Guy Ritche’s follow up to his gritty take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic sleuth is par for the course. Picking up where the first one left of it’s more of the same for Robert Downey, Jr. and crew, who are involved in another complicated caper involving Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty.
The first Sherlock Holmes took the detective in darker, yet humorous, territory. He’s made to be an imperfect man, a genius lacking many social skills and seemingly always on the verge of madness. It was an interesting take on Holmes that created a strong character film, while also cashing in on big action scenes. It may have not been the best of its kind but it was, at the very least, very enjoyable.
It’s sequel covers the same territory as the first, which is fine, but doesn’t seem to expand on the universe created in its predecessor. Unlike The Dark Knight, which has clearly influenced the style of Holmes, the character of Sherlock Holmes isn’t pushed towards anything new. He begins as the same Holmes from the first film and ends as the same guy. Sure, he comes to a few realizations but his whole character is set up on the basis that he’s acutely aware of everything that goes on around him, even if others think he’s quite insane. And when a character knows everything, despite acting like he doesn’t, what can he really learn?
Jude Law’s Watson is also the same. His wedding day is rapidly approaching and the film begins with him visiting Holmes to remind him to attend. Having already washed his hands of his unpredictable partner, he’s once again drawn into a new case against his will, if only because he and his newlywed Mary (Kelly Reilly) are as much a target of Moriarty’s ire as Holmes is.
As Holmes and Watson set out on what is supposedly their final case, they come across the gypsy Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) who’s brother is intimately involved with Moriarty’s plans and becomes a target herself. Another addition to the cast is Holmes’ equally intelligent but lazier brother Mycroft Holmes who helps when needed.
The cast are all fine, including Jared Hess as the evil Moriarty, but the film just plods along. It’s fun, sure, but never really peaks. The dialogue is unsurprisingly witty and the action scenes steal a bit from The Matrix school, but Ritchie does pull off a clear and somewhat original vision for his film. It’s hard to knock the “darkness” of the film, now that everyone is trying to play The Dark Knight game but unlike many other franchises, the gritty feel fits the Holmes stories well. It’s not that Ritchie and company don’t create a wholly entertaining film, they do, it’s just that it feels uninspired. While not similar to the first in a beat to beat fashion (The Hangover Part II?) it doesn’t seem to be doing anything new or different than the first. It’s just a good, enjoyable action film and that’s OK.
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