Movie Review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Action Adventure Crime Mystery Thriller Comedy Drama Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 8 min.
Year of Release:
2011
USA Release:
December 16, 2011 (wide—3,600+ theaters)
DVD: June 12, 2012
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience

victim of murder

marriage

Gypsy fortune teller

Featuring: Rachel McAdamsIrene Adler
Robert Downey Jr.Sherlock Holmes
Jude LawDr. John Watson
Eddie MarsanInspector Lestrade
Noomi RapaceSim
Stephen Fry … Mycroft Holmes
Jared HarrisProfessor Moriarty
Kelly Reilly … Mary Morstan
more »
Director: Guy Ritchie
Producer: Warner Bros. Pictures
Village Roadshow Pictures
more »
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

An explosion in London is quickly ascribed to anarchists, but the inimitable detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) knows something more is afoot.

What appears as random acts of terror, he deduces are unquestionably linked to his greatest nemesis, the mysterious Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris).

Agreeing to one last case on the night of his marriage is Dr. Watson (Jude Law) who, together with a clue supplied by Holmes” sometimes paramour and temptress/rival Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) finds them hurtling inexorably towards a confrontation with the only man who may be Holmes” equal, as Moriarty schemes to plunge the world into war.

The duo will need to enlist the aid of a gypsy named Simza (Noomi Rapace), as clues take them from London, on board a train rigged to be a “wedding gift” death trap courtesy of Moriarty, to Paris and wherever else the trail leads them. But this time, as Moriarty might say, just who is the cat and who is the mouse?

Objectionable issues

Violence: Moderate. The violence is constant and not limited to explosions from a distance, but up-close knife wounds, poisonings, shootings, assassination and an extended torture scene with a type of grappling hook embedded in Sherlock’s shoulder. As with its 2009 predecessor “Sherlock Holmes”, there is an extended action scene shown in extreme slow motion, ala “The Matrix,” where you get to see people hurt amidst gunfire and explosions. Throughout all this, blood is kept to a minimum, and there is no gore. The camera does not overly dwell on these scenes and, thankfully, cuts away during a suicide.

Sex/Nudity: Mild to Moderate. Holmes takes Watson to a club where the entertainment includes a modest fan dance, while other women are on swings dressed in bulbous corsets and underwear, though, I must add, nothing overt is shown. So what pushed the film from “mild” to “moderate” really was the scene where Holmes” brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) walks around in his castle nude. Though we only see him from the lower waist on up, Mary Watson is visibly uncomfortable. It is a non-sexual scene, obviously played for laughs, as it highlights the elder Holmes” eccentricity. Mycroft casually comments that he can see how Watson may appreciate someone of “her gender,” suggesting that he is either homosexual or entirely non-sexual. His obliviousness leaves this open for interpretation.

Language: Minor. Holmes makes several references that are more double entendrés than outright innuendos, such as Watson gaining weight “no doubt feasting on Mary’s muffins” and the strongest line delivered is when Holmes off handedly suggests Watson will have “…a good old fashioned romp, tonight.” During a battle scene, Holmes, poorly disguised as a woman, tells his friend, “Lie down with me, Watson” but one gets the feeling that he phrased this intentionally and is part of the friendly banter they share, and nothing more.

Watson shouts “Bast__ds” several times (Holmes once), and Mary says both “God” and “Oh my G__” during the same scene. At a gypsy camp, Holmes asks Watson not to dance “for God’s sake.” God’s name is never used in an intentionally profane manner.

Male/Female role modeling—The night club has waitresses dressed as men acting purposefully manlike and, though brief, this deserves mention.

Gambling and drunkenness is also prominently displayed at the night club, but neither is glorified.

Lessons

The partnership that Holmes and Watson enjoy is definitely more of a lifelong relationship than Watson would care to admit. The remnants of sibling rivalry that still shows between Holmes and his elder brother does not compare with what Sherlock has with Watson, giving life to the proverb:

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” —Proverbs 18:24

Professor Moriarty is the consummate villain, manipulating everything to achieve his goals. His pride is shown early, when he has lunch with a victim who believes themself safe in a public restaurant, only to find that, at Moriarty’s command, everyone simply leaves, foretelling her impending doom.

