[Fresh on 4K] ‘SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS’ improves the UHD look where its predecessor fell short

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

Rated PG-13, 129 minutes.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr.Jude LawJared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Eddie Marsan and Rachel McAdams

Guy Ritchie 2009 popcorn flick SHERLOCK HOLMES was indeed a remarkable film. While its 2011 sequel SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS is certainly an enjoyable film, it can’t quite seem to escape its predecessor’s shadow. Interestingly, when it comes to 4K, A GAME OF SHADOWS makes considerable visual improvements.

Movie Grade: B-

Robert Downey Jr. returns to the iconic role of Sherlock Holmes as he faces the sad reality of losing his lifelong friend James Watson (Jude Law) to a life of marriage. But when his legendary nemesis, Professor James Morriarty (Jared Harris), begins to incite violence between European nations to start a World War, Holmes and Watson must join together one last time to bring an end to Morriarty’s evil plans.

A GAME OF SHADOWS has plenty of action worthy of director Guy Ritchie’s reputation, to be sure, but the film can’t seem to escape the curse of failing to break enough new ground to justify its existence. While the action is entertaining once things get going, the story is surprisingly boring for most of its running time. Despite his valiant efforts, Ritchie’s bag of tricks can’t quite seem to bring enough new material to the table once the first film’s novelty has worn off. Viewers who enjoyed themselves the first time will likely enjoy themselves here, too, but this one isn’t going to change anyone’s minds on the fence.

Video/Audio Grade: B

A GAME OF SHADOWS joins the 2009 original in 4K UHD by means of an upscale from a 2K Digital Intermediate. However, interestingly enough, this fares significantly better than Ritchie’s previous installment on the format. While this is still by no means a demo-worthy presentation, increased detail in clothing, facial textures, and environments is far more noticeable this time around. One particular chase sequence in the woods is simply marvelous to behold. Ritchie’s signature slow-motion heavy direction is in full gear for this one as bullets and mortar shells obliterate the earth and reduce trees into splinters. This and the film’s many (many) other “slo-mo” action sequences are a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, the rest of the film can’t quite seem to keep up. 

It’s worth noting that the film was captured on various cameras, specifically using the Phantom HD Camera for its high-speed shots. This could easily explain the frequent inconsistencies on display. The Phantom HD Camera is notorious for yielding breathtaking images. The rest of the film was shot with a combination of an Arriflex 235 and a Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2. Using more than one kind of camera in a big-budget Hollywood film is not necessarily an uncommon practice, but could explain why the film constantly feels like it can’t decide how to look. 

The same improvement found in the first film with HDR is present in the sequel as well. Detective work simply feels more at home at night, so the large percentage of night scenes is greatly improved with this newfound expansion in color. Also, following the example of the original, the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 track from the 2012 Blu-ray is the only offering for this re-release. This track is given much more to do with the rear left and right channels than the previous outing, especially during the chase mentioned above. 

Extras Grade: C

No special features are on the 4K disc. The included 1080p Blu-ray contains all previously released bonus material. A digital copy code insert is also included in the case.

Extras listed below:

  • Maximum Movie Mode (129 Minutes)
  • A Game of Shadows Movie App
  • Focus Points (35 Minutes)

Final Grade: B-

It is rather ironic when it turns out that the less enjoyable of Ritchie’s two SHERLOCK HOLMES films is the one that ended up looking the best in 4K UHD. Fans who have seen them both will likely prefer the first film over the second, and it’s hard to recommend owning just the sequel in 4K. 

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