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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/12/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/10/2012
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack or Digital Download 6.12.12
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If you're like me, and watch a lot of movies, you can sometimes forget specifics -- not only about plot or characters, but how you felt about the movie. Now, if I love a film, I typically recall that, and if I truly loathe it, that's easy to remember. It's those in-between movies which can be tricky. I know that I saw 2009'sSherlock Holmes, I know that I reviewed it, and I know that I didn't like it. But, I can't remember exactly why. So, apparently, this movie didn't leave much of an impression on me. Thus, I wasn't exactly ecstatic when heading into the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows opens with news that there has been a series of bombings throughout Europe. These have alternately been blamed on Germany and France, pushing the continent to the brink of war. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) intercedes in one of these bombings, and begins to suspect that Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) may be involved. Meanwhile, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) is preparing for his wedding and is expecting Holmes to organize his bachelor party and attending the ceremony. Holmes, who is acting even weirder than usual, decides to use Watson's wedding as an opportunity to investigate the bombings, which leads him to a fortune teller named Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace). Unfortunately, this also draws the attention of Moriarty, who decides that the best way to hurt Holmes would be to hurt those around him. As Holmes, Watson, and Simza travel across Europe, they attempt to stop the bombings and Moriarty as well.
Well, here's the good news about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is that I didn't hate it. The movie has a lot of things going for it. Downey clearly relishes this role and really throws himself into it, especially the physicality of it. He also does a great job with the shabby costumes which Holmes dons. The action scenes in the film are very well done, most notably the chase through the woods. Director Guy Ritchie has slightly adapted the way in which Holmes predicts the movements of a fight, and it's still a very interesting device. The production design is top-notch and the look and feel of turn of the century Europe feels real. The movie does run long, but the pacing is fairly good.
However, just as in the first movie, the story really suffers. Or, should I say, the viewer suffers because of the story. The screenplay by Michele and Kieran Mulroney (who brought us the lacklusterPaper Man), has some good ideas, but someone, possibly Ritchie, did a terrible job conveying them. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is the second film in the series, but it honestly feels like the third, as I had the impression that I'd missed quite a bit of the plot. The finale of Sherlock Holmes introduced the character of Professor Moriarty and I know enough about the Sherlock Holmes novels to know that Moriarty is Holmes' nemesis, but this film plays like we are supposed to know all about Moriarty. The use of the terrorist activities which push the countries to war is a nice touch, and this part of the plot makes sense. But, everything involving Moriarty and some of the ways in which Holmes pursues his clues are head-scratchers. The movie doesn't stop to truly explain anything until the very end, and while the final twist is fun, it doesn't shed any light on what has come before.
Something else which is carried over from the first film is the fact that there is no emotional anchor for the audience. No matter how loopy a movie is, there should be someone with which the audience can relate, and this series refuses to give us this. I think that it's supposed to be Watson, but he's too closed off. Again, Holmes is too weird and sullen for us to like, must less relate to.
Thus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows winds up being a movie where we enjoy watching what the characters are doing, but we don't always know why they are doing them. This doesn't make for a very satisfying experience. It's clear that a lot of work goes into these films, and Holmes remains a great fictional character, but these movies simply put too much emphasis on making the story convoluted as opposed to clever. This movie was a (relative) success, but it cost more and made less than its predecessor. Perhaps if there's a third movie, the emphasis will be on a story which is a mystery as opposed to mysterious.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows made me distrust furniture on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain or defects from the source materials. Overall, the film has a dark look, which I must assume is intentional (it's always overcast in Holmes' world), but the transfer isn't overly dark and the action is always visible. Likewise, the color palette runs towards cooler tones, but we do get some nice blues and reds at times. The level of detail is very, as we can make out textures on objects, and the depth really stands out in the forest chase. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action scenes really show off the power of this track, as the explosions are palpable without being overwhelming. The surround and stereo effects are nicely detailed and in the forest chase scene, we can pick out each individual splinter breaking. The effects also work well during crowd scenes.
The Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Blu-ray Disc contains a small variety of extras. "Maximum Movie Mode: Inside the Mind of Sherlock Holmes" is hosted by Robert Downey Jr. who pops up occasionally to make comments about the movie. The selection provides some behind-the-scenes footage which is incorporated into Downey's comments. At other times, the viewer can choose to leave this altogether and watch a separate featurette or still gallery. "Focus Points" contains seven short featurettes which run about 35 minutes. These are lifted from the "Maximum Movie Mode" selection. They provide a nice amount of on-set footage and interviews with the cast and filmmakers. These focus on specifics, such as how Holmes views fights or the Mycroft Holmes character, or broader ideas, such as the various locations in the film or Ritchie's directorial style.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long