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My dear Watson, it appears we've become caricatures of ourselves...
The first Sherlock film, while surely a departure from the traditional way a Holmes story is told, I thought to be quite enjoyable, despite its few flaws. Game of shadows, however is an entirely different experience- and not in a good way. I won't sit and dissect the entire plot if the movie, but I will tell you what it does well, and what it fails miserably at doing.
The good: There is no shortage of witty banter or a good time to be had watching the two leading men go about their mysterious trade. When the action scenes occur, they are fast- paced and visually stimulating to watch. The film does a wonderful job at being an authentic-feeling period piece ( for the most part.) Characters are often dirty, bleeding, and they retain their bruises for days after a skirmish. Also notable is the score, which contributes to the mystique of the Holmes universe, but with a smattering of action film- style ambiance added into the mix.
The Bad: Unfortunately, so many things are wrong with this film. I could buy in the first film that, given his genius level and insatiable appetite to learn, Holmes was a skilled fighter. However, game of shadows seems to endow him with superhero qualities, as he dispatches trained soldiers, Russian Cossack ninja's, and the like. The film falls flat during most scenes and lacks interesting character development, personality, and subplots altogether. Downey and Law are THE only element keeping the film afloat most times. More frustrating is the films over-use of the bullet time sequences, and the strong vibe that the movie is thoroughly impressed with itself throughout the entire sitting. Particularly eye- roll inducing is what I like to call the "Jack Sparrow" effect; in that the producers seem to think the audience are a bunch of idiots who ONLY want to see Holmes at his absolute craziest. This is forced in every scene, and the result is an, almost, cartoon version of Downey's portrayal in the first film. Lastly is the movie's lack of direction and "bite" to its plot. Most times it's unclear what the objective is. And Moriarty's lack of showing his criminal genius is a missed opportunity, his evil plans somewhat esoteric.
Game if shadows is worth a rental if you're a fan. But don't expect to be dazzled. Shadows is at it's best when playing up the tense moments of deduction by Holmes and company, but those moments are few and far-fetched. Sometimes great actors are given not-so-great material. (I'm looking at YOU, Phantom Menace)