Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes 2 PosterRating: ★½☆☆☆

It was in 1887 when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first began to author Sherlock Holmes, a fictional detective that would later be regarded as a treasure by the literary scholars of then and now. A hundred and twenty-two years pass by, and the concept of the Holmes character has been reduced to a business strategy, thanks to Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” of 2009. The detective has been given a modern makeover, and now shares many attributes similar to your average ass-kicker. Pity.

Nonetheless, my rule to view each film with an open mind allowed me to enjoy Ritchie’s adaptation as an action film with an unabashed marketing advantage. I was humble enough to admit my admiration for the 2009 movie, rewarding it with a positive rating. It was possessed with great energy and crazy humor, much of which was contributed by an ecstatic Robert Downey Jr. But this incoherent and sloppy sequel is a jab to the senses, doubling the madness while forsaking the few charms that occupied the original. Vapidly designed as nothing more than an overcooked version of its successful predecessor, “A Game of Shadows” is an annoying attempt at a second run at the box office.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes 2Good ‘ol Sherlock is just one of countless other victims that has fallen under the greedy hands of 21st century Hollywood. Production studios have this obsession of scavenging for iconic brand names and turning it into a blockbuster movie. Heck, they couldn’t care less about staying true to the source material. All they’re aiming for is the darn title. Warner Brothers, for example, borrows the beloved name of Mr. Holmes, uses it as their film’s title, and overshadows most of Sir Arthur’s content with an exhausting assault of special effects. With strategies like this, those studios have a guaranteed hit. A most recent example of this formula will be released later this year: “Battleship”.  And so we have arrived to that sad time where Hollywood has started adapting board games. The story? Aliens… yes, aliens… have arrived to blow up our planet, or something, and it’s up to a few naval ships to save the day. Hey, either I missed an update on the board game, or Hollywood has done it again.

Back to “A Game of Shadows”. Late 19th century London is being devastated by numerous bombings. The purposes are unclear and the perpetrator is unknown. Holmes suspects the crimes to be the work of Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), an intelligent conspirator with connections to weapon-making companies. Holmes investigates, and the plot thickens. And then it thickens some more. And then it does some more thickening until it becomes thicker than, say, Madonna’s make-up. That’s a lot of plot. Conversations between characters are mostly recitations of joyless exposition, which are only broken up by Ritchie’s stylishly senseless special effects. Ritchie has a talent for fun, snappy dialogue, but the plot leaves very little room for any of it.

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock HolmesToo bad. There is a quick stretch in the movie, inside a speeding train, that had achieved a balance, where Holmes is caught in a battle between an army of bullets and an outburst from a newly married Dr. Watson (Jude Law). Things become livelier, and funnier, when Holmes has to simultaneously deal with his professional and personal life, and Watson’s wife could have been a great addition to the adventure. My hope for her participation diminished right about the time where she gets thrown out of the train halfway into the sequence. She survives the fall, causing several injuries to the plot.

I wish the “A Game of Shadows” had sidetracked more from the plot to Sherlock’s dealings with Watson’s marriage, much like how first movie sidetracked to his flirtatious encounters with the gritty Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). But no luck. (Spoiler Alert!) The film’s predecessor benefited much from Ms. Adler’s presence, and this sequel thanks her by killing her in the first half hour? (End Spoiler) What a waste. Why not just throw her off a train, so they could bring her back for the inevitable Sherlock Holmes 3?

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows