Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Movie Review

I've had a few hours to think about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows since seeing it.  While I didn't hate it, I might spoil a few things trying to talking about it, so be warned.  Please also note that my review is coming from the perspective of someone that's never read a Sherlock Holmes book, so I won't be making comparisons there.

In fact, I was one of the people that wasn't really looking forward to seeing the first movie because I've never been into Sherlock Homes.  I ended up thinking it was pretty entertaining though.  Remember how they effectively used slow-motion in the Sherlock Holmes?  It was one of the nice surprises for me and one of the reasons why I ended up liking it.  Well, in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, it's like anytime they didn't know what to do with the story they said, 'Well, let's throw another slow-motion sequence in here.'

I'd love to tell you what's it about, but it's so convoluted that it's just hard to keep straight.  Basically, in this movie you're introduced to Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), which from my understanding is Holmes' 'Lex Luthor'.  Moriarty is hatching some kind of plot that Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) team up again to stop.  However, I couldn't really tell you exactly what Moriarty's plan was.  Is he trying to start a war, kill some world leaders, or just make a lot of money?  It's one of my issues with the film and I'll get to that later.

When did Sherlock Holmes become a superhero that can see the (near) future?  Even in the first film, I felt like he was more of an action hero than a pure detective, but at least there was some detective work in that film.  He's even more of an action hero this time around.  I felt like there really weren't any serious attempts at detective work here.  There were parts where it felt like they wrote the script in reverse, so that his deductions were just convenient because they needed a way out of a situation.  I get that Holmes is supposed to be brilliant, but there were times were he was outright psychic.

Many parts of the plot didn't make sense to me at all.  There were times I didn't know what the hell was going on.  Like get this; at one point of the movie, Moriarty blows up a room full of people at some kind of official dinner.  Holmes figures out that one of the people in the room had been shot in the head by a sniper just as the bomb went off and the explosion was used to cover up the guy getting shot.  However, the explosion killed everyone in the room anyway, so why the need for the 'diversion' and why bother with a sniper?  Rooms don't blow up by themselves.  Everyone would still know there was an assassination, only now you've killed more people.  It's like saying I want to steal your car stereo, but to distract everyone from my crime, I'm going to just steal your whole car.  Holmes is able to figure it out though, which only makes sense to me if you accept that Holmes is a crazy person, because this plan is crazy.

It felt like there were too many layers to this.  Plus, it doesn't help that you never really feel all that threatened by Moriarty.  There's large stretches of the movie where you don't see or hear from him at all.  They tell you he's involved, but you don't see it.  You're just going to have to take their word for it.  He's basically 'the phantom menace'.

It really drags in parts.  A Game of Shadows is over two hours long and it didn't need to be.  It actually felt a lot longer and I started to squirm in my seat a little bit.  There were so many parts, even characters, that felt like they could have been removed and it wouldn't have made any difference.  There's a whole sequence of the movie dedicated to Watson's marriage, but it was totally useless to the plot.  Even Watson's wife was totally unnecessary and felt thrown in.  They introduce Mycroft (Stephen Fry), but again, he felt thrown in for comic purposes where they didn't need more of it.  Even Noomi Rapace's character felt unnecessary at time, like they didn't know what to do with her.

It was way too jokey and they tried too hard to be funny.  It had a hard time taking it seriously.  I thought the chemistry between Holmes and Watson from the first film was gone.  There was a girl in front of us that laughed hysterically throughout the movie, and while her laugh was one of the most annoying I've heard, she wasn't laughing that things that were genuinely funny.

I can only blame the writing team of Michele and Kieran Mulroney, who didn't write the first film.  I think this helps explain why a lot of the elements from the first film were missing this time.  I think this also suffered from not having a more experienced writing team.  Maybe they should go back to 'Bad Guy Evil Plan Writing 101.'  Or watch a Die Hard or even an Ocean's movie to see how to use diversions to get to your real goal and maybe write a coherent story.

The movie does look nice though and I thought the effects were done well.  The slow-motion sequences are very interesting.  The problem is that there's sooooooo much slow-motion and break down sequences that by the end you've lost interest in seeing them and wished they would just get on with the movie.  The only part I really enjoyed was the very end.

I thought RDJIron Man 2 where he was overdoing all the thing he did right in the first film.  It kind of got annoying.  Jude Law was fine.  I liked Jared Harris as Moriarty, but I like him from Mad Men, so I'm probably being biased.  It's a good cast overall, but many of them are just plain wasted.

I'm bummed because I really do like Guy Ritchie, but this is not his best work.  You'd think he would have recognized that some of elements that worked in the first film were missing here.  It was like he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do with the sequel, so he just tried to amp everything up and make it even more action oriented.

Overall, I didn't think this was a terrible movie, but it's not a good one either.  I know my review may sound like I hated it, but I really didn't.  I just feel a little let down and I was expecting more.  Plus, the pacing is too slow and I found myself losing interest many times.  If you didn't like the first one, then I don't you'll like this one either.  Ultimately, I think this movie suffered from sequelitis.  I really don't think it's worth rushing out and seeing.  If you rented this, I think you'd enjoy it, but paying to see this in the theater might be a bit of a stretch.

I give Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows just two and a half Death Stars.

Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, I strongly recommend checking out the recent BBC series Sherlock.  I thought it was better, modern take on Sherlock Holmes and definitely worth watching.  You should be able to stream if off Netflix.

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