Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows cover

If you liked the first movie, you’ll love this sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. There’s more Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams — but only at the beginning), more action sequences with slowed-down analysis by Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.), more bromance bantering and innuendo with Watson (Jude Law).

It’s all exciting and visually stimulating, but those expecting a more traditional Sherlock will again be disappointed. This film ramps up the parts that caused debate and dissension among fans last time. However, if you particularly like the extraordinarily close relationship between Holmes and Watson, you’ll want to see the scenes where they dance together at a fancy dress event or a shirtless Holmes lies close to Watson on the floor of a small train compartment.

The new element this time around is the required appearance of Moriarty, played with aplomb by Jared Harris (whom you might recognize from his recent unfortunate run on Mad Men), although not at a high enough level to truly match Holmes. Also, Stephen Fry plays Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, wonderful casting. Great Irish-flavored soundtrack, too.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows cover

After having recently watched the modern Sherlock, it was a bit of an adjustment to get back to Downey’s period smart aleck. He’s appealing, of course, but in a very different way, with the wisecracks and the wacky disguises. I know it’s not necessarily wrong for Holmes to be so scruffy, but it is a departure from the usual visual portrayal. I would have rather there been some elegance to counteract the many scenes where he’s scrawny and manic and beat up a lot. I expected, going in, the fighting and the shooting and the stunts and the costumes (including Downey in bad drag), but it would be nice to also see some deduction.

I also would have preferred to start with a mystery, not the scheming over a package with Adler, followed by Holmes’ jealousy over Watson’s impending wedding (to Kelly Reilly as Mary). It all felt a little too fan-fic-ish, especially once I realized the entire movie was based on Holmes pulling Watson away from his honeymoon so they could have adventures together instead. You know, if this character wasn’t named “Sherlock Holmes”, we’d think he was insane and potentially sociopathic, the way he ignores the feelings of everyone around him. I got lost in the plot early and never quite kept up with what the characters were trying to do, although it involves protecting a gypsy woman played by Noomi Rapace.

If you’re looking for a period action caper, or a retro superhero movie along the lines of Captain America, this is the film for you. If you’re looking for complicated mystery, the TV series is more your speed.

Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.), Watson (Jude Law), and Mary (Kelly Reilly) at the wedding

Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.), Watson (Jude Law), and Mary (Kelly Reilly) at the wedding

Special Features

The main attraction is Maximum Movie Mode, hosted by a self-deprecating Robert Downey, Jr. taking us “Inside the Mind of Sherlock Holmes”. It’s as though he’s standing in your TV, pointing to the movie running in the background and telling you more about making the film. Since a big part of the draw of this franchise for me is Downey, I loved getting more of him.

At various moments, you can also use the remote to choose to watch a gallery of stills expanding on a particular setting. Or you might see a scene filmed from a different angle or cast or crew talking through picture-in-picture video. There are seven Focus Points, short featurettes (between three and seven minutes each, 35 minutes total), available either through Maximum Movie Mode or separately from the disc menu.

  • Holmesavision on Steroids
  • Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed
  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry
  • Meet Mycroft Holmes
  • Sherlock Holmes: Under the Gypsy Spell
  • Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine
  • Holmes Without Borders

Even though I didn’t care as much for the movie itself as I’d hoped I would, this was a very cool way to explore the film and how it was made. It doesn’t go into much depth, but with the action caper approach of this film, I’m not sure it’s needed. The DVD version has for extras only the first three Focus Points.

Also new to me this time around was the matching movie app. I had no idea Warner had created a movie app, similar to Disney’s “Second Screen”, only instead of having the iPad follow along with the film, this app drives the experience. (Which also means you can download and play with it without owning the movie, making it a very comprehensive teaser.) Maybe I’m easily amused, but it was freaky cool when I tapped something on the iPad and suddenly the Blu-ray started up on the matching scene. Unfortunately, it only worked for me the first time, after which it kept telling me it couldn’t find my player on my network. There is a manual mode that involves typing in codes instead of syncing the two together, but I didn’t bother with it.

There are five sections to the app. The first, “Motive: Genesis of the Story”, was most interesting to me, because it talks about the original stories and their inspiration for the film. The copiously illustrated app includes video and audio clips as well as links to the movie on your TV screen. This section also has a timeline of key Arthur Conan Doyle and Holmes events as well as a list of previous Sherlock films and media appearances. (No mention of the BBC Sherlock, though.) The other sections are:

  • Events: Interactive Scene Breakdowns & Script Exploration — script pages, set photos, and background on filming 11 different scenes
  • Persons of Interest — character background and photos
  • Scene of the Crime: Europe in the 1890s — about criminology, politics, and technology of the era, plus Gypsies
  • Surveillance: Tracking Game of Shadows — traveling around the European locations

(The studio provided a review copy.)

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