Before Guy Ritchie's original Sherlock Holmes came out I was as sceptical as can be. It looked absurd and I just couldn't understand how anyone could picture Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character in this way.
Holmes and Watson physically kicking butt like a couple of badasses? I didn't get it.
Then I saw the film and, against my own will, enjoyed it enormously. Sure it was ridiculous and very silly throughout... but in a good way! Clearly Ritchie and the gang were having a ball making their own balls-to-the-wall macho version of the iconic sluth and it showed. No doubt die hard fans of Sherlock around the world were facepalming their way through it but it's hard to deny how trashily entertaining it was. Besides, the Jude Law/Robert Downey Jr. team-up worked perfectly and the relationship between these guys saved the movie from being just a clusterfuck of kicks, punches, oofs! and arghs!.
Now here comes the sequel: same director, same cast (with fresh additions), same awesome score by Hans Zimmer, new bad guy, new adventure. Lots to look forward to. And with the ground for the film all laid out in the previous one, it should be a breeze.
And yet, it takes a lot to drag the good stuff out of this sequel.
It opens on a rather long scene introducing Holmes, his goofy new disguise, his spider-sense (and constant ability to see into the future for a split second), Rachel McAdams and Professor Moriarty's new dastardly plan. Downey Jr. is in good form and does his best to make those scenes work but it all falls a bit flat. Thankfully, it quickly picks up pace and becomes involving once again. Irritatingly though, the first act delivers exposition in a hardly subtle way making the final act just a tad predictable.
Gee, do you think that adrenaline shot introduced quite bluntly early on and given to Watson as a 'wedding present' will come in handy later?
And how about that random morph suit Sherlock wears as a joke at one point, do you think there'll be a call-back to that, say, near the end?
Oh and what about that weird apparatus found about halfway through on Mycroft's table which Sherlock makes a point of inquiring to his brother about?
Because as we all know, Sherlock Holmes always asks people about what things are. What's he meant to do? Deduce? Don't be daft.
He's Sherlock Holmes!
Anyway, Noomi Rapace, fresh of the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo franchise, pops up and although she feels like a fleeting character, somehow she remains until the very end. I was sure that once she'd done her bit, in this case handing over some letters to Holmes, we'd be done with her but oddly she just tags along and sadly serves little to no purpose after that. It's a bit of an annoying flaw. Hell, she spends most of the movie just sitting around eating and drinking, and in the end Watson sorts shit out without her help! It's a shame: she looks great and would have been more than capable had she been given a better story to work with but as it stands, she's a non-event.
Stephen Fry also appears as Sherlock's brother Mycroft. He has his minor uses but is mostly reduced to comic relief which feels hardly necessary seeing as Holmes and Watson themselves have enough playful banter to fill up the whole of Big Ben. Fry's effortlessly good although the sight of him naked during an entire scene made me wonder what movie I was actually watching. Thankfully, the film boasts a terrific villain in the ever chilling Jared Harris who makes a perfect Moriarty and a worthy adversary for Holmes: he's consistently spot-on and you do end up wishing there hadn't been so many distractions from the character.
The middle part of the film is a bore.
The plot is essentially blindingly simple but needlessly complicated for the sake of portraying Sherlock's finds as more substantial than they actually are. It gets to a point where some big-ass gun battle is taking place in a forest and our heroes are just running around in super slo-mo dodging bullets and trees.
Miraculously, the film gets better really quickly after that and delivers a thrilling third act which reminded me of how much fun the original film was. Had this amount of energy and this consistent a pace been carried out throughout the whole film we could have had the best of the two but instead we're left with an uneven, messy entry. It is, however, very watchable and many parts of it are really entertaining, it's just a shame it runs out of steam so soon and finds itself again so late.
In the end, is it a "Game Of Shadows" worth playing?
Yes, especially if you enjoyed the first film. Do check it out, just don't expect too much. And if you're a Noomi Rapace fanatic...
Bring a book.