have a theory about cocky-one-liner actors and it goes something like this: Remember your favorite movie of his? It will get less and less clever in each movie he does after that, until Hollywood's crappy writers have collectively burned through the last of his success. Let's face it, that "best" movie was the first Iron Man. Since then, it has slowly deteriorated, and I am willing to bet we've seen the last of the good RDJ days. Soon he will be nothing more than a robot for out-of-ideas producers to bid on in order to feed stale lines to.

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed another classic, and I can't wait to hear your upcoming review of Underworld 17!

  2. I haven't seen this movie yet, so I can't comment on it. I did like the first one quite a bit, but I absolutely see why Kristian would say what he did. However, I actually think Robert Downey Jr. is an excellent actor. He obviously has a lot of value in those 'one-liner' roles, but I really think he's a lot more than that. Hopefully someone gives him an opportunity in a legit role someday.

  3. Very true. Good of you to mention his talent as a legitimate actor. Let's not forget his excellent performance in "Chaplin" (pre-rehab). Unfortunately, I haven't seen much evidence lately that he's eager to take on those roles anymore, but we can always hope he'll return to that form at some point. But until then, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" just won't cut it for me.

  4. There are a lot of people who insist that it's not Downey's choice to not take those types of roles. Apparently, according to some, he's unhirable for a lot of the industries top film makers. Not sure how much validity there is to that, and I don't even remember where I heard that, but it's interesting nonetheless. Would explain quite a bit.

  5. Wow, I didn't know that, but it's not hard to believe at all. Given his history, I wouldn't be shocked if he's approximately as easy to work with as Russell Crowe on St. Patrick's Day.