As much as I like to see movies that are filled with new ideas and as much as I like to heap scorn onto the sequels of terrible franchises (see Transformers et all), I greet sequels to movies I like with a certain amount of relief. After the disappointments heaped upon me by new movies I expected to be good but turned out to be bad (see Hugo et all) it’s nice to have a movie come along that I know I’m going to like. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was one of those movies. The plot was almost incidental to me.
Eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes teams up with his newly married partner Dr. Watson to thwart the evil Professor Moriarty’s plan to cause a world war.
The important part was that Guy Ritchie was directing again and all my favorite cast members (Robert Downy Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams) were back. I’m never completely free of doubt, of course, but now that I’ve seen it I’m relieved to find out I was right. Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows is very nearly as good as the first one.
If you remember the first film, Watson (Jude Law) got engaged and “broke up” with his investigative partner Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downy Jr.). This film picks up a few months later on the eve of Watson’s wedding. Watson shows up at his former partner’s house only to find that Holmes is living in a veritable jungle and that his former office has been converted into one of those obsessive displays unique to serial killers and eccentric detectives.
WATSON: You’re drinking embalming fluid.
Despite being shot full of darts, Watson manages to convince Holmes to come out for his stag party. Since Sherlock completely forgot about it, the only other guest to join them at the Victorian-style strip club is Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry). Like his brother, Mycroft also has a stupid name and is pretentious and eccentric, but his forte isn’t detective work, it’s politics.
MYCROFT: He’s not nearly as dull-witted as you lead me to believe.
Watson decides to get drunk and forget about it, and Sherlock abandons him in favor of continuing his investigation of Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) who has conveniently sent a henchman after Sim (Noomi Rapace) the gypsy fortune teller upstairs at the club.
As you might have guessed, said henchman wants to kill her.
Fisticuffs ensue. Watson does make it to his wedding (barely) but their honeymoon is aborted when Holmes turns up on the train dressed in drag, hurls his wife into a pond, and shoots up the entire carriage in his efforts to repel the assassins Moriarty has sent after them.
Watson is less than pleased to see his old friend.
Since Moriarty refuses to leave Watson alone unless Sherlock stops trying to out him as an the evil mastermind, Watson is forced to accompany Holmes to France to see Sim the gypsy. She joins their party as they traipse about Europe trying to prevent Moriarty-engineered explosions, and at one point Sherlock has to ride a tiny horse. Click below to watch a hilarious clip of this, which is my favorite scene in the movie:
I can’t say much more about the plot without giving things away. The world war thing is less original than the magic/secret society thing from the first one, but the important parts are the twists and reversals, which rival the first movie in complexity and frequency.
MORIARTY: Oh snap!
HOLMES: Oh snap on your snap!
I’ve always felt that if you didn’t notice the direction (camera placement, etc.), then the director was a good one. No one wants to be thrown from the story to puzzle out where the cameras were placed, why the action seemed to be shot by someone suffering from both ADHD and Parkinson’s disease, etc. But Guy Ritchie challenges this notion. He’s like the Michael Connolly of film directing. He makes sure you see ALL the details so it’s not easy to tell which one is the key to the mystery. The way Holmes plans out each of his fights in his head before fighting them is really cool and the slow-motion escape through the forest with everyone shooting at them was INSANE.
It’s 1891 and there’s enough retro-futuristic technology in Game of Shadows (clockwork explosives, world-endingly large guns, etc) for it to qualify as steampunk, so I would just like to say:
P.S. – Dear Hugo: say hello to my little friend!
So in short, Sherlock Holmes is awesome, Guy Ritchie is my new favorite person, Martin Scorsese can take a long walk off a short pier, and you’re only hurting yourself if you don’t see Game of Shadows. So go see Game of Shadows already.