Making the Grades
One has to wonder what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would think of Director Guy Ritchie’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. Certainly Robert Downey Jr.‘s portrayal is scrappier and more action oriented than Matt Frewer’s depiction in the Hallmark movies The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four. (Other famous actors to take on this literary persona include Roger Moore, Charlton Heston, Leonard Nimoy, Peter O’Toole, Christopher Plummer, Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett.)
Back in the director’s chair, Richie’s second adventure finds Sherlock Holmes with his right-hand man Dr. Watson (Jude Law) confronting the nefarious Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), a villain who is amassing a military arsenal. The two intellectual equals, Holmes and Moriarty, become pitted in a game of wits that has them both as mentally engaged as a pair of chess masters. But Watson, on his first night of marriage, is drawn into the fray as well.
Most of the action centers around the three main characters although Sherlock’s brother (Stephen Fry), Watson’s new bride (Kelly Reilly) and the detective’s love interest (Rachel McAdams) all appear on the sidelines, along with another new character, Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace).
Many of the fistfights, explosions and shooting scenes are shown in slow motion action with Holmes and Moriarty outlining afore (to the audience) what they will do. But this sequel also parades several graphic scenes across the screen. Captured by Moriarty, Holmes is impaled with a meat hook and hung from the ceiling. Another character commits suicide in front of the detective and his friends.
However there’s no question Downey and Law are having as much fun in this production as they did in the first. Their dry wit and the deadpan delivery of jokes (often involving sexual innuendo or alcohol consumption) help lessen the impact of the violence. So does Sherlock’s penchant for disguise. Still this edgier and darker depiction of the adept and calculating investigator is fashioned for older fans of the fictional hero.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Why does Holmes refer to marriage as eternal purgatory? Why is he so upset with Watson’s wedding?
What does Moriarty mean when he says Holmes is fighting the human condition? How does the Professor plan to act as a catalyst for war? How does he expect to benefit from battle?
How does this interpretation of Sherlock Holmes differ from the book or from other film adaptations? Why do you think these characters appeal to many audience members? How does the element of action differ in this movie from more thoughtful depictions?
Click here to learn more about Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.