Perhaps Guy Ritchie’s vision of Sherlock Holmes is not what Sir Conan Doyle had intended, but he gives us his take on the character again in his second film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The first film certainly took Guy out of his comfort zone by doing something that was not set in a modern era. This would continue that tradition of moving him slightly out of his comfort zone because there is no film of Guy Ritchie that I recall a direct sequel. Regardless, it is a film that is a success in what it set out to accomplish.
There are many versions and interpretations of Sir Conan Doyle’s works over the decades since his books got published that I have seen. Most depict him as a general sleuth, and knows how to defend him. Not a man that knows how to kick box amongst other fighting forms. He is accompanied by his sidekick, Dr. John Watson. Guy is not the first to take Sherlock out of his comfort zone, including films like Without A Clue. In that film, Sherlock, Michael Caine, was just the attractive showman with Dr. Watson, Ben Kingsley, actually solving all the details of every crime. More recently, a favorite depiction of mine is in the BBC series Sherlock bringing him into a modern setting. There we have Benedict Cumberbatch, playing Smaug in the upcoming The Hobbit, and Martin Freeman, of the UK version of The Office and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, playing the famous duo.
Guy Ritchie is not the first to change up the formula, and he manages to bring his unique style that I have seen from him since the film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Throughout his films over the last decade and a half, he has always brought in fisticuffs and gunplay. The way Guy has portrayed Sherlock in the first film and this, it is acceptable to believe a man of his intelligence would learn a means to fight to add to the perfect mind he believes himself to have. In addition, it seems as if some feel his ability to deduce situations weaken the character trait of his deduction skills. Guy Ritchie reinforces that this is still the Sherlock that is able to deduce and even plan ahead for situations only seconds ahead. Sherlock even directly addresses that his curse is that he can see everything. He is still the stereotypical Sherlock, just with a fighting style that could rival Batman.
The pacing of the story for the film starts off a little slow, perhaps askew, but certainly takes off within thirty minutes of the opening. Right from the start of the film, they introduced to Professor Moriarty as the main antagonist. He is portrayed as a man in great standing in society, but with darker intentions and power through channels to back them up. From the start, it is apparent that Holmes focus is on revealing Moriarty’s plot through society. He’s taken the time that he has had alone, without Dr. Watson off preparing for his marriage, to create a detailed web revealing Moriarty as the source of issues going on. Moriarty feels Holmes either must cease trying to expose him, or play the game. This is what leads into the main plot of the film and where it truly takes off. From this point on, it feels like its back on the tracks that the first film put it on course for. It is a Guy Ritchie film, so he does throw his traditional curve that you usually don’t expect on first watching of his films.
The casting for this film is a great selection and compliments the returning cast. Robert Downey seems to return to form as the eccentric intelligent. Jude Law successfully plays the counter balance for him a second time. New to the cast is Mycroft Holmes, cast for Moriarty. He does a great job at being the intelligent man with a complex that believes he will always beat Sherlock. There is also the addition of Stephen Fry, great comedian, narrator, and general fun actor, as Mycroft Holmes. He certainly brings a certain humor that works within the narrative of the film, and he doesn’t seem hesitant to do a scene in the nude. A surprise for me was the addition of Noomi Rapace, who played Lizbeth in the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film trilogy. She is introduced as a gypsy fortune teller, Madam Simza Heron, and plays a vital role to the overarching plot of the film.
This brings me onto another thing that Guy Ritchie does so successfully, his visual style and fidelity. Like in the first film, he brings back the slowing down and directs foresight of Holmes to plan out the exact events of a fight. Later in the film, he even is able to bring about amazing shots and effects of a situation as they run through a forest with debris exploding from points. The camera angles and slowing down of the effects work for this film. Watching this film, it sometimes just looked like he is a master of art in the way he handled camera angles on scenes with special effects. As in the first film, there is also returning the overall color scheme of greys and browns overall. It does a good job for setting the tone of the time period.
Leaving the theater tonight, I felt that Guy Ritchie successfully made his Sherlock Holmes a proper sequel. I personally would like to see him move on and make another original film, but I can’t say I would be disappointed to see him return to this Sherlock Holmes universe. It’s not the Sherlock Holmes of tradition, its Guy Ritchie’s take on the character done brilliantly.