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Steampunk Movie Review: “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” (2011)


Awhile back I did a post about the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film, but my site wouldn’t be complete without a review of the 2011 sequel as well. Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams are back to reprise their roles as Holmes, Watson and Irene Adler. New additions include Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films), Jared Harris (Mad Men, Mortal Instruments) and Stephen Fry to round out an excellent cast.

images (1)The film begins a few months after the events of the first installment. Holmes is investigating a series of seemingly unrelated crimes which lead him to intercept a letter from Irene Adler. He is so deep into his case that he totally forgets Watson’s bachelor party, and multi-tasks by taking him to a place where Holmes can find the intended recipient of said letter. The fortune teller, Madame Simza, claims she knows nothing about the letter, but their conversation is cut short by an attempt on her life. She flees before Holmes can question her further, and he’s got to get the drunk and battered groom to his nuptials. After the party, Holmes meets Professor James Moriarty, the man at the center of his investigation, and is warned to back off or people will suffer.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) © 2011 Warner Bros

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) © 2011 Warner Bros

Watson and Mary are attacked on their way to their honeymoon, so like it or not Watson must once again aid Holmes in an investigation. The two of them follow Holmes’ deductions to a gypsy encampment where they find Madame Simza and discover the threat being leveled at all of Europe through the machinations of Moriarty.

harris-and-downeyI really enjoyed this film. Some of the reviews I read from other people complained that there were conventions like the ultra slow-motion camerawork that were used too much, but I love the effect so I had no problem with it. In action films it is so easy to get lost when things move too fast, and we so seldom get to understand the inner workings of a character. Books allow a reader to get into the heads of the people they read to a much greater extent than movies, and the mind of Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest of all times so I like seeing him plan things step by step (especially when it doesn’t always work!).

arts-graphics-2008_1131863aThis movie was very loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, The Final Problem, which was published for the first time in The Strand magazine in 1893. I like their choice to hold back Moriarty until the second film because his role in most Sherlock Holmes adaptations is blown out of proportion. Though it is true that he is Holmes equal in terms of intellect, he only actually made an appearance in one short story in which he (and Holmes) died at the end. Conan Doyle did in fact plan for this to be his last Sherlock tale, but his fans clamored for more and he obliged. In July I’ll be posting over several days about the whole Holmes canon, so stay tuned for more!

Did you see this movie? What did you think?

4 responses

  1. Hi Phoebe.

    I am a huge Holmes, Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law fan, but I reluctantly admit to being a little let down by both of these films. Maybe it was the overuse of CGI that turned me off. I guess I wish it had been a little more of an ‘accurate’ portrayal, as opposed to a ‘pop culture’ idea of Holmes.

    I look forward to your take on Holmes lore!

    Your pal,
    ~Icky. 🙂


    June 29, 2015 at 9:18 am

    • I can see where you are coming from, but the fact that it is not accurate is exactly what makes it steampunk, in my opinion. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most often portrayed characters in all of fiction, so I enjoyed seeing what felt like a fresh take. The best ‘ accurate’ Holmes I think was Jeremy Brett in the tv show that ran 1984-1985. Do you have a favorite?


      June 29, 2015 at 9:34 am

  2. Basel Rathbone is my favourite in appearance, but Jeremy Brett is my favourite in portrayal. I love the accuracy of that series. To have had Rathbone in that series might have been perfect, but I cannot take anything away from Jeremy Brett. He lived and died for that role.

    I usually like all the incarnations of Holmes. I like Christopher Plummer, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing.

    I liked the two recent television adaptations with modern versions of Holmes. I am a big Benedict Cumberpatch fan. I was a little let down by the Jonny Lee Miller version, but I attribute that to the writing and not his acting. It was more of a cop show with a Holmes angle.

    I did enjoy the steampunky elements, and campiness of the Downey movies.

    ~Icky. 🙂


    June 29, 2015 at 6:09 pm

  3. Pingback: Steampunk Sourcebook: Sherlock Holmes Part 3 | For Whom the Gear Turns

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