Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows is what one might expect after the first one

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows – 2011

Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly
Screenplay Kieran and Michele Mulroney based on characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

When Christopher Nolan received the reigns of the Batman franchise, he had more vision than experience.  Nolan not only brought his own set of skillful observations to the movies, but he evolved to the point that the movies became something more than the sum of their parts.  Ritchie, however, had 10 years and 5 movies under his belt.  It is fair to say that his best film was still his first and the rest of them had been derivative of that first success.  Instead of bringing something new to his game, the material characters of the series, Holmes (Downey, Jr.) and Watson (Law) are clever ruffians that one might see in, say, any of the modern-day Ritchie films.  The first Sherlock Holmes was a hodge podge of fast forwards, rewinds and blue screen backgrounds that felt like a chore.  When you figured it out, you still had to wade through being shown again what you just saw, because it was too clever for you to spot the first time.  Yeah.

This time around, we have  two screenwriters instead of three, so the story has a touch of consistency.  We start out finding that the mysterious Irene Adler (McAdams)  compromised yet again, reminding us that the events of the last movie was orchestrated by Moriarity (Harris).  From here we are brought to the “stag party” of Watson.  During the festivities, Holmes meets up with Gypsy Madame Heron (Rapace) and the second drawn out pre-sequence of the film is introduced.  Heron interrupts this, of course, showing that she will be a spanner in the routine works that dominated the first film.  One only wishes it were true.

The next scene is perhaps the best example of how the direction of the film is so wrong.  In Watson’s long-awaited wedding, we see a drunken and disheveled duo stumble out of the car, clanking bottles and all, and fall asleep while waiting for the bride.  The topper, of course, is the wink the woman in white receives from Holmes.  Yeah, that should make up for it.

The movie gets better slightly as it goes along.  Of particular interest is the performance of Holmes’ brother played with perfect disaffection by Stephen Fry.  Adding this element gives the proceedings a sense of balance to the histrionics between Holmes and Watson that are so thrown off-balance in this iteration.

Law, for his part, has grown a little into the comfort zone of this version of Watson.  There is not much for him to do but to sit back and watch as Holmes wreaks havoc, but he has found a niche.

Downey, Jr. does what he is supposed to do, for the most part.  His accent is correct for cockney, if it, like Ritchie’s other films, is supposed to be unintelligible without subtitles.  Add his usual manic speaking pace and you really have confusion.  It’s a fun confusion, at least.

Rapace does yeowoman’s work here.  Her job is to make an impression, then sit back and be amazed at Holmes and then have Gypsy connections (read: more bodies, à la the red shirts in Star Trek) to get the two main protagonists out in a pinch.  Largely, she is wasted, much like McAdams, in this film.

The action scenes are sometimes gorgeous but always ridiculous (think Transformers in the late Victorian Age).  The movie is less mystery and more of a bludgeoning with obviousness. The conclusion is telegraphed, but still amusing.  In all, this is an improvement over the first.  At this rate, though, they should be to a classic in about 6 movies.

(**1/2 out of ******)

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