You know, it must be really good to be Robert Downey Jr. Well…let me re-phrase that. It must be really good to be Robert Downey Jr. now. Fifteen years ago, that might be a different story. Unless you’ve been in a cave the last few years, you know that Downey Jr., the Academy Award-nominated actor from Chaplin and Tropic Thunder, has been the star of some of the biggest films out there. The Iron Man franchise re-ignited his career and with the current success of The Avengers, it looks as if there’s no stopping our ferrous friend. And even if he didn’t have that franchise to fall back on he’s also the one and only Sherlock Holmes! I say again, it must be nice to be Robert Downey Jr. British director Guy Ritchie re-tooled the entire Sherlock Holmes series giving it more of a grungy look and feel and making the Watson character not so much of a babbling idiot. In this second installment we find the dynamic duo once again out and about and on the eve of Watson’s wedding. But wait – there’s more!
We knew it was only a matter of time before Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) met his match and arch-nemesis, Prof. James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who is easily Holmes’ equal if not his outright superior. But on the eve of Dr. Watson’s (Jude Law) wedding, strange things are amiss. The Crown Prince of Austria is found dead and everything points to suicide. However Holmes thinks differently and proposes that he was murdered. And this is no ordinary murder, as he suspects it’s part of something much larger. Holmes manages to track down a few clues which leads him to gentleman’s club where he meets Sim (Noomi Rapace), a gypsy fortune teller. She sees more than she admits, but after saving her life she’s now obligated to help him investigate. Together with Watson, the trio traipse across Europe trying to pursue Moriarty, who always seems to be one step ahead of them. Will they find him and what will happen? And will Watson ever get married?
There’s a lot going on in the Sherlock Holmes films. So much, in fact, that it’s easy to get distracted by the tongue in cheek nature of Downey’s performance and the rather unique camera trickery of director Guy Ritchie. Still, it’s a well-written script and one that’s solidly acted. The best part is that we don’t get too much of Irene (Rachel McAdams), who made the original a bit tough to watch. Maybe it’s just me, but American’s don’t belong in a Sherlock Holmes movie. The unquestioned star of the show is, of course, Robert Downey Jr. He’s perfected the art of playing this type of role and he’s essentially in every scene. This is a good thing, I assure you. Matching wits and acting chops with him is the always-reliable Jude Law and Jared Harris as Prof. James Moriarty holds his own as the arch villain. This sequel received mixed reviews, but I actually enjoyed it more than its predecessor – a rare feat for a sequel. But I don’t think I need to say that we’ve seen the last of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty.
Video: How does it look?
As anyone whose seen these films can attest, they’re a rather unique viewing experience. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image looks crystal clear and sharp throughout, despite being deliberately dark. Contrast is on the darker side, but that’s the way it was intended. The shadows of Holmes’ eyes, the coarseness of his beard and the texture in his hair all look great. Detail is amazing as well and some of the slow motion “logic” (that’s what I’m calling them) scenes look downright amazing. This is a marquee title for Warner and they’re not going to mess this up by putting out something that’s not up snuff. This is and viewers will love the experience.
Audio: How does it sound?
More impressive than the way this looks is the way it sounds. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack pulls no punches (pun fully intended) when it comes to action. We’ve got just about every sound in the spectrum covered here with surrounds chiming in at nearly every scene to add some additional background noise. Dialogue is crisp and clear, we can hear Downey Jr.’s pseudo British accent and Jude Law’s real one with the utmost precision. LFE become involved in several scenes to create a perfect mix of robust bass and high-pitched lossless sound. This is one of those movies that will validate your surround sound system.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is a bit mis-leading as Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows does come jam-packed with supplements, but if you’re looking at bullet points – something seems to be missing. I’ve become a big fan of Warner’s “Maximum Movie Mode” in which the actors (in this case Robert Downey Jr.) will literally stop the movie, talk to you and explain a few things. You can also click and see various features about the film, how it was made, the stunts and so forth. The real treat here is Downey Jr. who regales us with his wit and humor and he keeps the movie interesting. He’s an odd chap, for sure but also entertaining. Warner is also perhaps trying to get people more connected as a large portion of this film is connected to the official movie app for your iPhone or iPad (or other device). Watching this in sync with the film will unlock eve more behind the scenes material. The individual focus points can also be viewed individually if you don’t want to watch the film in the MMM. A second disc is the DVD of the movie and there’s also an UltraViolet version of the film to boot.