Robert Downey Jr. must spend an entire year prior to shooting the Sherlock Holmes series gathering all of his naughty, impish impulses just so when director Guy Ritchie yells "action" for the first time on set, he can unleash it, creating a Katrina-like flood (but with more of a steampunk influence). The best part of these movies is that all of his castmates seem to be having as much fun as he is, which makes both films bulletproof to any picky critique. The latest one is a jolly good romp--perhaps even better than the first.
In 2009, people came for the mystery and stayed for the bullet time, wisecracks and homoerotic undertones. So, in normal Hollywood style, with the moneymaking formula in place, they created this sequel that has even more bullet time, wisecracks and homoerotic undertones. However, the first film's convoluted storyline is downright obvious compared to this one. Is the movie about Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) working for Moriarty (Jared Harris)? Nope. Perhaps it's about who's behind random terrorist bombings? Sort of. Perhaps it has something to do with Moriarty's desire to even the score between he and Holmes, who continues to foil his plans? That's too easy. The questions just keep piling up. Once I sat back and just enjoyed all the gadgetry and the sight of Stephen Fry nude, I ended up having a much better time. There's no figuring this one out until the end, and the fun is in the discovery.
The visual wow factor is really high at every moment. You're either staring at a gorgeous, foggy forest where super slow motion is revealing every splinter of wood being shaved off a tree by bullets, or an enormous set piece crashing into another one, leaving normal non-Holmesy characters with little chance of survival. They spent a lot of money and time making this film look like a piece of art--you could easily hang a frame on your wall and say that someone told Francis Bacon to stop being so scary and look more like a Tool video.
Earlier I mentioned the film is impenetrable to criticism, but that doesn't mean I don't have any. Most importantly, Guy Ritchie, I think you made a beautiful movie that is quite exciting. Can I actually see it, please? All of the kung fu treachery is done with tight shots at breakneck speed. Ritchie gets points for attempting to make everything easier to understand by giving Holmes a moment of clairvoyance before every fight, where he foresees how it will go in slow motion before it actually happens. But when it does, a wide shot once in a while would be great. Thanks. My other gripe is that Noomi Rapace, who has been so interesting in the past, seems like an afterthought here. She does little more than throw a knife and help Jude Law accessorize. What a waste of a perfectly good gypsy--she doesn't even steal a baby. Who overlooked that?