What kind of “acute narcissist” (Holmes’ words) goes to all that trouble, just to impress someone, already consigned to die, of his power? Through the course of the film, we see that Moriarty has done everything on the list of things the Lord hates from Proverbs.

“There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” —Proverbs 6:16-19.

Moriarty has convinced himself that he is only taking advantage of situations that would happen anyway and tries to dismiss it when he tells Holmes that, “You’re not fighting me, so much as you’re fighting the human condition.” This echoes precisely the message that the world feeds us daily, in so many different ways. How many times have we heard that “we can’t help ourselves”, “it’s just natural to _____” (fill in the blank) and excuse it for that very reason?

The Bible shows us time after time that God understands us better than we know ourselves, and that is why Jesus came, to offer us the only way out of our nature and to be heirs in Heaven. As the apostle Paul tells us:

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing” —Romans 7:18-19.

Paul later exclaims,

“What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our LORD!” —Romans 7:24-25.

One of the crucial differences between good and evil is in the way we live and die. The first martyr of the church was Stephen who, while being stoned to death was at peace and so much more than that.

“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep” —Acts 7:59-60.

Contrast this to the way evil violent men often meet their end, kicking and screaming. There are many deaths in this movie, but, I thought, one scene in particular exemplified this most profoundly and gave me, and I hope the audience, pause to consider.

One of the most talked about effects in the first “Sherlock Holmes movie (2009) was how Holmes would think out and plan a whole battle before it took place, and then it would happen, exactly as he planned it. This is again used very effectively in the sequel, to everyone’s enjoyment. Less featured in this film is the forensic science Detective Holmes employs in order to learn from clues. Perhaps director Guy Ritchie felt that a now established character, with investigative bona fides firmly in place, did not need the same painstaking detective work. However, as a longtime Sherlock Holmes fan, I sorely missed the “real-time” work. Easily half of his investigation takes place in flashback form, so they are not entirely absent, just recalled later, I suspect mainly for effect.

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is a thrilling, thoroughly enjoyable action packed film, outstandingly scored by Hans Zimmer, that I enthusiastically recommend (with some cautions) and is sure to please audiences and keep the franchise going. Of course, the violence and the off-putting scene with Holmes” brother unfortunately merit keeping the kids away.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Prequel: “Sherlock Holmes” (2009)

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This Holmes sequel is better than the original. The cinematography is an opulent delight; and the action sequences are surgically choreographed. Script and camera techniques used in the first have been refined here, such as Holmes ability to foresee each move of an impending conflict.

Although the climax is telegraphed early to Holmes fans, it in no way detracts from the enjoyment. Enjoy the brief scenes with Rachel McAdams, as the new leading lady’s name, and performance, are forgettable.

Although I am somewhat desensitized, I noticed nothing pornographic or profane, not even the increasingly common misuse of the Lord’s name. Despite being very sensitive to torture scenes, I found this one was brief and bearable. The frequent violence and death are accompanied by minimal blood and no gore.

From a Christian viewpoint, the film is simply a celebration of good over evil evil with a Satanic wisdom behind it. An appropriate quote might be 2nd Peter 2:11-12, where we are warned against laughing at the terrifying powers of the underworld (best translated in the Living Bible paraphrase).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Brian Schacht, age 65 (Canada)
Positive—Hopefully, most will heed the PG-13 rating and not take children. I wouldn’t even take a child under 16 to see it, but I am that way with most PG-13 movies, because, unfortunately, the powers that be allow vulgar 4 letter words in a PG-13 rating, so I don’t take the chance. The violence is intense, but I expected it. My wife and I just recently saw the original and felt this one lived up to the quality of the first. I don’t recall God’s name in vain but there is some mild language, but fortunately far less than many PG-13 movies use. There is a part where Holme’s brother comes out of a room naked, but it is brief and done in a way that you realize he is a nut; plus, nothing is revealed. Other than that, I don’t recall any sexual content.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dow Wilson, age 44 (USA)
Positive—I have to say this was an improvement morally speaking over the first one, with the exception of the tarot card reading. I’m surprised that didn’t get mentioned, of course it’s not at all like Lord Blackwood and his rituals. But I digress. I have read almost all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and it surprises me how harsh people are to the movie. Case in point, people are up in arms because Holmes can fight in these films, but even in the books, he mentions that he is experienced in various fighting techniques.

