Guy Ritchie has made a very descent adaptation of the more than famous detective in this sequel to the 2009 outing. I must admit (to my personal detriment, I know) that I have neither read the books by Doyle nor seen the first of the films which have been made recently.
Brutally speaking, I did not care for the characterisation of Holmes or Watson; my opinion only and probably unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, I was enraptured by Noomi Rapace’s performance as Sim the Gypsy, especially the way in which she conjures the precise expression and posture of her character. Stephen Fry, especially naked, was a sterling addition.
The way in which Holmes thinks through fights before he has them makes the film dependably fun; though when it had finished, it didn’t give me the impression that it would become solid classic, as was the case during the close of Natural Born Killers, for example. The interpretation of the original work and the extrapolation which the film-makers have constructed is an outrageous one, but the movie doesn’t pretend that this isn’t the case.
When the film’s fighting began, I was concerned that the whole movie would be a case of the camera being shaken to give the impression of movement rather than of genuine movement on the set, but the opposite transpired. As the film explicated, the camera work included shots which made it visible to the audience when the actors executed the almost imperceptible movements which betray an emotion, the closest of close-ups, and what I, a layman, would call ‘normal’ camera work where the former are not required. In one scene where the main characters are running, pursued by bad people, the audience is shown disorientating, fast action until the point where a certain detail is important, then the film slows to bullet-time so that the viewer can appreciate splinters flying and bullet impacts as they happen.
The Pulp fiction reference was interesting, where Watson administers Holmes with an injection to the heart, and the patient snaps to life instantly screaming and moving around the room in a deranged fashion, unfortunately Robert Downey Jr.’s performance isn’t quite up to the Uma Thurman standard. Also, ‘grow to a crescendo’; interesting script-writing there, in that crescendo describes that act of something growing in volume — meaning that the sentence is a sort of half-tautology.
The film’s soundtrack was functional and worked, as it should, to heighten the action when needed. It was interesting in that, just before the opera scene, the film score quotes the Statue’s theme from Don Giovanni, the scene which is featured minutes later in the film. Strangely, it is the character of Holmes which reminds me most strongly of the character Don Giovanni — the vain and insensitive nobleman, I don’t know whether they chose to feature this scene because it marks Giovanni and Holmes’ lowest points, or because it is a very famous scene from Mozart’s opera. While Holmes and Moriarty are playing chess during the climax, the film music is a rising melodic minor scale giving the audience an interesting conflict, in that the scale effectively combines the minor and major tonalities, negative and positive (to evoke a gross simplification) — Moriarty and Holmes.
Overall, the film had inertia and was fun, but lacks that material which would make it a solid classic. However, the task of making a solid classic is an esoteric one, and success is rare, so chinchin Guy Richie and all the rest.