Film Review: A Game of Shadows of the Canon


I am not a Sherlockian, but I have read some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective, and one of my dear friends is surely a Sherlockian.  Seeing the movie the first time, I squeed in the theater to recognize lines from the stories in the script of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  These lines made the film seem to me to be a good adaptation of Conan Doyle’s stories, though (I’ve checked with my Sherlockian friend) the film’s plot has nothing to do with anything that Conan Doyle ever conceived.  The film’s is certainly an exciting plot, but outside of the realm of Conan Doyle’s original works, where, yes, Sherlock is an internationally renowned detective and a drug-addict and boxer as this film series has portrayed, [SPOILER] but not perhaps the bullet-dodging hero who delayed World War I, any more perhaps than Moriarty is an international arms dealer. [END SPOILER]  Perhaps one of the greatest differences between Conan Doyle’s original characters and Ritchie’s interpretations of them is that in Conan Doyle’s stories Holmes and Moriarty are playing a game, the goal of which is to outwit the other, while in Ritchie’s movie, [SPOILER] Moriarty is motivated by desire for power and wealth, and Holmes is motivated to save the world from Moriarty and avert world war; he does not as is said at his funeral “play the game for the game’s sake.” [END SPOILER]

I saw the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film but once and that last year, but to my remembrance, this sequel focuses more on the characters and their relationships to one another than did the first film, which was more focused on the mystery to be solved.  The “bromance” of Holmes and Watson, which, believe it or not, is canon, is greatly played up in A Game of Shadows.  The enmity and similarities between Holmes and Moriarty are fantastically rendered on film and in the script.  Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty are all interesting by themselves, but to see them all together on film is fascinating.

Tension is kept reasonably high through the film, with exciting exploits, gun battles, daring escapes, and a cross-countries race against time.

Because Holmes knows his opponent, which is not unheard of in Conan Doyle’s original stories, there seems to be less mystery in A Game of Shadows, but the mystery to be solved—what is Moriarty’s plot—is still the driving force of the movie’s plot.  The film gives you all of the puzzle pieces and then lets you tag along as Sherlock puts all of those pieces together.

Now, I’ve said a lot without actually giving any opinion.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  It was exciting.  The unexpected lines, delivery, and actions made it humorous.  It was at times touching in the way that only “bromances” really can be.  The film was intellectually stimulating while still satisfying that desire (that is not purely masculine) for explosions, high-speed chases, and adrenaline.

What I most disliked was the feeling that I was missing several years of Holmes’ and Watson’s relationship.  I ought to rewatch the 2009 film because my Sherlockian friend tells me that I’ve forgotten the romantic subplot between Watson and Mary, and remembering that, I might have felt less of a gap and enjoyed it still more.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  Dir. Guy Ritchie.  Warner Bros. Pictures.  2011.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros., Guy Ritchie, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor anyone connected with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.


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