By Jonathan Decker
SHERLOCK HOLMES- A GAME OF SHADOWS review (Grade: A-)
Director Guy Ritchie's second foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes is mostly more of the same, which is fine by me because I greatly enjoyed the first one. Led by Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law's portrayals of Holmes and Watson, Ritchie maintained the core of Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories (Holmes' brilliantly analytical mind and rapier wit; Watson's astonished admiration), exaggerated existing elements (namely Holmes skills as a prize fighter), and invented new ones (increasing Watson's usefulness and annoyed exasperation) to created a surprisingly engaging modernized take. Where this sequel exceeds the original film is its villain; audiences finally meet Professor Moriarty, Holmes' arch-nemesis and every bit his mental and physical equal. Brilliantly played by actor Jared Harris, Moriarty's scenes with Holmes crackle with intellectual tension, philosophical debate, and an undercurrent of danger. Though the first half is somewhat unfocused, the plot picks up momentum as it goes and the movie is funny throughout.
Ritchie's editing of the action is somewhat repetitive (slow down the film, now speed it up, etc), but in fairness there is some truly impressive stuntwork, cinematography, and action choreography on display here. Hans Zimmer's musical score has some wonderful creativity and originality along with the requisite bombast. With a funny and clever screenplay and deft performances, Sherlock Holmes- A Game of Shadows is a solid action/mystery/buddy comedy and a slight improvement over its entertaining predecessor. Even an ending that leaves a major question unanswered can't change that; perhaps that's being reserved for part three. Bring it on.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Sherlock Holmes- A Game of Shadows is rated PG-13. As it is set in Victorian England, there is almost no foul language and what there is is mild. It has plenty of action violence and fighting. A man shoots himself just off-screen. The villain causes innocent people die in explosions (some aftermath is shown, though it's not especially gory), from poisoning, and from gunshots. In a humorous scene an unattractive man walks around in the nude, but the audience doesn't see his rear or privates. There is no sexuality. Watson gets comically drunk and gambles. Holmes visits a gypsy card reader and smokes a pipe. Several moments humorously play the Holmes/Watson friendship as if there were traces of homoerotic tension (“bickering couple” moments, etc), though this is never crass and it is clearly shown that both men love other women. (Spoiler) A grisly interrogation scene finds Holmes hanging by a meat hook in his shoulder (not especially graphic or bloody, but intense due to the implications and Holmes' pained reactions).
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Watson calls Holmes “the wisest man I've ever known,” while the equally smart Professor Moriarty is a villain; this is because Holmes uses his intelligence to help people, while Moriarty seeks his own gain without compassion. Thus, wisdom is knowledge combined with morality; on the other hand, knowledge without morality is another form of foolishness. Being observant and quick to act is a wonderful virtue.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.