In this latest installment (and here’s hoping there will be more), his sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), is getting married, and Holmes grieves at the loss of his partner, who also acts as his emotional anchor, since without Dr. Watson, Holmes seems to fly off into some mental stratosphere populated by the genius/crazies, bumping from flight of fancy to near-lunacy.
Holmes’ nemesis is Professor James Moriarty, a brilliant astronomer who also has a shadowy side: to quietly buy up some munitions businesses, causing a little anarchy in the 1891 political world, in order to scare governments into arming themselves, so he can supply the armament. Greed, exacerbated by arrogance.
Holmes and Moriarty are bitter enemies, each determined to overcome the considerable influence of the other. There’s lots of collateral damage, which extends not only to their friends and families, but even to the Gypsy camp which they manage to enlist as allies. It’s all complex to the point of bewildering, but that’s part of the charm.
Noomi Rapace makes for a convincing Gypsy, and Jude Law an endearing Watson. There’s a nice cameo by Rachel McAdams, and Jared Harris is downright menacing as Professor Moriarty. Director Guy Ritchie gives Downey and Law the room to interact manically, even maniacally, but he seems to be enamored of a rapid-sequence, sweeping-camera kind of movement that is literally dizzying. Combined with the slow-motion action sequences, the cinematography is downright distracting, which is a shame, because it’s otherwise a playful romp through an entertaining literary classic.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.