Knee-jerk review: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"

1. Like the first movie, the plot can be impossible to follow. Sure, you'll understand the broad strokes of the story. But connecting the dots in a he's-doing-that-because-of-this way is often impossible. The action will shift locations, a new character will pop up, something important will happen and you'll hear an ominous music cue, and you won't understand any of it. So you'll just sort of have to go with the flow.
2. Not happy at all with the first act turn that does something dastardly to a character played by a Future Ex-Mrs. Cheese Fry.
3. Some pretty good action bits, especially the train sequence. But this is a movie that likes to chop up the fight scenes into little staccato chunks (perhaps the better to hide the fact that it's stuntmen doing the hard work rather than our actors). It's exciting and energetic, but also disorienting and confusing in a Michael Bay sort of way.
4. There is a certain novelty to an action movie set in 1891. Take this same story and put it in contemporary times and it wouldn't be as interesting.
5. Also a big help: the wry British humor.
6. The first 40 minutes or so is a tedious drag. The exposition and chit-chat goes on and on. Things perk up once Holmes meets his match in Professor Moriarty. Always good to have a villian who is the equal of the hero.
7. We don't think it's going to happen, Noomi Rapace. Sorry.
8. Lame Pulp Fiction ripoff. Points deducted.
9. We do like the bits in which Holmes uses his deductive reasoning.
10. But we hate the inclusion of Holmes' daffy brother. A big distraction who doesn't fit the rest of the movie.
11. Interesting theme involving the way technology is intertwined with war. For a story set at the turn of the century, but still many years away from the meat grinder of World War I, it makes perfect sense that so much is made of the growing war-making industries, especially a running gag in which the characters find bigger and bigger guns to use against one another. The days of knife fights and fist fights are coming to an end.
12. Robert Downey Jr's zippy chemistry with Jude Law remains the reason these films work as well as they do.
13. Unlike the first movie, this movie's climax doesn't feel like a cheat. Good fun, especially the final scene.
14. Tough decision as to whether it's really worth paying a movie admission or waiting to make it a DVD rental.

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