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Please Holmes, I want to go home!
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows(DVD)
Member Name: isobelj
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows(DVD)
Advantages: A mildly entertaining, visually impressive romp through Europe
Disadvantages: Too long, not much substance
One of the great things about Christmas is getting to see people you don't see for ages, and as my best friend from school was up from London for the holidays with her boyfriend, we went on a double date to the cinema. The new releases were a bit thin on the ground, and no-one else was particularly interested in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so Sherlock Holmes it was. I watched the first film at the cinema when it came out and whilst I found it watchable, I had pretty much forgotten that I'd seen it and it certainly never occurred to me to rent or buy it on DVD.
Obviously as I saw it at the cinema, and the DVD isn't out yet, this will be a film only review.
After watching the film, I can say it's pretty much as I expected. It's designed as a spectacular big screen action caper, with laugh out loud moments and larger than life characters. It's also more or less completely forgettable!
Well known duo Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson join forces once more, this time to bring down bad guy Professor Moriarty, who Holmes believes is connected to a series of murders and terrorist attacks across Europe. After having intercepted one bomb, Holmes follows clues which lead him and Watson to Paris, Germany and Switzerland, taking in deadly train chases, a stay in a gypsy camp, endless fist fights and a very tense chess game.
This isn't short of big names, with the roles of Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and Irene Adler being reprised by Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law and Rachel McAdams respectively. I'm something of a Rachel McAdams fan so I was disappointed that she only made a fairly small appearance, and there isn't much to especially say about it, except for the fact that the script dealt with her quite clumsily, I thought.
Robert Downey Jr resumes his smart-aleck, half-stoned interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, which to be honest is probably not that far from Arthur Conan Doyle's original character. It's a pretty quirky performance, and for me (as in the first film) it was a little bit too close to Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow to be really original and funny. He has some very witty lines, though, and there were a lot of laughs in the cinema.
Dr Watson is sort of the straight man to Holmes in the original books, and he comes across a bit stiff and boring. Law makes him a lot more likeable. For some reason a lot of people seem to hate Jude Law and find him really irritating, but I don't feel that strongly about him personally! He delivers a decent performance, although he has much better chemistry with RDJ than he does with Kelly Reilly, who plays his wife. Mary Watson is smart, sassy and fun, which is perfect.
Two newcomers to this second film were Stephen Fry and Noomi Rapace. Stephen Fry was essentially just as he is in real life, to be honest, and I don't find him especially entertaining at the best of times. He was okay but didn't especially stretch himself and wasn't anything to shout about. Also, I really didn't need to see him naked! Eek!
Noomi Rapace was simply excellent, and unfortunately was tragically underused. She was captivating! Her character was Sim, a gypsy trying desperately to hunt down her missing brother, and unwittingly getting caught up in Moriarty's machinations. However, Sim can certainly hold her own in a fight and she had no problems keeping up with Holmes and Watson. The costume department had a lot of fun with her, and she wore some incredible hats! It's such a shame that she wasn't involved more; she didn't have any kind of romantic storyline, and it almost seemed like the writers didn't know how to deal with a female character who didn't have anyone to fall in love with. This is meant to be a family film really and I would really have like to see more of an effort to present a credible female role model. Instead she was thrust aside to make space for more of the 'bromance' banter between Holmes and Watson that we'd already seen tons of in the previous instalment.
It was obvious that they must have used tons of special effects in the film what with the shots of old London, the explosions and the treacherous chase and fight scenes, but I didn't see anything that looked obviously fake unless it was meant to. Guy Ritchie repeated the technique used in the first film of playing a fight in slow motion while Holmes plans what will happen and what he will do, and then playing it again when it actually happens. This was fun the first time round and it could have felt tired this time, but a few twists were put on the technique which did refresh it a little - let's just say all the fights didn't turn out in the way Holmes imagined they would!
The music fit quite nicely with the film. It's an original score by the talented Hans Zimmer, which merges the old-fashioned setting with the more modern characters really successfully. I wouldn't say it especially added a lot, and I wouldn't buy the soundtrack, personally, although it's possible.
I don't especially notice bad language but after racking my brains I don't think there was anything much worse than a 'damn' or a 'bloody' in there. However there is quite a bit of violence. Nothing too bloody or gory, but a lot of people get shot, and there are tons of fist fights where you see limbs bent at odd angles or hear bones crunching.
On the positive side, I thought most of the performances in this film were impressive, and there was great chemistry between the two male leads. The story was decent and it took you through a variety of visually impressive places, including palaces, opera houses, hotels, European countryside and the snowy Alps. The cinematography and direction were okay, if nothing especially to write home about. There were plenty of laugh out loud moments, and it was wise to really focus on the relationship between Watson and Holmes, which is really interesting and gave some comic relief from all the shouting and explosions and running and fighting and shooting. The costumes all looked brilliant, although for all I know they could be wildly inaccurate as I'm not really up with that sort of thing!
Unfortunately, I think there are just as many negatives. Whilst it was good that a lot happened and the plot took you to a lot of different places, the film was just too long. It runs at 2 hours 9 minutes, and I honestly felt every single second of it. I know 129 minutes doesn't make it the longest film in the world, but there really wasn't enough entertainment in there for that long. Had half an hour been shaved off, and maybe one or two of the locations cut or trimmed down, I would definitely have come out of the cinema having enjoyed myself a lot more. You can get too much of a mediocre thing, you know! I didn't especially care about any of the characters, so I wasn't particularly gripped to the screen, and I did find my attention wandering during some scenes if there was nothing especially engaging or funny happening. The whole storyline was eminently forgettable, and you don't take anything away with you apart from a numb bum and the sense of having been on a vicarious romp of an adventure. I really do feel that the character of Sim could have been much more interesting, and could have been used a lot more to add something fresh to the mix. Irene Adler's presence was completely pointless.
I think that leaves pros and cons pretty much even. This is essentially your typical Hollywood blockbuster action movie, but toned down slightly for a family audience. For some reason it will get a lot less flack and abuse than any of the chick flicks that will be released this year, despite the fact that it's almost entirely style over substance. I would normally say get it on DVD, but one of its main draws is that it's so visually impressive, and I'm not sure how well that will translate to the small screen. So, I'd say see it at the cinema but only if you're a fan or you're exceptionally bored and you've seen everything else. Three stars for being mildly entertaining, but too long.
Summary: Only for hardcore fans, really