Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the image satisfied.
Sharpness was solid. The movie offered good clarity and definition from start to finish, as I noticed no issues with softness. I saw no issues with jaggies or moiré effects, at least, and edge haloes failed to appear. Source flaws were non-existent.
In terms of palette, Shadows stayed with a decidedly chilly set of colors. Like the first film, hues were desaturated and rarely displayed anything beyond a basic sense of gray and sepia. Within those constraints, the tones worked fine.
Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows were well-displayed. That area caused some minor issues with the first movie, but that concern didn’t repeat here; the low-light shots of Shadows appeared clear and smooth. Everything here looked great.
I also felt thoroughly impressed by the lively DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Shadows, as it offered more than enough pizzazz to merit “A”-level consideration. The soundfield created a terrific sense of place and threw out fine action when appropriate. The movie’s various fight/chase sequences boasted vivid material that showed up around the spectrum in a lively manner. In particular, the battle at the shipyard was a winner, as it used the speakers to serve the material in an exciting manner.
Other aspects of the track satisfied as well. Music always offered good stereo imaging, and quieter scenes were convincing, too. These showed a clear sense of place and meshed together in a pleasing way.
Audio quality always excelled. Effects were dynamic and clear, with deep bass and good punch. Music showed similar strengths, as the score was lively and full. Speech came across as natural and concise. I liked this track and thought it added a lot to the movie.
When we go to the set’s extras, we launch with Maximum Movie Mode. Hosted by Robert Downey, Jr., this provides an interactive look at the film. Much of the time Downey provides “walk-on” bits; in these, he pops onto the screen and offers occasional commentary.
In addition to Downey’s “walk-on” moments, we find still galleries, footage from the set, and notes from costume designer Jenny Beavan, producers Susan Downey and Lionel Wigram, and director Guy Ritchie. The comments look at cast/character elements, stunts and action, set design, costumes, effects, story and themes, and a few other areas.
As a substitute for a traditional audio commentary, “Mode” suffices, but it never excels. The main issue comes from all the dead air, as a moderate amount of movie passes without any information. On the positive side, the Blu-ray’s producers let you skip ahead and bypass the gaps, though I’m not sure I trust how well that works; I suspect the chapter encoding might jump over some of the content. In any case, we learn a reasonable amount about the film, and Downey, Jr. acts as a fun host, so even with some flaws, the “Mode” becomes enjoyable.
Available during “Maximum Movie Mode” or on their own, we can access seven Focus Point featurettes. These fill a total of 34 minutes, 59 seconds and include “Holmesavision on Steroids” (4:02), “Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed” (7:09), “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry” (5:18), “Meet Mycroft Holmes” (5:30), “Sherlock Holmes: Under the Gypsy Spell” (4:02), “Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine” (3:04) and “Holmes Without Borders” (5:51).
Across these, we hear from Ritchie, Downey, Jr., Wigram, Susan Downey, Beavan, producer Joel Silver, chess advisor Adam Raoof, director of photography Philippe Rousselot, consultant author Leslie Klinger, executive producer Steve Clark-Hall, production designer Sarah Greenwood and actors Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams and Jared Harris. These examine cinematography and effects, stunts and action, story and characters, cast and performances, the film’s use of chess, costumes, sets and locations and Ritchie’s work on the set.
The “Focus Points” are a staple of WB Blu-rays, and these offer a good collection of notes. Because they’re self-contained, they don’t combine to create a true “making of” documentary, but they still manage to tell us interesting info about the flick. They combine interviews and behind the scenes footage well to create enjoyable programs.
The disc also promotes the Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Movie App. This promises to allow you to “investigate the action packed world of Sherlock Holmes and enhance your viewing experience with your mobile device or tablet. Explore interactive scene breakdowns, compare the script to the movie and examine the rich characters and history of Sherlock Holmes.” I didn’t try this – I own no tablet and don’t want to attempt to follow all that material on my iPhone’s tiny screen – but I wanted to mention this option’s existence.
A second disc delivers a DVD Copy of Shadows. Unlike many past WB “bonus DVDs”, this one gives us a retail platter. That makes it a little more valuable than it otherwise might be.
After the first film provided an enjoyable reinvention of the franchise, I had high hopes for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Alas, it comes as a letdown, as it seems too silly and insubstantial to live up to its predecessor. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with some decent supplements. As a home video release, Shadows satisfies, but the movie itself disappoints.