While Holmes relies on his brains over brawn, he does know how to handle himself. Also, as someone mentioned below, Professor Moriarty loses his menace in the movie because we see him too early. That I could give you, but I would also say that there are things that can’t be done on film that you can do in a book. And honestly, I’d say they played Holmes just as he is, but that’s just my opinion. In terms of morals, as I said, this movie was much better with the exception of Holmes” disguise and the sight of his brother walking around in the buff. But I would also say that it does offer some better morals. I mean Holmes is a cold, deducing machine, so it should be praised that he is willing to fight a man like Moriarty. When he claims that Holmes is only fighting human nature, as noted in the review, and Sherlock is willing to continue his battle, I’d say that says something.

As for his dressing as a woman, I’d say taken in context, it’s no more offensive than Bugs Bunny doing the same thing in all of his old cartoons. And as for Mycroft, he is, essentially, oblivious to the world, not to mention he’s described as a very lazy man. I’m sure he’d even be too lazy to dress since he never goes anywhere. All in all, I enjoyed this.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—nameless, age 24 (USA)
Positive—I saw “Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows” yesterday with my two closest friends, and we thoroughly enjoyed the film. Plenty of action, suspense and, of course, Holmes thinking his actions out before he does them. (That last one is done brilliantly in the film’s climactic scene towards the end, by the way; just thought I’d mention that). The movie is reminiscent of “The Final Problem,” a short story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and those of you who have read it will have no trouble figuring out how the film ends, but even if you think you know the finale, you WILL be shocked. Trust me.

Even I found the plot a little hard to follow, but I can only assume that was the director’s intention; to make you watch the film again and have you pay more attention so you can see things you may have missed the first time around. Biblically speaking, there’s nothing offensive, apart from the usual violence (which is mostly bloodless) and a brief scene of Holmes” older brother Mycroft walking around naked (though a shot of his posterior is visible for a few moments, nothing else is shown).

Some might think the scene of Holmes dressed as a woman is offensive, but I found it to be very much in keeping with the short stories and novels written by Sir Arthur in which Holmes dons various disguises. If you liked the first movie, you’ll love “Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—D, age 25 (USA)
Positive—Overall enjoyable. Only concern besides those already mentioned was Holmes” drug use. In one scene Holmes has stayed awake for days via coffee, tobacco, and coca leaves. In another, he drinks embalming fluid. However, Dr. Watson warns him, even chastises him about it. Not sure if it was meant to imply such substances enhanced Holmes mental abilities or to emphasize his eccentricity. Could do without it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Tori, age 40+ (USA)
Positive—Saw this last night… Thought that it was good. Holmes was blessed to have a friend like Watson. They had a calling, and Holmes, in all his strangeness, encouraged Watson to be in his calling, focus, Matthew 6:33—“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” Also, reminding me of correct friendships “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” —Proverbs 18:24.

And most admirable to me was Holmes with great humor knew and took his enemy seriously, responsibly, diligently—doing everything of his part to quench and tear down every attempt and plot of harm and destruction. 1 Peter 5:8—Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 John 3:8—For this purpose the Son of God was revealed, that He might undo the works of the Devil.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Charlene McDowell, age 54 (USA)
Positive—I don’t review movies on this site, and breaking down every little moral bit in movies is not something I tend to dwell on. But I’m astounded by some of the comments on this page. “Blatant homosexuality, homosexual references, etc.…” Really??? Honestly, I think some Christians keep their eyes open for every possible thing to be offended by, so they can jump on it and attack it when it comes by. This movie was for the most part, clean. I certainly didn’t feel violated, in the least.

