British director Guy Ritchie, who previously directed Snatch (2000), RocknRolla (2008) and Sherlock Holmes (2009), really knows how to make a film look beautiful. Visually, the Sherlock Holmes sequel is a creative treat to watch. Here he has blended two of his favorite styles of influence; Steampunk and Gypsy culture. The set design, the art direction, the costumes, all have a Victorian era Steampunkish look, and the dark blue hued lighting gives a sense of ominous danger and mystery.
The story is about two equally cunning and intelligent adversaries totally going at each other with their full capabilities. Testing their limits while matching wits and out smarting one another with each action set-piece, Holmes and Watson barely escape with their lives and that of their friends as they pursue the menacing Professor Moriarty across France, Germany and Switzerland.
The movie pits two opposing philosophies and visual styles against each other. On the one hand there is the genius criminal Professor Moriarty and his henchmen represented by the shiny dials and gears of Steampunk style industrial technology, and Holmes and Watson on the other hand, represented by the organic, rough, earthy and spontaneous passion and loyalty of the gypsy culture. They in fact use gypsies to aid them in their battle against the enterprising but morally corrupt Moriarty as they embark on a new mission across Europe.
The music score by Hans Zimmer is an exciting and heart pounding mix of authentic gypsy dance music with violins and flutes, and a Steampunk clattering of percussion, resulting in a feeling that’s both fun-spirited but lethal.
If you liked the pre-visualization sequences from the first movie, where Holmes calculates all the possible moves of an adversary in his mind before it happens in slow motion, you will love this movie because Guy Ritchie has really stepped up the slow motion Holmes-o-vision device for this film to breathtaking effect.
This movie got mixed reviews from critics with many complaining about the over-the-top action and that this more physical version of Sherlock Holmes has no resemblance to the character of the Arthur Conan Doyle books. I think that if you are a fan of the traditional way in which Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed in British shows, you will find these new movies are a complete departure and re-imagining of the familiar pipe smoking, magnifying glass carrying detective of the past. But a newer younger audience will find these movies both exhilarating and also educational with lots of humor.
We are introduced to Sherlock’s brother, played by Stephen Fry, and we also gain a new leading lady in this film, who aids the hero and his partner, in the character of a very capable gypsy fortune teller, who’s pretty good in a fight, played convincingly by Noomi Rapace, from the original Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010). But what really pushed this movie over the top is its blending of visual styles, humor and the charismatic, engaging performances and chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law as Dr. Watson.
Here’s a list of other great Steampunk movies:
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Treasure Planet (2002), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Steamboy (2004), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), The Prestige (2006), The Golden Compass (2007), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), 9 (2009), Sherlock Holmes (2009), The Three Musketeers (2011)
Here’s a list of other great gypsy movies:
El Amor Brujo (1986), Time of the Gypsies (1990), Gadjo Dilo (1997), Exils (2005), Transylvania (2006)