Book to Movie: Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows

Monday, March 05, 2012

You may or may not have been subjected to my gushing when the first Sherlock Holmes movie came out. I absolutely loved it. In fact, I consider it to be one of my favorite movies. So I was very excited when the second movie was released. My husband and I are cheapskates (read: still in college) so we waited for it to hit the dollar movie, but we were definitely anticipating something wonderful when we headed into the crowded theater on Saturday night.

There are a few significant differences in what I came in with when I went to this second Sherlock Holmes movie. First of all, I had high expectations. I loved the first film, and I fully expected to love the sequel. Secondly, before I saw the first film, I had not read any Sherlock Holmes stories. Now, I've read two different volumes, so I have literary expectations as well.

While the film was enjoyable, it didn't live up to the first in my mind. Bear in mind that I do not even begin to pretend to be a film critic; I don't know anything about lighting or sets or cinematography or anything. I only know what I find appealing. So, if you are a film critic, please realize I am aware that my assessments are not in line with film theory. End of disclaimer.

Here are the things that disappointed me: (Spoilers are present, but you will be warned before they appear)

1. I'm not quite sure how to state this. The mood of the first film was really consistent -- dark, dreary, mysterious London. Everything seemed to mesh well together and the atmosphere was perfect. In the second film, we are a bit all-over-the-place -- Sherlock's house, a cabaret, a wedding, a train ride, all over Europe -- the mood seemed to be changing all the time. I guess I just enjoyed the mood in the first one so much I am a bit disappointed it wasn't finished.

2. I felt as if there was a bit too much slapstick in this film. In other words, the pony-riding scene (and a little bit the cross-dressing scene) just about killed me. I know that Sherlock's idiosyncratic personality definitely allows for some humor, but I prefer it a bit more subtle. It seemed as if whomever makes those decisions was trying too hard for a laugh in this case. Granted, I haven't read all of the Sherlock stories and there could be literary evidence for these scenes, in which case I would forgive them.

3. ***SPOILER*** The end, when Sherlock turns out to be alive. I thought the scene was well done, but I don't think it would have really happened. In the story when he tumbles down the cliff with Moriarty (it's a cliff in the book), I had the impression that it was the end, that he'd finally met his match, not that he'd almost met his match but was going to dramatically reappear afterward. I think they probably want to make another film out of it, but it bothers me because it is so drastically off of the stories. The majority of both films are different from the books, but they at least stay true to the general concept. Sherlock coming back to life seems completely off.

However, there were of course some things I enjoyed. I love Watson and Sherlock's relationship. I also absolutely adore Mary, Watson's wife. While she isn't thoroughly in on and the action, she is definitely spunky and manages to get in some great moments. And ***SPOILER*** I thought everything with Irene Adler was extremely well done. Despite the fact that she is only slightly present in the stories, I loved her in the films, with her complicated relationship with Sherlock and her duplicitousness. I was sad to see her go, but I thought the way Sherlock handled it, verbalizing nothing but clearly still experiencing pain, was portrayed really well.

So in short -- it is a good movie, enjoyable, but I'm glad I only saw it in the dollar theater. I don't plan on seeing it again, while I have my own copy of the first movie that I tend to watch over and over. If a third movie does come out, I will see it, but I will grumble.


  1. So here's what you don't know about the Sherlock Holmes stories:

    He did die when he fell off the cliff with Moriarty. But the public was so outraged at his death that Conan Doyle ended up writing a ridiculous resurrection story so that he wasn't actually dead. Not sure if it involves a supply of oxygen, but the stories after his miraculous survival are nowhere near as good as the originals.

    When I saw the movie I was hoping they'd stick with the original ending and a real death. Alas, Hollywood, like Conan Doyle, is too concerned about their audience's reaction to the story rather than the most suitable ending.

    1. Okay, I am glad that you told me that. It still bothers me, but I feel less violated by Hollywood.

  2. I need to see this. I didn't watch the first movie. It's the dreary atmosphere that I wanted to avoid, so if this one is a bit more all over the place I think I'll enjoy that. Great review!

    1. I have a friend that didn't like the dreary atmosphere in the first movie that loved one, so it will probably appeal to you!

  3. As an avid Sherlockian, I prefer adaptations that stick closely to the canon. This version of Holmes has neither the physicality nor the body language/mindset of the canonical Holmes.

    I might be wrong, but I think that these 2 movies are just another Hollywood money making franchise, that exploit the popularity and appeal of Sherlock Holmes and capitalizing on the current hot streak of Downey Jr.

    -- End of Rant --

    I like the Russian adaptation with Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes. A close second would be the Basil Rathbone movies and the Granada series with Jeremy Brett. Rupert Everett and Arthur Wontner are great as well.


    1. I do think that the producers of the current movies place a higher priority on appealing to the modern public rather than staying true to the canon. I find them enjoyable and have enjoyed seeing how they sneak bits of the real Sherlock into the stories they have contrived. My views on movie adaptations vs. books is that to make a great film, the director cannot always stay close to the book because sometimes what is well done in print does not translate well to the screen. However, with that said, I am glad that you have recommended some other Sherlock films -- I enjoy anything to do with Sherlock Holmes and am looking forward to watching some of these!


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