Granted, there was the brief scene with a bit of the man’s buttocks showing. And obviously, this is not a kid’s movie—too intense and violent. But no “gross” or “disgusting” homosexual content. you’re way too sensitive if you’re offended by this movie. My advice would be, lighten up. There are far worse movies with objective trashy content to attack, and people should stop peeling their eyes for the slightest thing they can feel offended by.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Mike, age 21 (USA)
Positive—I liked the first movie, and this one, as well. It is a movie for adults and older teenagers. The action is too fast for children. The part I could have lived without is the scene alluding to the nudity of Stephen Fry, but all you saw was from the waist up. The intent was to create an awkward comedic moment. I don’t agree with the homosexual innuendo that some negative reviewers referred to.

My main complaint is that the first 1/3 of the movie is so slow in its plot, yet is filled with these fast action spots that are hard to keep up with. It gets better toward the halfway point. If you like this genre, you will like this movie. As a Christian, I didn’t take any offense from the movie. My wife and I both enjoyed it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Joe, age 63 (USA)
Positive—We were set on seeing another movie, that was SOLD OUT, so we chose to see this, and it turned out to be a Very Good Movie!!! Lots of action and better than another “Sherlock Holmes” movie we saw a few years back. Keep an eye out for Watson and his camouflage (as wallpaper and furniture) appearance in some scenes… All in all, it was very entertaining, and we will definitely see it again when it comes on DVD.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tina, age 49 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I loved the first Sherlock movie… but this was one of those sequels that just didn’t do anything for me. I enjoyed one chase scene at the beginning and the surprise ending, but that was about it. The rest seemed a bit muddled and confusing. It dragged a little towards the middle of the end, and I found myself getting restless. Professor Moriarty was less interesting in this than in the first film, where you didn’t even see his face. Mark Strong definitely made a better a villain. If you’re looking for a good sequel to watch over the holidays, I strongly recommend seeing “Mission: Impossible” 4 and saving this one for a DVD rental.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Kadie Jo, age 19 (USA)
Neutral—Entertaining, but not a thinking person’s movie, and way too many homosexual references. Since the movie was set in 1891, I enjoyed the various precursors to both WWI and to the technology of the 20th century—and also the scenery and special effects. But the Holmes of Sir Conan Doyle, a thinking, rational, mature genius, is not the clever, boyish street fighter depicted here. Not to be picky, but Zimmer’s score also sometimes missed the mark, with Appalachian fiddle music used to accompany French gypsies and Wagnerian brass depicting Italian opera. Finally, including many gay references, innuendos, and overt scenes both bothered and depressed me.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—LRM, age 43 (USA)
Neutral—Fun movie, but a waste of the opportunity the filmmakers were given. The literary Holmes is gone, replaced by an often tiring Hollywood adventure vehicle. This is a Holmes in name only, change the name, and this would be virtually indistinguishable from any Hollywood period action movie. The prequel seemed much better, more evocative and literary. Everything is too transparent and lacking in flavor here… for example we are shown too much of Moriarty too early,, and he consequently loses all the mystique and darkness he has in the books… On the positive side, it was good clean fun for the most part.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—David, age 48 (USA)
Neutral—I watched this movie in theaters and would say that it was not a waste of my money or time. I was very impressed by the movie, as a whole. I would put it in the top 10 most interesting movies I have ever seen. I didn’t find myself bored, and there were a few good laughs, throughout the film. I was slightly disappointed at the moral aspect. There was some mild language that was not of the best moral quality. For me, personally, I thought the gypsy/tarot card scenes in the movie were the most offensive. Given, those scenes were fairly quick and had little emphasis on actual “fortune-telling”. There was a naked man from the waist up, but I found it to have more of a humorous undertone than a sexual one.

