Quite like the dreaded ‘second album syndrome’ of the music business the sequel in the movie industry can make or break a franchise. In 2009 Guy Ritchie step away from his usual gangster genre (while we step away from the Madonna jokes) and directed a new take of the Sherlock Holmes story. Following that release the movie was well received from audiences, critics and most importantly by the diehard fans of Sherlock Holmes. It was gritty, dark and much more appealing to the twenty first century than the Peter Cushing series of the sixties.
Now the recent update, titled Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, follows the similar line to its predecessor but jumps bounds in terms of the storyline. Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is investigating a series of seemingly unrelated events that are occurring around Europe and believes them all to be connected to his nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Heart). Dr Watson (Jude Law) is preparing for marriage to his beloved Mary (Kelly Reilly) and is no longer a resident of Baker Street. However as a result to Sherlock’s probing into Moriarty’s affairs the crime solving duo are driven into an action packed pursuit across the continent encountering gypsies, bullets and a comical donkey.
Like most of Ritchie’s works the casting is always a highlight. Jared Heart’s Moriarty is spine tingling dark. His unemotional faces along with a pair of piercing gloomy eyes underline the evilness of the character and the major theme of the story, that theme being there will (always) be consequences to the disruption of his plans. The other most notable addition to the film was the introduction of Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s older and more astute brother Mycroft. Who better to niggle at Sherlock’s supremacy than Britain’s most beloved quizmaster.
The problem however with this instalment is that despite having the material to be a Sherlock story it doesn’t feel like it is being portrayed as one. The little rewind moments to show how Sherlock foresight gets the upper hand over a foe can be a little bit ludicrous at times and the audience is often left wondering if Sherlock’s actions were always intended and built up or were his actions quickly scribbled by the writers as an easy was out to his (and their) predicament. In this way A Game of Shadow does not live up to its predecessor.
Alas however the detective and ‘whose done it?’ genre is always an impossible one to portray and get right on screen. As it may say Sherlock on the tin it will probably be best to consider it as nothing more than a thrilling action movie that is good humoured and is about understanding the uniqueness of boyish friendship. Law and Downey play off each other very well and in a Sherlock movie with little detecting that is what is needed. To me the most outstanding parts about it are the interactions between Holmes and Moriarty. These scenes are intense, well-acted and pay a honourable homage to the famous rivalry.
So if it’s the crime solving Holmes you’re looking for than this isn’t for you and I would wholeheartedly recommended the BBC series now on Sunday nights (or Basil the Great Mouse Detective).