If the first Sherlock Holmes was about defining the characters, then the second would have to be defining relationships.
And the introduction to a proper villain.
Around the globe, headlines break the news: a scandal takes down an Indian cotton tycoon; a Chinese opium trader dies of an apparent overdose; bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna; the death of an American steel magnate... no one sees the connective thread between these seemingly random events—no one, that is, except the great Sherlock Holmes, who has discerned a deliberate web of death and destruction. At its center sits a singularly sinister spider: Moriarty.
Holmes’ investigation into Moriarty’s plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany and finally Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead, and moving perilously close to completing his ominous plan. If he succeeds, it will not only bring him immense wealth and power but alter the course of history.
Despite what other critics might say about the film, such as it's basically a repeat of the first movie, it's very much a horse of a different color. While I will concede that you get the same back and forth banter between Holmes and Watson, the same Guy Ritchie slowdown sequences inside of Holmes' brain, the story itself is very different than the first. How people can make each movie be the same is beyond me, and probably the great Sherlock Holmes.
The movie is divided into two clear pieces; relationships and villain. Both combine onscreen to create depth to the story, which is necessary for this film to succeed. The movie begins with Jude Law's Watson getting hitched to Kelly Reilly's Mary. Holmes has warmed up to the fact that they're getting married, but it certainly doesn't prevent him from throwing out his typical quips at the budding couple. From the start, it does show how much Holmes does care for his partner in crime. Especially when he literally gets his friend to the church on time. This sort of bond was lighthearted in the first film, but this time around it really shines true, and it gets deeper as the movie continues. Shortly after that, Holmes is on the hunt for his nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, who has committed a series of murders in a larger plot to profit off of an upcoming World War I. Holmes, Watson and newly acquired gypsy friend Madam Simza Heron (played by Noomi Rapace) band together on a European tour to stop Moriarty's plans before it's too late.
The trip to stop the plans is a bit light in some areas, and very thought provoking/smart in others. The motivation for Rapace's character is to locate her lost brother that has been pulled into Moriarty's plans. It's light when it comes to plot lines, but good enough to include her strength, wit and charm into the story. Is she a necessary character in this story? Perhaps, but I can see how writers Michele and Kieran Mulroney could have gone a different direction, but still ended in the same place. She might be the weak link, but she doesn't hurt the story one bit. You still understand the motivation for the group to get to Moriarty, and especially the urgency of it all. She doesn't hurt the motivation, but she does add to it, but just barely. Regardless, she is still a cool character that could be reoccurring in future Sherlock Holmes films.
As for Jared Harris' Professor James Moriarty, he's sinister as hell. While the rumors of Brad Pitt as the professor were intriguing, I'm not sure anyone could have pulled off the elegance and cruelty of the good Professor quite as well as Harris. He definitely makes Holmes look like a fool in the story, and he is certainly the best villain so far between the two films. I absolutely loved him as the antagonist and hope we haven't seen the end of his character, though I wouldn't imagine we have. He really steals the show in the film and brings a strong presence to the story.
So what should you expect out of this film? Well, there's action, good amount of smart dialogue, proper acting and more than the same when compared to the original. Game of Shadows is a great stand alone movie that honors Arthur Conan Doyle's original character. Director Guy Ritchie does a great job with evening out the humor, action and drama, so you'll be pleased with the results of this Sherlock Holmes adventure. Especially enjoy the armory scene.
As for Blu-ray material, this one took a different color tone from the last film. While certainly there were a fair amount of black/white/gray color schemes in the original film, this time around there are heavy yellow tones. It's almost sepia in some instances. The film also includes the black/white/gray during the armory scene. The black/white/gray areas really do deliver very sharp, clean and crisp picture. During the night time scenes, there is no color banding from the lighting in the black. It simply looks superb. As for the yellowish scenes, which are mainly at the beginning, they are clean, but for some odd reason they look a bit bland. I'm still baffled by it, but it didn't deliver as sharp as the black/white/gray scenes. Again, there isn't any graininess or artifacts, but it just doesn't come through as detailed. Overall, the picture quality is damn good, though.
In terms of audio, you get 5.1 DTS-HD mastering, with a screen ratio of 2.4:1 (love this ratio). The audio and picture are pretty darn sharp on this Blu-ray release.
Finally, as for features go, here's what you're looking at:
o Maximum Movie Mode: Inside the Mind of Sherlock Holmes - Hosted by Robert Downey, Jr.
o Focus Points:
- Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry
- Holmes Without Borders
- Moriarty's Master Plan Unleashed
- Holmesavision on Steroids
- Sherlock Holmes: Under the Gypsy Spell
- Meet Mycroft Holmes
- Guy Ritchie's Well-Oiled Machine
o UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film
While you could argue that there isn't lot here, the Maximum Movie Mode and Focus Points are pretty darn entertaining. You get a lot from Downey Jr. and lots of good focus points about the film. There's plenty of good beef here for entertainment purposes and enough to keep you occupied for some time. These are great compliments to the film.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack or Digital Download 6.12.12. Be sure to check out the free Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows movie app for iPad2 or Kindle Fire. The app synchs with the Blu-ray disc to start exploring the rich and exciting history of Sherlock Holmes. http://bit.ly/JlZkvR