As for the comments regarding the film being suggestive of homosexuality, I did not notice anything of this nature that I can recall. It must have either been very mild, or maybe I missed some dialog going on. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, and the reason I submitted “Neutral” rather than “Positive” is because of the mildly offensive themes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Briana, age 20 (USA)
Negative
Negative—…we went to see this film without reading the review… My son didn’t want the story ruined with too much information by reading the whole review. That won’t happen again. We were totally unprepared for the nude scene (top of buttock showing) or allusion to possible homosexuality. I know we see almost as much backside in the stores every day, and blatant homosexuality is everywhere. But how did we get to this point? By making light of these depictions when offered up to us as entertainment! It is time we are salt and light. These things are not “only slightly objectionable” to God. He gave them over to their lusts.

We won’t be buying this video or seeing any more Sherlock Holmes movies, no matter how enjoyable the humor is or how intelligent the plot is, for this reason. If we refuse to be entertained by promoters of sinful lifestyles, they may make better movies. If they don’t, at least we won’t fund their next morality degrading movie with our dollars.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality:
—Marcie, age 54 (USA)
Negative—The homosexual situations were really gross. I could get past Holmes’s silly female disguise, but they pushed it to having Holmes’s shirt ripped off and having Holmes and Watson on top of each other, with Watson’s head ending up between Holmes’s thighs. In another scene, Holmes asks Watson if he’s happier being with him (Holmes) than he would have been on his honeymoon. I would have been horrified, if I’d brought my teen or preteen sons. Sadly, I will not go to another Sherlock Holmes movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Pat, age 56 (USA)
Negative—I loved the first Sherlock Holmes movie. And I really enjoy Robert Downey Jr. as an actor. However, this movie was so extremely convoluted that it was almost impossible to keep a handle on the plot, which kept enlarging with alarming frequency. This movie was well-filmed and wonderfully acted (especially with the wonderful addition of Stephen Fry). However, I would not have paid money to see this, had I known it would be so confusing.

For people who have not read the Holmes stories (and even if you have, really) you’ll be lost for much of the movie. Even if you are familiar with the Moriarty storyline that weaves through several Sherlock Holmes stories, this movie is still confusing. In the movie, they never even related any motivation for both the crimes and Holmes’ investigation of them.

As regards the negative comment about homosexuality in the movie, there is none. I really don’t know what that reviewer is even talking about. The reason some comments and dress are silly, and therefore funny, is *because* Holmes and Watson aren’t homosexuals (as is very clear in both movies). Men used to dress up as females a lot more in movies, when homosexuality wasn’t so blatantly rampant. It’s a shame that any return to that form is condemned as homosexual, rather than what such behavior has been deemed for years: silly.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Doralyn Rush, age 34 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I saw this film in theaters and absolutely loved it. The first movie in this series was good, but this was even better. The acting was good, the characters were great, the action scenes were really well done, the story was amazing, and the ending was perfect. The only bad content was that Watson twice in the movie is drunk, there is a slightly violent torture scene, and there was a little bit of cussing. This movie is not meant for small crowds, so this bad content is not actually all that bad. I found the characters were very well evolved from the first one. There were many great surprises, and some sad ones too.

…Overall, I thought this was a great movie for thirteen and above and if you haven’t seen it, please do.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sarah Kay, age 16 (USA)
Positive—The second Sherlock Holmes was a very good movie. It was filled with action, adventure, and comedy. In my opinion, it was much better than the first Sherlock Holmes movie which came out in 2009. There was hardly any offensive content. One man was naked in a room with Dr. Watson’s new wife, but nothing explicit happened and no nudity was shown. Overall, it was a great movie for the entire family.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—C, age 13 (USA)
Positive—This was an amazing movie. The film quality was excellent. I was only offended by one part of the movie, when they showed the top part of a man’s naked behind. There was some language, but not enough to be extremely offensive. I would watch this movie again.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jordan, age 17 (USA)
Positive—This was one of the safest PG-13 movies I have EVER seen. I thought it was amazing. It was so cool seeing it on the big screen. There was no Lord’s name in vain—which means a lot to me. There was nothing going on between Sherlock Homes and Watson that I would think to be gay. I thought this movie was AWESOME!!! I am so going to see it again.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Meaghan, age 13 (USA)

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