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Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows

"Oh, how I've missed you, Holmes." The boys are back in town.

Rating: B-

No spoilers here – nothing more than you would have already seen in the theatrical trailer. However, there may be a few plot details revealed about the first Sherlock Holmes, and the comments may contain spoilers. So, advance with caution.

First off, I haven’t read the original stories, something I should eventually rectify. But remember that Children’s Illustrated Classics series? During my childhood, I read several abridged Holmes stories and novels, including “The Hound of the Baskerville” and  “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” Not to mention that freaky one where the guy loses his thumb. Ick.

Two years ago, I came out of Guy Ritchie’s revamped Sherlock Holmes thinking that it was better than I had been expecting. Although after one viewing I’m not sure I liked the sequel quite as much, I had a similar feeling as I walked out of the theater. I had heard secondhand that “it had no plot,” but on the contrary – it had too much plot. “Too much” was the biggest issue of this film, as sometimes it feels that Ritchie is throwing everything in but the kitchen sink. Nevertheless…I really enjoyed A Game of Shadows and would definitely see it again (if nothing else, to better figure out what exactly is going on in some scenes).

What I loved:

1) The duo. The excellent buddy chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson is really the biggest draw. From the brotherly affection that they try to hide with the stereotypical British stiff upper lip to their ever-hilarious conflicts…I could watch them interact all day.

When the movie begins, Holmes still hasn’t come to terms with the facts that Watson is getting married. In fact, ever since Watson moved out of their residence, Holmes has gone off the deep end. Or at least, farther off the deep end than he was to begin with. Watson isn’t just Holmes’s best friend; he’s Holmes’s only friend, and now that Watson appears to be starting a new life with his wife Mary, Holmes is scared he’ll end up “dying alone.” This is a problem Holmes grapples with throughout the movie, especially as the villain, Dr. Moriarty, threatens the people Holmes cares about. To make an understatement, this complicates matters.

2) Even putting aside his perfected British mumble, Downey, Jr. is Sherlock Holmes. As Watson describes him, he’s “manic and psychotic” but in the best possible way. In response to an accusation that this Holmes is too much like Jack Sparrow, a tumblr user whose name I do not recall had a great response: while Jack is always his weird self in any scenario, Holmes tweaks his personality depending on the situation. In the first movie, he entertains the prison crowd with jokes and converses in the native language of the French giant thug trying to kill him. Not to mention the brilliant flashback scene where he follows Irene Adler, putting together a disguise en route. Holmes continues the tradition in the second movie with various disguises…some better than others.

3) “Always good to see you again, Watson” used in a very different context. *sniffle*

4) As a mystery series, Sherlock Holmes is built around many, many uses of Chekhov’s Gun. However, there was a random instance in the beginning of the film that I had no idea would show up again…it did. And it was hilarious.

5) Watson’s wedding. Because there was no way that wasn’t going to be an interesting occasion.

6) The Palais Garnier! Yes, there are actually some scenes set at the infamous Paris Opera House. It actually looks better in this movie than it did in the 2004 “Phantom of the Opera.” But hold your horses, phans: this movie is set 20 years after that one (or 10 years after the more historically-correct original musical). Any crossovers are only going to happen in the land of fanfiction.

6) The climax and its lead-up. Simply brilliant. It’s a good new spin on a cliche plot device. In fact I thought that it was even better than the end of the first film, where there’s a weird double climax and things get out of hand.

7) The End?

What I disliked:

1) This movie is just…too much. To be quite honest, through most of it I was thinking “This is a hot mess,” and it wasn’t until it was over that I realized how much I did actually enjoy it. Although the plot does come together at the end, while I was watching the movie, to me the plot resembled a tangled mass of yarn, much like the setup in Holmes’s apartment at the beginning. I thought the first movie terrifically highlighted the gritty, grimy Victorian London whereas here it feels like they visit every country in Europe. Is this a mystery film or a Grand Tour? The worst was definitely the looooooong scene in the woods where the heroes get attacked by about a bazillion big guns and shells. And it’s all in slow motion. A few of the shots (no pun intended) were breathtaking, but when the thousandth tree takes 30 seconds to explode, the impact is lost.

2) Kelly Reilly as Mary Watson just annoys me. I think it’s the way she speaks…

3) The crossdressing scene on the train…okay, so it was sort of funny, but also extremely campy and awkward. In addition, I really, really could have lived without  naked Stephen Fry. Seriously!

4) Simza, aka the gypsy played by the chick in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was an interesting character, but through the middle of the movie there’s not much for her to do except tag along with Holmes and Watson.

In Short: Although at times it felt like a sensory overload attack, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an entertaining, well-acted movie that deserves at least two viewings.

BONUS: The stuff I wondered about:

Watson has a limp from the start of the movie onward (well, except when he has to run really fast). Now, I watched the first movie right before the second, and I didn’t notice a limp. After the explosion at the slaughterhouse in the first movie, he does move rather stiffly for a time…is this the cause of the limp? Or did they suddenly decide to make a reference to the wound Watson received in Afghanistan according to the original stories? I’m curious to hear opinions about this.


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