Many people looked on the 2009 Sherlock Holmes blockbuster with scepticism as Guy Ritchie never seemed like the kind of director who would bring Sherlock Holmes back to the big screen and imagine the surprise when we discovered it was actually quite good. Both positive reception from audiences and critics made it inexcusable for a second film not to be made.
Sherlock Homes: Game of Shadows starts off where the first Sherlock Holmes (of this new franchise) left off with Dr Watson (Jude Law) due to be married to Mary (Kelly Reilly) however due to Sherlock (Robert Downey Jr) being himself, the happy couple are subjected to an attack aboard a train travelling to Brighton (which is the couple’s Honeymoon destination). These men were, obviously, sent by Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who is European master criminal plotting an evil scheme to bring an end to Western civilisation by pitting France and Germany together in a devastating war.
What helped the 2009 Sherlock Holmes be so successful was that the bickering chemistry between the two stars was great to listen to, luckily some of that chemistry remains in the second film of the franchise. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr are just as great together as they were the last time and, like the 2009 blockbuster, are the major factor that makes the film watchable. The chemistry of Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr and their aruging does prove to be the film’s best moments, they are funny, witty and enjoyable but while the two do bicker and snap at each other there is a high amount of respect shared between them, they care a great deal for each other even though both maybe are too stubborn to admit it. In addition to the great central performances there are also super performances in the supporting cast, Stephen Fry is hilarious as Sherlock’s brother (yes there are two of them and yes do you see PLENTY of Stephen Fry) and Jared Harris is a worthy match for Downey’s Sherlock as Harris’ villain is quietly psychotic. Moriarty is a match, intellectually, for Sherlock, a sworn enemy, a Napoleon of crime. However Noomi Rapace is slightly underused and Eddie Marsan is restricted to a mere cameo but he is the butt of a funny joke.
While the chemistry between the two stars remains mostly intact, Sherlock Holmes 2 is not quite as enjoyable as its predecessor. This is because, due to the success of the first, Ritchie has chosen to crank up the action to extreme levels. This takes away some of what made the first one so much good fun as, in the sequel, more time is spent focused on explosive set pieces rather than the amusing and always funny chemistry between the two stars. This would not be an issue if the action scenes contained tension but they do not, underneath the impressive and nicely choreographed spectacle is emptiness. The action scenes look great but are nevertheless empty and lack tension thus loses some of their power to excite. That’s not to say they are not enjoyable but I would rather watch Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson argue some more. The story‘s pace falters quite often and its one that quite easily be poked holes in and it’s not quite as interesting as the first one. However what somewhat overcomes the tensionless action sequences is the amusing aspects of the script and the visual gags. The visual gags include a pony’s desperate bid to keep up with the fully grown horses and the many disguises of Sherlock Holmes which he calls ‘so overt its covert’
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows retains much of what was in the first one, the scenes in which Sherlock thinks his plan of attack then acts upon those plans are still nifty, the beautifully GCI crafted Victorian cities are equally as stunning as they were before and the slow motion action sequences are again heavily employed by Ritchie. It is undoubtedly a trademark style of Ritchie’s but it is one that is so overused in Sherlock Holmes 2 that its rather annoying and tedious and just releases any tension built up. Yet while Sherlock Holmes is stylishly shot the slow motion shots just become too much of a gimmick that Ritchie seems to be under the impression that the slow motion shots are cool when they are not as cool as he believes them to be. These slow motion shots tend to slow down the movie’s pace (literally) and if you been to the cinema in the past ten years they are hardly technically impressive.
The script is well written and amusing as the two central characters bicker but there are quite a few large flaws namely the action scenes lacking tension and the pace occasionally faltering however the high calibre of acting on show and the brilliant chemistry between Downey Jr and Jude Law helps Sherlock Holmes to be an often funny and mostly exciting blockbuster and a worthy sequel to an excellent original. A second sequel seems a certainty.
3/5 (Only just, mind you)