Ritchie's Second Sherlock More Frenzied Farce Than Detective Drama
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· Guy Ritchie
· Robert Downey Jr.
· Jude Law
· Noomi Rapace
· Jared Harris
· Stephen Fry
· Paul Anderson
· Kelly Reilly
· Rachel McAdams
DVD Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + UltraViolet Digital Copy)
by R.J. Carter
Published: June 12, 2012
Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" is one of my favorite movies. I tell people that I hated the first ninety percent of it, and that Ritchie turns around and redeems the entire thing with the last act, making the viewer see all that went before in a new light.
Lightning does not strike twice with "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." What should have been a classic matchup between Holmes and his opposite-but-equal force, Professor Moriarty, turns into an effects driven bit of steampunk, with Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) as a very emotive, nigh manic personality. The feelings he holds for Watson (Jude Law) are at times uncomfortably romantic -- a hint at it is acceptable, and has been done before (and better) but this film seemed to need to repeat it, bluntly and boldly, lacking any finesse.
Adding to the comic farce is the addition of Stephen Fry to the cast as Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. Flying in the face of my objections with this film, Fry as Mycroft actually works. Don't ask me why, but I buy it totally, just as I bought Downey, Jr. as Holmes in the last film.
The adventure begins with Watson returning to Holmes after an extended absence, to find the man farther around the bend than ever, and following a conspiracy theory that points to Professor James Moriarty as the spider at the middle of a web of convoluted and seemingly disparate events. That part of Holmes I love -- seeing what nobody else sees. With this objective in mind, Holmes purposely plans Watson's stag party so that Holmes can meet up with a gypsy fortune teller, Madame Simza (Noomi Rapace, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"), whose brother is key to the plot Holmes believes is afoot. Lots of fighting, lots of shooting, and lots of running begin to take over the screen, with the stylized slo-mo and prescience that characterize this brand of Holmes.
A heroic film is only as good as its villain. In this instance, Jared Harris makes an excellent Moriarty, outshined only by his henchman's performance, Colonel Sebastian Moran (Paul Anderson). The climactic blitz chess game between Holmes and Moriarty is a standout moment, as is the monumental fall over the Reichenbach. With a world turning more and more toward industrialization, it makes sense that a man like Moriarty would see the opportunities at getting in on the ground floor of arms manufacturing on a global scale, and pull the necessary strings to create a "world war" to enrich himself.
Unfortunately, the film is blighted with an undercurrent of more than a little silliness, taking this from an action movie with comic moments to being a comedic movie with action moments. In short: a disappointment.
This Blu-ray release, however, goes a long way to distract from that with features and add-ons. The Maximum Movie Mode that Warner Brothers has pioneered for its home theater releases can be found here, with Robert Downey, Jr. taking the viewers behind the scenes in great detail, into not only the mind of Sherlock Holmes, but the mind of Director Guy Ritchie it would seem as well. The picture-in-picture format is superior to any mere voiceover commentary track.
The other thing that's cool about this release, from a technology perspective, is the "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" movie app for the iPad2 and Kindle Fire tablets. This app synchs up with the Blu-ray disc, and allows viewers to explore the rich history of Sherlock Holmes from a more literary perspective. Author and Holmes expert Leslie Klinger consulted on putting this app together. The app also turns your tablet into a remote control for the Blu-ray, taking you to specific scenes in the film and into the Maximum Movie Mode. The app is optimized for Apple iOS 4.0 and above and can be downloaded for free from iTunes.
Additionally, there are three behind-the-scenes vignettes. "Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry" features interviews with Law and Downey, Jr. talking about their characters and interacting with each other between takes. "Moriarty's Master Plan Unleashed" has actors Fry, Law and others, as well as Ritchie, commenting on the character of Moriarty, the process of casting Jared Harris for the role, and the ultimate game between the two master strategists. Finally, "Holmesavision on Steroids" gets into the technnicals of the Phantom camera and how it was used to create the stylistic vision of Holmes' ability to picture a fight in his head before then acting it out in real time.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" releases on Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet Digital on June 6, 2012.