It may be difficult to overcome for a Doyle fan to overcome, but in the end modern-day Hollywood is to blame. They would rather see characters explode than develop.
It is obvious that this film is for mere entertainment purposes only and doesn’t intend to follow any of the original short stories whatsoever, and for good reason too. According to acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert, “A great story does not always make a great movie.”
Ritchie purposely misrepresents Sherlock Holmes because the original Sherlock Holmes would make a boring movie. A stiff and proper Sherlock Holmes pondering a case in a scientific and civilized way wouldn’t fill the box-office like a Holmes wearing ridiculous disguises and being shot at while running through the streets of Victorian London (not to mention Paris, Germany and Switzerland).
Like the previous film in this series, the highly perceptive intellectual Sherlock Holmes (Downey, Jr.) and his housemate/friend/accomplice Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) must prevent the end of Western civilization. The duo must battle Holme’s arch nemesis and one that was briefly shown at the conclusion of the first film, Professor James Moriarty, played by Jared Harris.
The film opens with some good action and the start of all the conflict; major world and industry leaders being systematically killed off. Holmes quickly finds out that Moriarty is behind all this and is discretely acquiring major resource companies around the world and trying to start a World War. But why? For the sole purpose of profit. Fortunately, the plot is not that simple.
Director Ritchie throws in some twists, personal conflicts and more importantly, new characters. We are introduced to Holmes’s equally ridiculous and quirky brother, Mycroft Holmes, played by V For Vendetta’s Stephen Fry. Apart from a few awkward scenes of nudity, Fry’s character is believable to being related to Sherlock. We are also introduced to new female character. The original Girl With A Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace emerges as the new strong female lead, one that, similar to Holmes, has a personal vendetta against Moriarty.
While the 2009 film had the word pacing in its vocabulary, the 2011 sequel does not. It just races through immense settings and over-the-top action scenes. It explodes with violence, wit, evil and overall, good filmmaking. As stated above, Ritchie uses some great filming techniques to increase Holmes’ perceptive image, for example, during the action scenes, we get a look into the strategies of how Holmes will defeat the enemy. He offers a tutorial-style play-by-play of what weapons he will use and how and when he will use them.
One particular aspect of the film that I questioned was the storyline behind the mischievous character of Ms. Irene Adler, played by Rachel McAdams. Although I’m not going to give away any plot twists, I would have liked to have had more information about her character. Irene’s personality, one that I like to compare to Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman in the Dark Knight Rises, is one of sensuality, power and thievery. I wish I could say that Catwoman was as useful to Batman as Adler is to Holmes, but she is not. I was disappointed to see her name at the top of the film artwork and yet have such a small role and vague story details.
Overall, the film was excellent. It was entertaining, funny and had very few dull moments. Ritchie and composer Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Dark Knight, Inception) delivered an amazing soundtrack, one ranging from light frivolity to heavy percussion and even excerpts from the Commendatore Scene in Act 2 of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (also seen in the film Amadeus).
This sequel did not have those cheesy romantic scenes where the characters, always during moments of great peril, have a dramatic embrace or kiss. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows did not try to be more than entertaining. Ritchie knew what the people wanted, and delivered.