Given the choice between watching this film again, and marrying Madonna, I would opt for another viewing – but only narrowly. Yes, it really is that bad. Certainly worse than the original Guy Ritchie movie which was an inexplicable hit a couple of years ago, and probably worse than Transformers 3. We're talking stinker.
I must confess to a conflict of interests here. I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes and regard the Conan Doyle stories as classics, and the character of Holmes himself as one of the greatest fictional creations of all time. So I take exception to public-schoolboy-turned-diamond geezer Ritchie helping himself to the legacy with no excuse except that of using the famous name. Robert Downey's Holmes bears about as much relation to the character as I do to Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the hands of Ritchie/Downey, Holmes is a kind of James Bond, forever engaged in unarmed combat or exchanging gunfire with assorted disposable bad guys. Meanwhile he conducts a moreorless explicit homoerotic bromance with Jude Law's Dr Watson – one scene in a railway carriage is especially camp.
The slender narrative thread running through this overlong movie is Holmes going head to head with Professor Moriarty, who in the Conan Doyle original is described as the Napoleon of Crime, a mathematical genius who controls all the criminal networks in London, and is above suspicion. As played by Jared Harris (son of Richard), he does indeed seem like a worthy adversary, if only the script had given him and Holmes a worthwhile means of dealing with their mutual enmity. But instead, he comes off like a 19th century Blofeld, planning to start a world war in order to make a lot of money via arms companies which he owns.
There is also an appearance for Mycroft, in the portly form of Stephen Fry, who takes a much more active role than the real Mycroft would ever contemplate, and is inexplicably required to perform one entirely pointless scene in the nude. Mind you, talking of pointless scenes, I think that description applies to virtually the entire film. It's a series of set pieces, mostly involving trains, fights, more trains, more fights and the occasional assassination. Nothing makes any coherent narrative sense; it's all just an excuse for superslomo camerawork, and juvenile banter between the two men. Maybe Ritchie thinks that is a kind of Butch Cassidy, but if so, he is sadly wide of the mark. Downey and Law are no Newman and Redford, and the script is a long way from William Goldman's wit and wisdom.
In the middle of all this, we find Noomi Rapace aka Lisbeth Salander, given nothing to do apart from standing around looking admiringly at the men, or dashing to their rescue when they once again get themselves into trouble. She must have wondered why they bothered to hire her in the first place, since she was given almost nothing worthwhile to do, but at least she didn't have to starve herself to death.
I suppose there'll be an audience for this, of people who are easily pleased, and regard action/comedy – however ineptly performed – as a good night out. I would recommend a rereading of the stories which have everything that this film and its predecessor lack.
Front Row Films
Content supplied by the excellent Front Row Films website – check the site and join up for many more reviews and general all-round film goodness.
'Sherlock Holmes 2: Game Of Shadows' is showing now at The Aubin Cinema in Shoreditch. For screening times and to book your tickets check their website here.