The first recent Sherlock Holmes film rather cleverly updated the characters into a setting suitable for modern audiences, weaned on action, flash edits and extreme slo-mo.
It was inevitable following the success of the first film, that director Guy Ritchie would be encouraged to produce a sequel therefore allowing for a three film arc.
Most audiences would agree that more of the same with Robert Downey Junior essaying Sherlock with his trusty Dr Watson (Jude Law) would be no bad idea. Here, more or less on schedule and complete with the now obligatory extended titling, we have the second outing.
After a lengthy prologue we establish that seemingly random assassinations in Europe are perhaps connected to Professor Moriaty (Jared Harris), aided in this endeavor by his accomplice Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who is now somewhat compromised by her relationship with Holmes. Meanwhile Holmes is as usual on the very edge of madness as he pursues his nemesis, leaving practical items like arranging Watson’s stag party very much on the back burner.
The story is set in 1895 against the pretext of war in Europe, an event that Moriaty positions himself to exploit rather than avoid, all that is needed is a strategic death here and there to push countries over the brink.
Holmes and Watson then pursue their quarry with the assistance of Mycroft (Stephen Fry), alarmingly naked for parts of the film and gypsy fortune teller (Naoomi Rapace), albeit with little to do.
Whereas the tone of the previous film was struck about right, mainly sleuthing with a dash of action. This film moves the balance to full on action with only the odd splash of sleuthing as a nod to Holmes real origins. The first hour, appears to verge on parody and is decidedly camp in nature, with almost pantomine performances as the bromance blossoms between Holmes and Watson.
A significant sequence on a train is well done but largely irrelevant to the plot and by the time we have Watson machine gunning foes in the style of Terminator 2, it is obvious Ritchie has deviated far from the sacred text. There is no question a reinvention was required but this was completed in the opening film and like Bond’s “Quantum of Solace” following “Casino Royale”, the sequel seems to have lost it’s way.
Overall the film fells bloated and whilst it retains many of the elements that made the first film fun, they are cranked up to 11 and tend to obscure the basic “rebooted” characters carefully constructed first time around.
Holmes looking like an ass on an ass will remain a trilogy low point whatever is served up in number three. Holmes is not Indiana Jones in the Victorian era and yet the action continues to push the character in that direction.
The sets, costumes and action sequences are up to a high standard with the Victorian setting a welcome change to modern action films. Ritchie’s direction is sometimes inventive, albeit literally in shadows on occasions. Harris makes a more than adequate villain, Law and Downey appear to be enjoying themselves but must have questioned the direction the script has taken them.
The final reel does show what the film could have been with some satisfying plot twists and mental games between the main protagonists. A frustrating glimpse at what the film as a whole could have achieved, with more thoughtful plotting and a more intelligent screenplay.
Not without merit but overall a disappointing film, which has overplayed much of what made the earlier film fun.
In this case not so elementary Watson, sometimes more of everything is just that, more.