While Sherlock Holmes purists balked at the content of the first movie featuring Guy Ritchie directing and a pair of leads brilliantly portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, the average cinemagoer seemed to lap it up and it was a great success. Such a success that the stage was set for a sequel to be developed ASAP. And this is it, a movie that’s just as much fun in many ways as the first film and just as likely to upset those who didn’t like the imbalance of brawn over brains. Because this goes down the standard sequel route – everything is on a slightly bigger scale (from the scope of the plot to the action sequences) and everything rattles along at such a pace that you only take the time to unravel the many loose ends once the credits start rolling.
The plot is, essentially, the tale of Holmes (another wonderful performance by Downey Jr.) studying and attempting to foil his greatest enemy, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Unfortunately, this dangerous adventure coincides with the good Dr. Watson (Jude Law) getting married. It also coincides with some time spent in the company of Mycroft Holmes (the, if you can believe it, slightly smarter brother of Sherlock played, in a marvellous piece of casting, by the great Stephen Fry) and the chance to help out a gypsy woman (played by Noomi Rapace) who doesn’t realise that her life has been put in danger.
The best thing about this sequel is just the feeling of being back in the company of people who are having a lot of fun. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. have the same fantastic rapport that they had in the first movie, Jared Harris really holds his own in the scenes featuring Moriarty and Holmes face to face and Stephen Fry gets to, essentially, be Stephen Fry in the middle of a big-budget romp. Noomi Rapace does really well, as does Kelly Reilly (playing the understanding new wife of Dr, Watson), and Paul Anderson is a menacing presence throughout. It’s a shame that the lovely Rachel McAdams isn’t onscreen for more than a few moments and it’s even more of a shame that Geraldine James and Eddie Marsan (as Mrs Hudson and Inspector Lestrade, respectively) get even LESS time than McAdams. They may not be the most prominent characters in the stories but they are well-known and beloved orbiting bodies around the universe that Holmes inhabits AKA his own brain and 221B Baker Street.
The plot is okay and the situations are fun and thrilling but the movie stumbles in a couple of areas. First of all, it tries to show that it’s a smart and tightly constructed film but that’s not the case. The editing and breakneck pace help to gloss over the many illogical moments and flaws but, when you think about it, it’s a sad fact that Holmes and Watson seem to survive one or two more dangerous moments by sheer good fortune rather than any actual skill. The editing and slick camerawork try to distract you from this, they try to convince you that skill was involved and that everything was oh so clever, but don’t fall for that sleight of hand. The second problem with the film comes when Guy Ritchie just gets a bit carried away with style and technical tricks and overplays his hand – an enjoyable action sequence on a pretty big scale is actually marred by too many slo-mo zooms and camera tricks (you start to think that Mr. Ritchie watched 300 a few too many times before filming this sequence). It’s a shame because the style and trickery, when used in moderation, really add to the overall fun of the film. It’s just that you CAN have too much of a good thing.
I have no doubt that fans of the first movie will enjoy this one, as I did. Some people may even fail to notice the points I’ve highlighted above and prefer it to the first movie. That’s up to them. I had a great time, I was entertained for every minute and the movie deserves goodwill so I will reiterate that it is easy to watch the thing without considering the flaws. I’ll be eager to pick it up when it hits Blu-ray and I’d definitely go to the cinema to see Holmes and Watson in action one more time. But I’d want everything to be tightened up slightly.
DIRECTOR: GUY RITCHIE
WRITER: MICHELE MULRONEY, KIERAN MULRONEY
STARS: ROBERT DOWNEY JR, JUDE LAW, NOOMI RAPACE, JARED HARRIS, STEPHEN FRY, PAUL ANDERSON, KELLY REILLY, RACHEL MCADAMS, GERALDINE JAMES
RUNTIME: 129 MINS APPROX