First and foremost: go see this movie.
I don’t care what Yahoo! says about a movie slump, or that it didn’t get as much money as the first one. Doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that this movie lived up to, and superceeded the first. And that’s saying something, usually sequels are terrible.
Now, to be fair, I love Sherlock Holmes. I’m mad about him, I’ve read all of the short stories and own both compendiums, and I’ve watched almost every incarnation of the detective television and movies have to offer. Am I biased? Yes. Do I like movies? Yes. Do I know enough to tell you when I’ve seen a bad one? Yes.
Have I seen a bad one? No.
Now, do I think Robert Downey Jr. is the best? Yes. I do believe that he is as true to Sherlock as anyone could possibly be. Benedict Cumberpatch is there; but to be fair, I haven’t seen the entirety of the new Holmes to form an educated opinion.
Back to the movies.
A lot of directors have this idea that Sherlock is too far above anyone intellectually (he is) that he absconds from human contact or interaction, minus Watson and Mrs. Hudson. These interpretations are not necessarily wrong, but they’re not Sherlock either. In the books Sherlock is an ass, but it’s because of his intelligence. He’s smart. Really smart. The only other person who is smarter than him is Mycroft Holmes, and in true fashion, he doesn’t do much of anything except stay in his club and keep state secrets.
Sherlock has a love affair with cocaine because he falls into fits of melancholy and inactivity. Humanity bores him. And unless a case strikes him as “interesting”, he won’t take it.
He’s a picky, indulgent man and a drug addict (a fact which I was ecstatic to see they alluded to in the first movie and once again revisited in the second) but there’s a soft streak in him. He really does care about Watson, and the two maintain a very close friendship throughout the stories. Watson too, has been portrayed differently. From the bumbling fool, to the man who was really behind “Sherlock Holmes”, Watson has been every extreme. Which is silly. He was never an idiot, in fact he quickly became Sherlock’s protoge, getting to the point where he could deduce almost as well as the detective. Where previous movies have failed is in portraying Watson as a “sidekick” whose only purpose is to provide Holmes a spotlight for which to highlight his detective skills, a wrap up” of goings on so to speak, this movie succeeds in giving Watson his own character and his own idosyncracies.
He is, indeed, Sherlock’s doctor.
It is unfortunate that those who expect to go into any one of the Sherlock movies, do so with the idea that they’re going to just be entertained. In this, I think critics have got it wrong. Holmes was meant to entertain as well as make you think. There is nothing about Sherlock Holmes that screams “sit back and let me tell you how it happened.” In fact, the challenge lies in trying to figure out “whodunit” before the detective does.
Bonus points if you were paying close enough attention to figure out how the bad guy did it.
The movie opens up with Watson sitting at his typewriter, papers arranged in neat stacks beside him. Voiceover lets us know that things have happened to get us to this point, we just don’t know what yet. From there, the movie backtracks and we’re reuinted with the detective, who is a might bit busy in the business of being crazy. Formaldehyde is his drink of choice and he’ll take it straight, thank you very much. Watson has com to his oldest friend because it is his “stag” (bachelor to you Americans) party and Holmes was supposed to set it up. Well, nevermind that Holmes forgot, it’ll still be fun, right?
We’re quickly introduced to the plot from there; bombings in France and Germany, a world on the brink of war, and a missing man who may just be the key to the whole thing. At the centre of it is Moriarty, the veritable “Napolean of Crime” and the only man who can play Holmes’ game and win.
While the plot is cliche (World War One is a favourite of many a steampunk writer) the viewer can easily ignore it and still be delighted. Ritchie makes use of the “Matrix scenes” that have since had new life breathed into them by “300”, and reaches out for subplots with the understanding that the audience needs to be mentally engaged and “see everything” just like the detective. Whether audience’s do or not, depends on the level of surprise registered at the end of the movie. Robert Downey Jr. plays Sherlock like he was born for it, and Jude Law answers in his Watson. The two bicker back and forth like an old married couple and it is hilarious. Watson’s upcoming nuptials provide a great framing device for Moriarty and his nasty, nasty, temper tantrums and in true Holmsian fashion, the entire movie rests on the one thing you probably didn’t notice the entire time you were watching it. On the romantic side, the love interest isn’t really there. Which is fantastic, really. Holmes only loved one woman and, well, you need to watch the movie to find out what happens to her.
There is another woman in the show, and while she is a main character, she never gets into that “love interest” role. Which is just as is should be, concerning the material. Jared Harris is brilliant as Moriarty and is truly a match for the detective.
I can’t really tell you any more or risk spoiling the movie. Suffice it to say; I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s decidedly original in its take on the characters, perhaps a little too cliche where the main plot is concerned, brilliant in its execution, and if you know anything about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his love-hate relationship with his most famous and beloved character, the ending will make you grin from ear to ear.