At the end of the previous movie, Professor James Moriarty(Jared Harris) received the remote triggering device from Miss Adler(Rachel McAdams). So the sequel opens up with a bomb blast in Europe. According to Dr Watson(Jude Law), when the world attributes the reasons for the mysterious bomb blast throughout Europe to anarchists, Sherlock Holmes(Robert Downey, Jr) has a different theory. So begins the intricate game between two brilliant minds to outdo another. Miss Adler is killed in the first few minutes of the movie and there are other characters like Mycroft Holmes(Stephen Fry), Madame Simza(Noomi Rapace) and Mary Morstan-Watson to fill the void.
In the sequel, Guy Ritchie expects the viewer to be familiar with the ways of Sherlock Holmes. So there is no voice-over while Sherlock Holmes evaluates his options when cornered by the villains. Hence the action is very fast, confusing the first-time viewer of this series. There are two enjoyable things about the sequel - the game of shadows between Holmes & Moriarty and the action scenes. The entire plot can be likened to a chess game between Holmes and Moriarty where both of them try to weaken the other by hitting where it hurts the most. Holmes tries to thwart the diabolical plan of Moriarty while Moriarty tries to weaken Holmes, physically and emotionally. The chess board also prominently comes into the frame at two places - when they meet for the first time and during the climax.
Guy Ritchie is brilliant while executing the action sequences because of the way he chooses to speed up certain segments and slow down others. On top of this, the judicious use of background score helps immensely. The two action sequences that stand out are when Holmes & party escapes from Moriarty's factory to catch a speeding train and the climatic fight between Holmes & Moriarty. When Holmes, Watson & Simza runs through the forest to catch the train dodging bullets and cannon balls, the motion slows down to highlight the speed of the bullets and destruction caused by the cannon balls. In the rush, Watson leaps into the air, apparently to avoid an obstacle, and a bullet grazes his coat. The emphasis is on the coat flapping all over the place and the bullet grazing. But how does a man with a limp execute a perfect leap? We don't ask that question because the visuals are too powerful. When Moriarty's man picks up the rifle to shoot, the music stops and all you can hear is him blowing air out of his mouth before he takes a final shot at the escaping party. The climactic fight happens in the mind of Holmes and Moriarty. So there is a lot of back and forth between the reality and the imagined fight. When Moriarty punches the wounded shoulder of Holmes, you are actually sitting up in excitement because of the way it is shot. While the action scenes are good, the flip side of the movie is the slow pace between the action scenes. Eventually, the movie ends up as a tedious wait for the next action scene.
Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law has already established themselves in their respective roles with the first installment in the series. They continue to do their act. They bond well on the screen. Robert Downey, Jr uses slapstick during action scenes reminding you of Jackie Chan. Jared Harris as the cool calculating Moriarty does his part well. Stephen Fry and Noomi Rapace has nothing much to contribute towards the movie.
Wait for the DVD. The action scenes are good. But that alone doesn't make it worthwhile to make a trip to the movies.