The previous film with Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson was better than I’d expected. Turning Holmes into an action hero was obviously a bit of a stretch, but almost everything in the film had some basis in the original stories, and the plot involved a rather Holmes-like mystery. Also, casting someone with a substance abuse problem as one of literature’s most famous addicts wasn’t a bad idea.
This sequel, on the other hand, is more of a steampunk version of James Bond than anything to do with Sherlock Holmes. A lot of the film is made up of scenes that someone apparently thought would look cool or be funny even though they make literally no sense. There’s barely even an attempt at a plot, mainly a series of discoveries meant only to motivate a trip to the next scenic location. Moriarty’s diabolical plan is indistinguishable from that of SPECTRE in the early Bond films. They might as well have called him Ernst Stavro Moriarty and given him a white cat.
Noomi Rapace, the outstanding actress from the original Swedish versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo et seq, is pretty much wasted here. Kelly Reilly is very appealing as Watson’s new bride, but she isn’t given very much to do here, nor is Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, who is really treated badly. Worst of all, there’s a nude scene that doesn’t involve any of these admirable actresses but rather Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s smarter brother Mycroft. He’s quite good in the role when he has his clothes on.
Weirdly, a lot of reviewers liked this film better than its much more intelligent predecessor, something I’ve seen before with Spider-Man 2 and Superman 2, each of which has in common with this more action and less thought. It’s all in what sort of thing you like, I suppose. If what you’re after is fights, explosions, stunts, effects, suspense, and a few laughs, this film delivers. But I personally found it as big a let-down as Iron Man 2. I shall henceforth be suspicious of even-numbered films starring Robert Downey Jr.