Film Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

A blockbuster with entertaining action sequences, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows should satisfy most. The film continues much in the same vein as its predecessor.

In the run up to Dr Watson’s wedding, detective Sherlock Holmes is more concerned with a strange series of events. Holmes links these to one man; Professor Moriarty. Holmes and Watson team up once more to try and stop Moriarty’s plans. The pair also need to rely upon the help of others…

With the premise set up at the end of Sherlock Holmes, there is less of a build up in A Game of Shadows. The lack of required development allows for more action sequences. These work well; their frenetic style certainly grabs the attention. There is little downtime, with set piece following set piece. While these are fun, the ordering of events does get a little repetitive.

With Moriarty revealed as the target very early on, there is not the same emphasis on mystery as there was in director Guy Ritchie’s first Holmes adaptation. After all, mystery was the big selling point of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. However, there is enough to sustain the imagination, as well as a fantastic conclusion.

With Irene Adler having a marginal role in proceedings, the female character gap is filled by fortune teller Simza. She is given a fair amount of screen time, which is at odds with the significance of her role. It is not that the character is not sufficiently developed, but that Ritchie’s film lays the emphasis firmly on the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Moriarty is a welcome adversary for Holmes in that he matches the detective’s intellect.

Some of the big effects in the film look a bit synthetic. The stunts, however, are good. Ritchie does tend to overuse the slow-motion effects. These work well in the scenes with Holmes giving a narration of his intended action. They can get a little tiresome as they are employed in every action sequence, regardless of Holmes’ thoughts.

Robert Downey Jr. is solid as ever as Holmes. The actor has great chemistry with Jude Law’s Watson. Stephen Fry makes a welcome appearance, while Noomi Rapace is suitably cast as Simza. Jared Harris makes a decent Moriarty, although there is less emphasis on him as a villain than in some previous adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Although there are some flaws, A Game of Shadows is a lot of fun. The humour works well, and combined with the set pieces and the sense of adventure, the film is likely to see healthy box office returns.

Film Review: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s live action-CGI extravaganza is an entertaining escapade well worth the watch in 3D. A sequel to the Alice stories rather than a remake, it bares little resemblance to earlier cinematic adaptations. In this version, Alice is a nineteen year old who falls down the rabbit hole after running away from an undesired marriage proposal.

Burton’s film features a far more active Alice, one who eventually fights in battle against the Red Queen’s army. Whilst the film features the familiar Wonderland characters, the plot diverges greatly from the 1951 Disney animated feature of the same name. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton has created a quest narrative for the teenage Alice, which contrasts significantly with the whimsy of Carroll’s original stories.

The cast features many of the familiar Burton players, with Bonham Carter making a fittingly over the top Red Queen. Depp is suitably outrageous as the Mad Hatter, although he does play the character with a modicum of sadness. New blood is injected with the welcome presence of Mia Wasikowska and the delightful Anne Hathaway. A particular highlight is Stephen Fry voicing the enchanting Cheshire Cat.

As ever, Danny Elfman produces a score that compliments the visuals perfectly. Generally the 3D works well given the content, although it does look a little flat when compared to recent box office behemoth Avatar.

Alice in Wonderland‘s opening weekend success is unsurprising, considering its first quarter opening and the huge promotional campaign orchestrated by Disney (the publicity of the threatened boycott no doubt helped to boost audience awareness). Nonetheless, as a longtime Tim Burton fan, one can’t help but be disappointed by lack of originality in his recent work. With a reworking of Dark Shadows being reported as his next project, it looks like the days of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are long gone.