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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Review)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

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“A five minute game?”

-Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.)

“If you think you can manage it.”

-Professor Moriarty  (Jared Harris)

Take the world’s most famous detective, a singular and most riveting case, add an arch rival, comedic brother, and a medical companion with a knack for gambling – stir, bake for 25 minutes under the cover of a bullet proof oven and out will come a piping hot Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. 

Critical analyses go anywhere from five stars to zero – with a plethora of praises and distastes. The film takes an initiative of which its predecessor partially abstained. In the first film, one may recall a deal of action, yet the overall plot was filled with a rather supernatural air of mystery and peril, with Sherlock Holmes’ deductions casting light on a seemingly foggy night. Once the big reveal is made, we find a case of dramatic proportions.

“This is so deliciously complicated.”

-Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows rids itself of superstition and focuses entirely on action and rapidly-paced deductions. A war is on the brink, and only Sherlock Holmes can stop it. The stakes are higher than ever before, thus, an action film rendition of Conan Doyle’s literary feat is what we find at the theaters.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows opens onto a crowded London Street, following the urgent pace of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). With a singular-looking package in one hand, and a homeless gent following quick behind, we find ourselves immersed in a suspenseful endeavor. The man rushes up beside her, covertly steals her package, and warns there are two men behind Irene with “unsavory” motives. Sherlock Holmes is on the case with one of his many disguises. Irene makes a humorous jibe about Holmes’ apparent situation of poverty, then enters an empty alleyway and stops three men joining her. Irene takes back the rectangular package from Holmes and reveals the men are her guards, ensuring the safe delivery of the package. With a few flirtatious remarks and a kiss goodbye, she hurries off – leaving Holmes to deal with the formidable thugs. A fight immediately breaks out, and it is uncertain who has the upper hand. Sherlock knocks one man to the ground while another shoves his head through two unsteady wooden beams. Holmes recovers and once again joins the fray. As two police officers walk by, Sherlock Holmes plops into an odd seating position and the thugs toss him a few coins, feigning innocence. During this time Sherlock Holmes deduces their next moves in the fashion of the first film (boxing scene deductions) with slow-motion observations with voiced over deductions, with a speedy follow-through of punches, jabs, grabs, and slams – leaving the enemy out cold. After scaring off his final opponent, Sherlock resumes his investigation.

“Did you kill my wife? …you just threw her off a train!”

 -Dr. Watson

“I timed it perfectly.”

-Sherlock Holmes

One thing happens after another – Irene dies, explosions abound, and Watson decides to get married.

Professor Moriarty. From the Sherlock Holmes s...

Prior to the marriage comes a party filled with gambling, fortune telling (by Sherlock Holmes to a key character gypsy), a rotund and comical Mycroft, and  a series of thwarted assassination encounters. Watson gets married, boards a train to honeymoon, and finds himself in danger as Sherlock “knocks antlers” with his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty, the criminal king who is bent on fortune and glory. Will Sherlock manage to best his foes, or with he lose all that is dear to him? Such secrets are hidden in a game of shadows…

“Now are you sure you want to play this game?”

-Prof. Moriarty

“I’m afraid you’d lose.”

-Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes Featurette

Critical Review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is the best installment yet, and I certainly hope for a third to exceed my expectations. Robert Downey Jr. makes for a brilliant Holmes, utilizing all the quirks of Conan Doyle’s original character with a few new aspects, such as a greater romantic interest with Irene. Likewise, other characters have been “remodeled.” Mycroft Holmes, the self-secluded introverted twin of Holmes (sharing the same, even better, deductive abilities) became a comedic relief in the film, creating the only nude scene present (again, for humor. The nude scene consists entirely of Mycroft holding a newspaper while talking to Mrs. Watson about a telegram he has received from Holmes and Watson who have delved deep into their investigation. He acts normally, and there is no sexual innuendo aside from the fact of Mycroft’s nudity. He is ignorant of the opposite sex and is acting purely out of this vice.) I personally enjoy the extra additions of action and suspense and appreciated the film’s dramatic “reference” to The Final Problem (Sherlock Holmes book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). (Spoiler [highlight to read: the scene is question is the second to last. Where Sherlock Holmes plummets into the waterfall’s depths with Moriarty, leaving the audience to think them dead. The final scene where we find Sherlock Holmes camouflaged, sitting in a chair while Watson types his memoir, was not in the novel, albeit I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.)

“Competent but predictable – now allow me to reply.”

-Prof. Moriarty

Christian and Family Perspective

The spiritual concerns I had noted with the first film (drawing of the pentagram by Holmes, and virtually the entire nature of the case until we learn it is all faux) are not a problem with this sequel. There is a fortune teller, however, and before she has the chance to make any prediction, Sherlock interrupts and (mockingly) informs her that he would like to tell her a fortune. He picks up the cards and uses them for illustration in his points: she has been driven to drinking, has a brother whom she holds dear, and a client who has come to kill her.

From a Christian and family perspective, this movie is a bundle of fun with a plethora of concerns. There is a gypsy woman whose occupation is fortune telling. The demonic is not, however, as fully pressed in this movie as it was in the first. Before she can even get out a word of Sherlock’s fortune, Sherlock tells her he would like to give her fortune. He uses the cards while presenting his points, then rescues her from an assassin. Therefore, it is not as dark as one may suspect from the previews, yet the concept should be noted. There are many fights, such as those between Sherlock and Watson against various mobs, including at a place where gambling is taking place. This movie, taking into account the action, flirtatious content (to be discussed in the full review), should be suitable for children aged 15+ (Common Sense Media recommends age 14+, however, it may be a bit much even for fourteen year olds, depending on their maturity level and “tolerance”).

-Adventure Writer's Blog: Preliminary Review

In addition to the points noted above, there is also a great deal of alcohol consumption.

“Never let these gypsies make you drink (paraphrased).”

-Sherlock Holmes, who proceeds chug down the gypsy's wine.

This film is certainly a pleasure to watch for the most part, although it is certainly not a family film, as it is unsuitable for younger children due to the above points.