Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s master sleuth Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's sequel to 2009's entertaining and successful film, Sherlock Holmes. The screenplay is penned by Kieran and Michele Mulroney and I believe is specifically influenced by Conan Doyle’s work, The Final Problem. This time Holmes and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) join forces to take down their most cunning adversary yet, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) – the man believed to be responsible for a series of murders, terrorist attacks and mysterious business acquisitions.
Guy Ritchie has tried to balance the problem solving and mystery elements of the stories, with plenty of slow-motion, and high-octane, heavily stylised and ludicrously edited action sequences. In the first film I thought the balance worked quite well. There was an intriguing story, which required Holmes’ super-sleuth expertise to unravel (and a big reveal at the end that tied up all of the loose ends), and an exciting dose of action. The humour worked, the bromance and banter between Holmes and Watson was cleverly written and utilised the charm of its stars well, with both Downey Jr. and Law perfectly cast and giving great performances. It's all much the same here. But.
Everything worked less effectively. The laughs are too reliant on the charms of the stars (and most of the jokes appear in the trailer), the story is convoluted, the villain is not as interesting (though Jared Harris was quite good, I never felt like Moriarty was particularly intimidating), and because there is a desire to keep the audience informed, the confusing elements of the plot are explained in several mini reveals. Rachel McAdams was miscast in the first film - and her subplot wasn't particularly interesting - but Noomi Rapace also has very little to do here. She plays a gypsy card reader swept along for the ride because her brother is believed to be tied to Moriarty. It's odd because it feels like the skills of Downey Jr. are somewhat wasted here, but none of the supporting cast are memorable either.
The back-and-forth banter between the duo remains, which makes things fun, but the prevalence of Holme's brutal scuffles and involvement in intense shootouts has increased. Following the halfway mark, the story loses some of its baggage and greatly improves, but by then the action sequences have grown tiring and the film's immense length (129 minutes) begins to make itself known. I would be surprised if any viewers who were displeased with Ritchie's vision for Sherlock Holmes will find anything to admire here. Fans of the original might also be disappointed by this messy sequel that gallops along at a directionless and nauseating pace, throwing in senseless shootouts, endless chase sequences, ludicrous disguises and Holmes revealing as fast as he can both how he intends to take down a foe, and his prior involvement in an unexpected series of events.
While the first one actually produced some surprises; it was fascinating to see the case come together, and was more focused on Holmes' problem-solving than his physical prowess (which I find to be unfathomably capable), this one seems to be committed to keeping the audience informed of the plot developments, which is necessary because it is often confusing - but also throws in a series of oddly-placed references. For example there is one occasion where Stephen Fry (who plays Sherlock's brother Mycroft) talks about marriage to a woman as being something ungodly, while Holmes' smeared lipstick in one scene makes him look uncannily like Heath Ledger's The Joker. The whole gag with the pony was also really forced - and it was something I perhaps forgave Ritchie's first film for, but it all just feels too cartoonish. Sure, we aren't meant to think too much into the ridiculousness of the plot and Guy Ritchie's goal is to give the Holmes mysteries a blockbuster appeal and entertain. It is fun at times, but with the exception of the climactic chess game (which was fantastic, but lost impact because it was the second film involving a face-off between the hero and villain by way of a chess game I saw that month - the other being Tower Heist) I found this to be a fairly average sophomore affair.
My Rating: ★★1/2 (C+)