After avoiding the cinema for a while, only the promise of more Holmes fun could convince me to pay £2 for a small bottle of Coke. The game’s afoot!
So, after investigating seemingly unconnected murders and bombings, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) believes mathematics genius Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) to be behind it all. He intercepts a note meant for gypsy girl Sim (Noomi Rapace) and with her in tow unfolds the true extent of Moriarty’s diabolical plans. Meanwhile, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) is still trying to get married to Mary (Kelly Reilly) despite Holmes’ objections. Put simply, this is what the franchise needed. Whilst the story veers away from the occult theme of the first, we get a proper globe-trotting adventure this time round. RDJ and Law still have the chemistry that made their Holmes and Watson dynamic work so well back in 2009. I also liked the fact that Kelly Reilly got more to work with this time round. Of the newcomers, I found the idea of Stephen Fry as “Sherly”‘s brother, Mycroft to be funnier than he actually is in the film. It’s perfect casting- don’t get me wrong and he is actually funny, it’s just I could have done with seeing more of him (in terms of character, not nudity- there’s plenty of that). The gorgeous Noomi Rapace, previously known for her role as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and its sequels) is rather wasted here in the thankless role of Sim. No problem with her acting chops though and it was fantastic to see her in her first English speaking role. Predictably, the standout here is Jared Harris’ Moriarty- a genius as evil as he is bearded. This is Batman/Joker territory here where the villain is as entertaining to watch as the hero is. He’s fucking fantastic.
I must admit, I didn’t like the opening bits of A Game of Shadows. Whilst the opening action scenes were great and it was good to see Rachel McAdams’ Irene Adler again, when the bread-and-butter Holmes/Watson interplay started it struck me as a bit too forced and contrived. I often find this in sequels such as in the other Downey Jr. super-sequel, Iron Man 2. With that film, I felt that because the audience now expected certain behaviour from Tony Stark, it was written with that in mind, if that makes sense. What I’m saying is, I often find the “wackiness” factor is significantly upped in sequels, sometimes to the point where the fan-favourite character becomes a cartoon of themselves. Luckily (to get back on point) this ebbed away after a while and the banter fell back into familiar, funny form.
I was really impressed with the action beats. We still have the super-slo-mo Holmes fighting, but there are twists on the formula. It’s certainly more action packed that its predecessor. All the action is awesome without exception. My personal favourites being a fantastic scrap with a would-be assassin and a forest sequence that truly amazed me. Also, the not-quite fight sequence between Holmes and Moriarty is incredible. It’s powerful stuff, make no mistake. I’m genuinely finding it difficult remembering the last film I had so much fun watching.
As you’ve probably gathered, Moriarty is the boy. Every scene he and Holmes have is a battle of wits and one-upmanship. There’s mutual respect which makes the scenes all the more interesting. There’s a brilliant spoken game of chess (it’ll make sense when you see it) that had me grinning like a buttcrack enthusiast at a builder’s convention. Whilst simultaneously being on the edge of my seat. Thank Christ cinemas are dark. I can’t even imagine how unsettling that would look to a bystander.
Serious spoilery stuff now, people. So skip to the end if you haven’t seen it yet. (Invisotexted, highlight to read). I was quite disappointed by Irene Adler not lasting that long. I know it’s so we see how callous and evil Moriarty is, but I wanted her to stick around for a bit. As for the chess/waterfall bit. Fucking hell. Having only a passing knowledge of Holmes, as soon as I saw there was a waterfall, I guessed this might be the actual end. It isn’t but I almost wish it was. Since it looked like that’s where the film was going, I was all ready to applaud the film. No, I didn’t want Holmes dead, but it would have been a completely unforgettable ending. I would love a sequel to this, but I’m always in favour of leaving people wanting more. From that point of view, I felt the ending was a slight cop-out. So, I still feel torn about it.
So yeah. I had a blast with Game of Shadows. It’s louder and more confident than the first and finally pits Holmes against a worthy adversary who almost steals the show entirely. If you liked the first, you’re in safe hands. Even if you didn’t like the first, you may be surprised by this one. Highly recommended.