It’s 1891- tensions between France and Germany are rife, as World War I is nigh due to bomb blasts in both countries and the death of political figures. But who is behind it all? Not to worry, Holmes and Watson are on the case. The dynamic duo are back after their 2009 outing with ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows’, this time they’ve brought with them Lisbeth Salander, er... Noomi Rapace along for the ride as Gypsy fortune teller Sim, along with Stephen Fry, as Holmes’ brother Mycroft who isn't afraid of a little nudity.
The team are after the elusive Professor James Moriarty. Rumored after the first film to be played by Brad Pitt, the character is now out in the open (and sadly, he’s no Brad Pitt). Instead, the ever talented Jared Harris (‘Mad Men’) plays the genius/warmonger, a prime nemesis for our borderline sociopath/hero Sherlock Holmes.
What happens when a genius must battle another genius? A war of wits becomes apparent. But that’s the point. It’s Fist vs Mind. The former is used too much, almost appearing to be filler material in a story about smarts, while the latter is underused. There are only a few choice scenes between our competing virtuosos where their mutual respect and impressive intellect become truly engaging (personal flashbacks to ‘The Princess Bride’ were inevitable).
Ritchie once again squanders the chance to make a truly great Sherlock Holmes tale in place of speed-shifting action sequences, flashy slow motion brought to you by Holmes' precognitive abilities and Ritchie’s penchant for making things go boom. Ironically for a director and character both with severe ADD, the majority of scenes play too long and the signature banter between Holmes and Watson fast becomes tiresome.
Ritchie once again squanders the chance to make a truly great Sherlock Holmes tale in place of speed-shifting action sequences, flashy slow motion brought to you by Holmes' precognitive abilities and Ritchie’s penchant for making things go boom.
However, Downey Jr once again plays the roll he created, taking almost nothing from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original, with a slick style and grace few can pull off. He’s buff, with a wickedly wry sense of humor and a sense of fun he tries to impart on his sidekick Watson (Jude Law). Moments of humor come in the form of Holmes’ efforts to perfect his herbalism and another project he dubs “urban camouflage”.
The film's convoluted story employs three female characters and wastes them all. Dr Watson gets married and his new bride is quickly thrown off a train. Rachel McAdams is also given leave all too quickly (my guess; tying up loose ends from the first film). Then there’s the newcomer to the fray, Sim (Rapace), desperately searching for her brother and who shares more (unintended) on screen chemistry with Watson than Holmes.
The take away from the first of many sequels hitting our screens this year: ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows’... same same but different.