In this second film directed by Guy Ritchie about Sherlock Holmes, much the same things that amused or irritated me the first time do the same again this time.
The game of shadows referred to is Holmes' duel with his nemesis Moriarty, who was only mentioned briefly in the final minutes of the first film. Appearing again this time briefly herself is Irene Adler (Rachel Mcadams), who after introducing us to Moriarty disappears totally after the film's Prologue. Dr Watson (Jude Law) returns and there is also Mycroft,Sherlock's older brother,played by Stephen Fry, adopting his usual pompous know it all persona. Mycroft with a patronising tone even addresses his younger brother as 'Sherly'.'Sherly' himself is played again by Robert Downey jr,and appears even more dishevelled and unshaven than he was before, going out of his way to be visually unlike the traditional version of Conan Doyle's Holmes as possible. The plot involves Holmes and Watson,along with a gypsy fortune teller, tracking Moriarty around London and Paris, as buildings blow up and war between France and Germany is threatened. It climaxes with a chess game between Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls,and those who know the original stories will know what else to expect there. Finally,as Watson,the narrator,types the end to his version of events, we get a not totally unexpected surprise, and how it came about we won't know presumably until the third film is made. Then again those who know the original will have an edge.
The plots of any one of Doyle's short stories have to be stretched too much in adaptation to accommodate the epic spectacular action that these films contain. In this film we get a much altered as well as an elongated version of Conan Doyle's The Final Problem, along with elements from The Empty House, and Holmes' Chinese disguise from The Man with the Twisted Lip thrown into the mix, with Mycroft,Irene Adler and much else I probably did not recognise.However, the action is much less unbelievable and a bit more realistic than the first film. Despite many fights only once this time does Holmes fall out of a tall building and get to his feet with a mere scratch, and to our relief Watson's new wife on her honeymoon does not drown when she is deliberately thrown by Holmes out of a moving train into a river. As Holmes himself comments on her miraculous survival, it was well timed that Mycroft was in the right spot on the river to rescue her just after she entered the water.
Ritchie and his producers are proud of what they call the style of both these films. By style I think they are referring to Downey's scruffy Holmes portrayal, jaunty violin music that accompanies fights or destruction, and a constant stream of banter from Holmes, and now sometimes Watson and Mycroft,commenting on the action. The producers on the DVD extras are most proud of the camera work in the fight scenes, where the slow motion,Stop/start freeze frame photography allows us to anticipate Holmes next move in any fight,and of course makes the actual fight itself look more spectacular as well as transforming a presumably boring bout of fisticuffs into a lengthy epic battle. It is some elements of this style, that made me feel I was watching a Victorian version of a James Bond film last time, and although it is unlikely that Stephen Fry read my comments on the first film,he makes a similar comparison himself between Holmes super villians and Bond's Blofield on the DVD extras, as I did in the review of the first.
Like the first film, much of this,even the overdone bits are enjoyable in their own way, but I am continually irritated by one thing. The character of Holmes is a thinker and a problem solver of genius,and although he is often referred to as such in this film, this Holmes hardly ever gets a chance to demonstrate his special skill,in between cross dressing, explosions, punching out villains, and flirting with Irene Adler. This is a Holmes that might exist in an alternate universe, but it reduces him to an action hero like a thousand others. By calling their character Sherlock Holme, Ritchie and the others have made two financially successful films with their sometimes loose association with characters derived from Conan Doyle. One wonders if their films would have been as equally successful had the character been called something else like John Smith or even John Carter.
Call the main character in this film by some other name and I might give him more respect.