Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (4K Blu-ray Review)

Sherlock Holmes was not the film I thought it’d be.  So much so that I was strongly apprehensive about the sequel.  So much so that until I received my copy of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on 4K disc that I did not make a point to view the film. Where I was totally disappointed in the first film, the second in what is now the Sherlock Holmes trilogy is a horse of a different color. Check out more about A Game of Shadows below and be sure to click the paid Amazon link at the end if you’d like to snag a copy!


While I was less than enthused about my second viewing of Sherlock Holmes, I went into my viewing of A Game of Shadows with a little bit of a lowered expectation.  It took me a week to muster up the courage to soldier through another Guy Ritchie Sherlock entry but I must admit it was well worth it to do so.  This time around Sherlock (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) are up against Professor Moriarty who sends them all over Europe to solve a mystery involving bombings meant to incite a war.  This time, the badass female is Mistress Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) a gypsy fortune teller who has a secret or two.

There are quite a few interesting turns.  First, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) lives up to the challenge of being a shadowy villain.  The duo of Holmes and Watson are finally given a chance to spread out into their roles, invoking humor and capable action chops in many exciting scenes.  The failed bachelor party in the beginning is a highlight for both Law and Downey to show off their skills as comedians.  We also get a new character Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) that adds more to the Holmes family with sly humor and a lazy way about himself.

The biggest change for me was that this film seemed to have more Guy Ritchie injected into it.  The pacing is much faster this time around, with more action-packed moments put into play.  The other film seemed to be the one that was to be Ritchie’s most mainstream effort and that played into the film being one of his most bland efforts.  Fast forward to this one and you’ll see some similarities (mostly in the look of the film) but will be refreshed by the quick pacing and just more going on overall.  Just that little injection of fast-paced was all the first film needed.

Where is Rachel McAdams this time around? She has a small cameo in the beginning of the film and doesn’t appear anywhere else.  While this is sort of a disappointment as she was one of the brighter spots of the boring original, she honestly isn’t missed much overall.  The same can be said for the short appearance of Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) who was another bright spot in the original film. Making way for newer fresher characters is also an anchor to the film, keeping all bets off and offering something to someone who may be like me and just didn’t care for the first entry of Sherlock Holmes.


  • Encoding:HEVC/H.265
  • Resolution:4K (2K Digital Intermediate)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Layers:BD-66
  • Clarity/Detail: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a 4K disc struck from a 2K Digital Intermediate. While the debate continues to rage on about real v. fake 4K, this is actually a transfer that could speak to the possibility of there being wonderful quality 2K DI 4K discs.  This transfer is everything the original Holmes wasn’t in 4K. Textures and set design are all nice and clean and crisp here. The uptick in detail is up to par with newer films and as sharp as any native 4K transfer would be or is.  There are many details throughout the film, be it in large marketplaces, restaurants, trains or churches.  There is no loss for detail anywhere to be seen.
  • Depth: There is definitely a pop to the film that wasn’t in the others. While tones of the film are often muted, the depth of field shines through, giving us many layers of texture and little to no softness. There isn’t necessarily a 3D feel of course, but depth is very satisfying overall.
  • Black Levels: Blacks look great here. Where the previous entry left blacks to crush at times, this particular film keeps things firmly placed in the deep category without sacrificing and turning into blobs of nothing.
  • Color Reproduction: Colors return to the muted 19th century look but that is the intent. And in that case, the look is quite fine.  The muted tones aren’t drab this time, more often feeling warm and inviting and not cold, unless that’s meant to be the case.
  • Flesh Tones: As intended everyone has the pale look of Europeans who haven’t seen bright sunlight in a while. True to the source
  • Noise/Artifacts: Clean


  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, German, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English (SDH), French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified and Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Thai
  • Dynamics: Something tells me that this is something we will be experiencing quite a bit with new 4K releases.Another missed opportunity has come up here, with A Game of Shadows sporting the same 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that adorned the original Blu-ray release (bundled here…). The idea that older films can’t benefit from an immersive mix is often hit or miss.  Sometimes they sound better, and other times there’s not a marked improvement.  This film could benefit from the newer formats for sure, but dynamically, the track is still fine.  The moments that need loudness are loud. Subtle moments of course play in a quieter way. Dynamics wise, the track is just right.
  • Height: N/A
  • Low Frequency Extension: This is where Atmos and DTS:X tracks always gain preference for me. Bass response is always better.  What we get here with the antiquated mix is a lack of deep bass, only seeing itself noticeable in some of the action sequences. Considering the film has some set pieces exploding, monstrous bass would have been appreciated.  But alas, here we get merely good, or decent low end.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surround sound is not exactly priority here. I spent some time trying to find pointed moments of surround use, but only could find that in a sequence involving a train and a sequence at a cliffside castle. That being said, I think the rest of the time the surrounds are used for quieter moments and aren’t delivering in louder moments because the main action is in the front soundspace.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is still a main point of the audio track and sounds great and clear overall.


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows comes as a 4K/Blu-Ray/Digital Combo and comes with a glossy slipcover to match the first Holmes disc.  The features are on the 2012 Blu-ray (reprinted for the combo pack) are slim and a little disappointing and are as follows:

  • Maximum Movie Mode (HD, 129 Min.): Just like the last Holmes film, this running picture-in-picture commentary is all about the film and the making. This time the MMM is hosted by Robert Downey, Jr.
  • A Game of Shadows Movie App: This feature was available in 2012, but I haven’t checked to see if it was in 2020.
  • Focus Points (HD, 35 Minutes): The best bits from MMM.


Overall, this entry into the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes series feels a lot better than the first.  There is more development of characters, more fast pacing and better attempts at humor.  One does hope that if they’re going forward with the 3rdfilm, that time has been kinder to the characters and they have even more to do the third time around.  This one was better than the first, and for fans of the film, this new 4K edition is a great addition to a movie collection.

**This is a paid Amazon link**

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