Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Summary: John Watson is about to move out of his apartment, shared with his friend Sherlock Holmes, as he gets married, despite Holmes’ mixed feelings on the matter. But the honeymoon will have to wait as Moriarty, the one person to ever truly equal Holmes and the man responsible for the events of the first film, launches another grand scheme that Holmes must prevent lest it plunge all of Europe into war.
The Good: Making Moriarty into a weapons dealer was interesting, I don’t actually recall what his exact profession was in the original was but here it worked well with the story and did explain how Moriarty wielded such power. And, quibbles about the setting aside, considering that Moriarty is a thread to all of Europe (not just Great Britain) the choice to have Holmes and Watson travel outside of England was a good one and showing the extent of his plans certainly helped out. I also enjoyed this movie's "designated female side character (who is never super vital to the plot" Simza much better than Irene Adler last time around although she, as was every character that wasn't Holmes, Watson, or Moriarity, felt largely unnecessary by the end.
The Bad: I did actually enjoy the first movie for the action-y fun it had but here it tried much to hard to have a “serious” plot which didn’t work so I didn’t enjoy this film. It didn't feel like a mystery, and when you are adapting a story about one of the greatest fictional detectives that’s a problem, and it was just very hard to take everyone’s schemes seriously. From the Indiana Jones-like secret passages to the “the fate of Europe rests in the hands of one man” deal (while Moriarty profession makes sense it still doesn’t explain how he has that much power), everything just felt very fake and movie-ish and it’s hard to take a story seriously enough to get attached to it and care about it.
The Audio: While the some of the music felt very similar to the first movie’s music it just didn’t grab me the same way. Actually, a lot of it felt rather boring with some more modern sounding pieces mixed in with the more bouncy “Sherlock Holmes” themes plus some generic “gypsy music” as well. I’ve been listening to a lot of Hans Zimmerman music lately actually, between the films I’ve seen and a film score radio I set up on Pandora, and this just didn’t impress me as much as his work normally does.
The Visuals: Done in the same style as the first, the setting looked very gritty and dirty and, while Victorian Europe did have it’s not so pleasant underside for sure, it feels out of place for Sherlock Holmes since the original cases always had a veneer of respectability to them, not stories that dragged Holmes back and forth across the underworld. I question a number of the costume choices here, specifically the ladies clothing (which I remember having a problem with in the first movie as well) but sometimes everything was just so grimy I couldn’t tell. The bullet time was used sparingly which I thought was a good choice, it did convey how Holmes saw the world well and wasn’t used so often that it felt merely like a gimmick.
In short, I have seen quite a few Sherlock Holmes adaptations (these movies, Sherlock, all four seasons plus all the specials of the Granada series which covered 42 of the original 60 stories) and this is the weakest I've come across. The actors never manage to feel like the characters, the setting is weak, the plot never feels like a mystery plot and if they were to ever make a third film (at this point I hope everyone simply moves onto other projects) I'll be sure to avoid it.