Monday, 26 December 2011
FILM REVIEW: SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS
Warner Bros. Pictures
Given the amount of gunfire and explosions in the trailer for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, one could be forgiven for thinking that director Guy Ritchie had succumbed to the “bigger is better” maxim which plagues many a sequel; in this instance, Ritchie's surprisingly enjoyable (if not entirely faithful to Sir Conan Arthur Doyle's literary creation) Sherlock Holmes (2009).
And that's partly the case. For what was fresh and fun the first time around, including the homoerotic banter between Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey jnr) and his loyal though exasperated sidekick, Dr John Watson (Jude Law), seems less so in A Game of Shadows.
But it's not all bad. Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler (an unnecessary inclusion in the first film; one suspects to counter said homo-eroticism) is killed off early in this sequel, at the hands of Holmes' arch nemesis, Professor James Moriarty (Mad Man's Jared Harris).
That's who the bullets and bombs belong to. A man of equal intellect to the Baker Street detective, Moriarty is also in possession of a dark side. But he's not so much a psychopath as a profiteer; buying up both weapons and bandage manufacturers ahead of utilising political unrest to spark a world war in Europe well ahead of time (it's only 1891).
It's up to Holmes and the newly-married Watson to prevent Moriarty's plans from coming to fruition, hopping across the continent to France, Germany and Switzerland (via Middle Earth, it often seems), aided by Holmes' politically-attached brother, Mycroft (a comic Stephen Fry), and Madam Simza Heron.
That's the original (and best) Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace, who's decidedly less kick-ass (and in an even more asexual role than McAdams) making her Hollywood debut as Simza, a gypsy woman whose brother may be Moriarty's secret weapon in undermining the European peace process.
If all of that sounds convoluted, A Game of Shadows often is. But it's also intermittently fun, even if more forced than organic. Downey jnr and Law once again make for the perfect odd couple pairing, even if we only get snippets of their bromantic repartee between the running and the explosions; Ritchie brings a lot more of his 'Lock, Stock' directorial flourishes to this second outing.
And Harris's composed Moriarty makes for a perfect foil to Sherlock's cocky sleuth, although he doesn't really come into his villainous own until the third act, where the pair's intellectual game of chess climaxes above a waterfall.
Readers of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories (I'm informed that two or three have been cobbled together here) will know this is a significant event in Holmesian lore, but Ritchie and his writers, Michele and Kieran Mulroney, seem to have hedged their bets with the outcome; no doubt dependent on the box office success of A Game of Shadows.
That success will very much depend on whether those fans of the 2009 film find the sequel to be of equal or greater entertainment value. Despite my disappointment with A Game of Shadows, I'm not yet prepared to declare case closed on Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes franchise, but here's hoping there's more time and care taken with any third mystery. Less explosions and more fireworks between Messrs Holmes and Watson would be an elementary place to start.