Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
In the first "Sherlock Holmes" film to star Robert Downey, Jr., as the famed detective, arch-villain Moriarty was trotted out as a last-minute inducement for the audience to go and see the inevitable sequel. In "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," Moriarty (played with crackling aplomb by "Mad Men’s" Jared Harris) is front and center, manipulating everything and everybody around him for nefarious, world-spanning (and potentially world-shattering) purposes of his own.
Director Guy Ritchie keeps the film racing forward on full throttle, as with the first film, but step back from this frenetic, merry chase for a moment and the worn, patchy nature of the film becomes apparent. The plot is moldy, and the first movie’s best innovation, "Holmesavision" (in which we see Sherlock Holmes’ mental strategies being laid out in advance and his keen mind assembling clues into sequences of event that lay bare the secrets of any crime scene), would have been stale by now if not for some clever bits of unexpected business that the sequel throws in to keep us off balance, but the film muddles its metaphors (chess and fishing) into a dreadful tangle--though it does lead to the movie’s best bit, a quick and amusing animation.
The film’s DVD and Blu-ray release offers some intriguing extras that will pique the curiosity of those who have not already seen the film in theaters.
On the DVD: The featurette "Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry" addresses, though briefly the gay subtext between Holmes and Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law, as well as discussing their individual characters. Downey and Law are both interviewed here, but it all feels so pre-packaged that it comes across more as an ad for the film than a look into what went into its making.
Another featurette, "Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed," tells us very little about Moriarty or his machinations, but it does reveal that director Guy Ritchie plays a lot of chess on set. Who knew? The film’s relentless chess metaphor is also discussed here, as is the yin-and-yang nature of Homes and Moriarty’s ruthless, yet oddly cordial, relationship. (The two are, intellectually speaking, one another’s mirror images.)
A third featurette, "Holmesavision on Steroids," is a closer looks at Holmes’ slo-mo mental calculus, the action sequences they lead into, and the producers who love them.
On the Blu-ray: The "Maximum Movie Mode" function offers lots of nifty, if possibly overstimulating, options, such as picture-in-picture commentary. There are also storyboards and stills, among other novelties. The disc can also be synced online to access a special app.
The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack also includes an access code to stream the movie using Ultraviolet, which is fine for plane trips or watching on a cell phone. Those who care about things like sound and image quality will not be moved to rapture.
The one thing the Guy Ritchie movies have that the BBC series "Sherlock" does not is big budget action, complete with period-specific settings and some nicely done CGI work. The smaller-scale TV version, however, seems more like the real thing, albeit updated for the 21st century. Buyers on a budget would be better served going with "Sherlock," which is less bloated and more likely to hold up well to repeated viewings.