I’m quite a big fan of the mystery genre, but even so, I’m definitely more of a Conan Doyle fangirl than an Agatha Christie fan (or otherwise). It’s most likely because the Sherlock Holmes’ series were the first mystery books I’d ever read, so in addition to the intriguing stories, there’s an added bit of nostalgia, kind of like meeting up with an old friend. So I couldn’t miss the opportunity to watch the new Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows movie directed by Guy Ritchie.
When the previous Sherlock Holmes movie came out, Warner Brothers also released an online mystery/puzzle game you could play via Facebook. The game allowed you to partner up with a good friend, with one playing as Sherlock Holmes and the other as Doctor Watson. The company released the game in “chapters”, which was quite appropriate since there was a story woven into the game, and had events that led up to the events in the movie (a kind of prequel). So I was kind of disappointed that they didn’t do something similar this time, but I guess that’s because the prequel to A Game of Shadows was the previous movie.
Although I said all that, this new movie ultimately doesn’t rely on its predecessor. The timeline is in order, so some events did carry over (e.g. Watson being engaged in the first movie, then finally getting married in this one). Otherwise, you don’t have to watch the prequel to know what’s going on. Anyway, in A Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes (played by Robert Downey Jr) is on another case – in his words, the “most important case of his career”. He’s discovered that many of the recent happenings are a result of one man pulling the strings behind an elaborate network of lackeys, and hiding in plain sight as a genius math professor. James Moriarty (Jared Harris) is the man, the famous arch-villain-rival of Holmes in Doyle’s books. The problem is, Holmes has no solid evidence against Moriarty, and his trusty sidekick, Watson (Jude Law), is busy getting married and preparing for his honeymoon. What’s the world’s only consulting detective to do? Why, throw the newly-wed wife out of a moving train and kidnap Watson while disguised as a drag queen and dodging bullets and exploding bombs, of course! Both Holmes and Watson have to untangle the elaborate web Moriarty has woven, figure out how to prevent a war from breaking out between France and Germany, and try to stay one step ahead of the Professor’s game. And they’d better get it right, because this particular Professor doesn’t leave any loose ends behind.
Definitely just as action-packed (if not more!) as its prequel, A Game of Shadows pretty much had me on the edge of my seat. There were also some light comedic parts here and there, to ease the tension, but pretty soon we’d return to the important plot at hand. Downey plays a brilliant Holmes, albeit a less manic one than in the previous movie, which I thought was actually very appropriate because Doyle’s Holmes acted the most sane when he had an interesting case to work on. And Law’s Watson complemented Downey’s acting very well, being much more down-to-earth and still Holmes’ best (read: only) friend. SPOILER WARNING!!! CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK! The only thing that was strange for me was how calm he seemed even after Holmes’ supposed “death”, or during the scene where he’d just collapsed a building on top of where Holmes was being held hostage. SPOILER END. I guess it was a little out of character for me, but oh well. Maybe Guy Ritchie wanted to show Watson as being a good friend of Holmes, but also that he could easily break off the relationship with the slightly insane detective, kind of like putting up with a hyperactive child. It’s shown in how Watson decides to get married, and moves out of 221b without a second thought. The other strange thing I found was the casting of Stephen Fry for Mycroft Holmes. Firstly, he looks nothing like Downey, so it was a little unbelievable that they could be brothers (just because Fry is a rotund, bonafide Londoner doesn’t mean he’s automatically the best fit for Mycroft). Secondly, he doesn’t really follow Doyle’s version of Mycroft – he’s much too active, for one. And is portrayed to also be slightly off his rocker, like his brother is. I might be being too picky and bringing down the gavel too harshly since these are stylistic choices of the director, but meh. I’m more a fan of the canon, so any character traits that deviate might irk me more than the average person.
Overall, though, I am thoroughly satisfied at spending my time watching this action-packed film. The cinematography was done very well too, with many slow-motion effects added in and good “predictive” scenes where Holmes can already deduce exactly how his next fight will go. Filled with an exciting plot, a devious villain, a brilliant hero, and plenty of things blowing up, I guarantee you that this movie will keep your mind buzzing like being on a caffeine high. 7/10, so go watch it now!