Review - Sherlock Holmes : A Game of Shadows

Well what to say? I stated in an earlier blog post that I expected the sequel to 2009’s film to be offering more of the same and in that prediction I was correct. I will however say that the sequel is much better than the original.

If you hated the first film I do not think its sequel will convert you. I think that is to hope for too much from it. However if you liked the first film on any level you will probably like its sequel for similar reasons.

The essential plot is pretty well summed up by the film’s second trailer. Moriarty has a plan to benefit from the manufacture of weapons and has enlisted Colonel Sebastian Moran to help him bring things about. Holmes, who has been monitoring Moriarty’s movements, drags a reluctant Watson away from his honeymoon to assist. On the way they make use of Holmes’s brother Mycroft and a gipsy called Madame Simza.

The film boasts the return of many of the characters from the first film although for many of them their appearance is little more than a cameo. RDJ and Law are in very much the same form as they were for the first outing. Law continues to give us a very good Watson and RDJ continues to give us something of a Holmes-lite that Arthur Conan Doyle would probably recognise more by the name than any other aspect of his screen characterisation.

So let’s look at the new characters:

Jared Harris as Moriarty - Despite my reservations about a younger and bearded Moriarty - Harris is a revelation. He exudes menace and is probably the finest Moriarty since Eric Porter in the Granada Television series. The scenes featuring Moriarty and Holmes are very charged and this is a credit to both actors. The film’s reworking of events at Reichenbach is not canonical but still manages to be quite moving.

Paul Anderson as Colonel Sebastian Moran - A truly sinister thug but a bit rough and ready for a former army officer. Moran may have strayed to the wrong side of the tracks but you would still expect there to be something of the Sandhurst officer about him. The character we get simply isn’t quite right. He is a perfectly good henchman but not a convincing army officer.

Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes – Mycroft started out well but was swiftly turned into little more than a source of comic relief. I think many people had high hopes for Fry in this role, some seeing it as a role he was almost born for but the character that was written for him was not quite right (no fault of his) and he did not get the screen time to do the role the justice it deserved.

Noomi Rapace as Madame Simza - I found her character rather unnecessary. Her whole existence in the plot seems to depend on the facts that she has a brother who is working for Moriarty and her local knowledge which is used to get Holmes and Watson out of the occasional hole. I feel her character could have been removed or downgraded without much impact.

Contrary to the opinion of some reviewers who thought the film too long I think it ran for the right amount of time and its pace never really lets up. Some films sag in parts but I don’t think that was the case here. This is once again an area where the sequel betters the original.

I rated the first film on two levels. Firstly as a cinema experience and secondly as a canonically accurate film. For the former I gave it seven and the latter five. I then averaged this out to six overall.

For this sequel I take every mark up one. Eight for a cinema experience, six for canonical fidelity and seven overall. I think the improvement, particularly on the canonical front, can be put down to the input of Leslie Klinger the well known American Sherlockian expert.

In short, if you didn’t hate the first film go and see its sequel. You already know what to expect and if you can close your eyes to the canonical issues you will enjoy the ride.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alistair,

    Saw the film today and totally agree with your review. I preferred this sequel but also felt that it retained some of the more creative elements from the original film, particularly in terms of cinematography.

    RDJ is very good and Moriarty is splendidly sinister but both female parts are woefully underwritten. In summary, an enjoyable ride but not one for the purist!