Sherlock Holmes (film)

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A 2009 film directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong, that updates (or maybe restores) Holmes and Watson as thinking men of action. A sequel, A Game of Shadows, was released in December 2011.

When Holmes (Downey) and Watson (Law) interrupt a dark occult ritual and save a woman from being sacrificed, they find that the culprit is Lord Henry Blackwood (Strong). He's already killed five women in a similar manner and, before he is hanged, he claims to Holmes that he will kill three more times after his death.

Soon, Blackwood's tomb is found destroyed and his body is missing, sparking rumors that he has risen from the dead. Holmes has other problems, as well: Watson is getting married and is moving out, making the Blackwood case their last case together, and Irene Adler has shown up to hire Holmes for her mysterious employer.

A sequel in 2011 subtitled A Game of Shadows introduces Professor James Moriarty, a mathematician, former boxer and criminal mastermind behind a web of mysterious deaths and terrorist attacks across Europe. Holmes sets out to find out what he's up to but discovers Moriarty's mind is a match for his own, and a battle of wits across the continent begins as the two try to outsmart each other.


Tropes used in Sherlock Holmes (film) include:

Both films[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Action Girl:
    • Irene Adler.
    • Sim.
    • Technically Mary as well, if only for brief moment of awesome.

*While holding a gun on an assassin* I think it's time for you to leave (the train).

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adrenaline Time: An interesting version, as Holmes imagines at least some fights before starting, pointing out the weaknesses he'll exploit, and then we get to see the fight again in real time. This is applied interestingly later in the film; in every fight where Holmes gets his ass kicked, the Adrenaline Time sequence is absent, implying he lost because he forgot to think—or didn't have time to; formulating a rational plan is one thing when you're lurking around a corner hiding from a drunkard lookout, but more problematic when a giant Frenchman is bearing down on your arse. Essentially, it's his eponymous Sherlock Scan, weaponized.
    • Guy Ritchie even calls it "Holmes-O-Vision." The whole second movie subverts his use of his Holmes-O-Vision. In the original, his senses are always on cue but in the second, they're always disrupted by something (the first time he runs through a scenario, Sim simply throws a knife around his third or fourth planned move and the second time Holmes' attempt to dissect Moriarty's offense results in Moriarty mentally stalemating him at every turn, finally resulting in a theoretical loss for Holmes).
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Jr.'s portrayal is more socially challenged than our usual Holmes, had some weird eye contact moments, and was implied to have issues with sensory integration.
    • Guy Ritchie explains in the Blu Ray special features that part of Holmes' social short-comings is that he can't filter out the many clues he picks up in social situations, for example his disastrous dinner in the Royale.
    • In the second film he mentions that seeing "everything" is his curse, as a scene similar to that at the Royale is repeated at the peace conference.
  • Attention Deficit Ooh Shiny: The scene in the restaurant, Holmes' forgetfulness (even though that's often a ploy to get Watson to follow after him), and the way he seems more hyper than other incarnations, though not all. Downey's Holmes is just as frenetic as the Jeremy Brett incarnation, who would often crawl across the floor or fling papers in the air.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis:
    • Whenever he has the time Holmes will use his famous intellect to analyze his opponents, predict their actions, and plan out, move for move, the ensuing fight. In Game of Shadows, Holmes and Moriarty play out part of a chess match and then an entire fistfight in their minds. They both realize Holmes will inevitably lose the latter because of an injury, which is why he decides to drag Moriarty down Reichenbach Falls with him instead.
    • Partway through A Game of Shadows, expectations are subverted when Holmes plans out an elaborate fight with a Cossack assassin, and begins the fight in real-time, only for the gypsy woman to throw a knife at the Cossack.
  • Badass Bookworm: This side of Holmes being brought up is a big part of this particular adaptation. Watson looks more this part than Genius Bruiser, too.
    • Watson and Moriarty also count as very well-read gentlemen who know how to handle themselves in a fight.
  • Badass Longcoat: Holmes, Watson and Blackwood got one.
  • Bash Brothers: Holmes and Watson basically all the movie.
  • Bat Deduction: Averted. Sherlock's deductions are plausible and the clues to them are shown to the audience, it's just that you don't put it all together until he explains how he did such himself.
  • Batman Gambit: This is how Holmes' Awesomeness By Analysis fighting style plays out. Holmes can't account for every possibility, so he puts himself into positions where the most probable action by his opponent best suits his purposes. The audience has the benefit of sharing Holmes' foresight, while his opponents do not, and generally do none of the unpredictable things that could ruin his plan.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Irene gets dirty and a little bloody but her face remains unblemished. Sim at least gets a bloody nose in her fight with the Cossack and again while escaping through the woods. Both of them are surprisingly clean for the Victorian-era.
  • Berserk Button: Harming Irene in any way is usually this for Sherlock. Remember that he let Blackwood fall to his death and was willing to sacrifice his own life to kill Moriarty.
    • Similarly, harming Mary in any way is Watson's Berserk Button.
    • Threatening either Watson or Mary is also this to Sherlock.
  • Blatant Lies: Plenty of these by Holmes; they usually count as a Crowning Moment of Funny as well.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Holmes, as per usual.
  • Butt Monkey: Poor, poor Gladstone.

"Holmes, how many times must you kill my dog!?"

  • The Coats Are Off: Watson removes his overcoat (keeps his suit jacket on) before every fight.
  • Combat Medic: Watson
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Watson full stop. Holmes has some of this as well, being a master of calculated combat. When he uses the Sherlock Scan combo on his targets, it takes into account every reaction that the target would use; and shuts them down accordingly. The pragmatism in it is that it never lets the opponent get a hit in.
    • When Holmes is getting his butt kicked by the Chinaman, he doesn't hesitate to call on Irene to just shoot him.
    • In A Game Of Shadows, Watson is racing to Holmes' rescue. Except Moran is up in a lighthouse with a rifle and the light trained down Watson's only avenue of approach, keeping him pinned down. Then Watson realizes he's taken cover behind a naval cannon.

Moran: That's not fair.

    • Shortly after that, our heroes are racing through the forest with Moriarty's men on their heels, trading gunfire. The bad guys decide turnabout is fair play, and start using "Little Hansel". It's not clear what kind of gun it is, but individual shots are powerful enough to rip apart trees.
    • Holmes and Moriarty both make liberal use of this trope during their final confrontation in A Game of Shadows; Moriarty by repeatedly attacking Holmes' wounded shoulder, and Holmes by blowing sparks in Moriarty's face so that he can Take a Third Option.
  • Cool Shades: Holmes has a pair.
  • Clock Punk / Steampunk: Both Blackwood and Moriarty employ such devices, Blackwood building a cyanide gas spewing machine and Moriarty building time bombs and machine guns.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Holmes is not happy that Mary is diverting Watson's attentions from their partnership.
  • Crazy Prepared: Anytime Holmes looks like he's in trouble he's already planned a way out of it.
  • Creative Closing Credits: Images from the film are rendered as Victorian era-esque pencil illustrations. Much like the kind you might find in the occasional novel.
    • A Game of Shadows also has the actual text from "The Final Problem" (the story that the film is loosely based on) appearing around the illustrations and credits themselves.
  • Darker and Edgier than your classic Holmes adaptations.
  • Dating Catwoman: Holmes and Irene
  • Deadpan Snarker: Holmes and Watson seem to be taking part in a sarcasm competition.

Holmes: What of the coffin?
Lestrade: We are in the process of bringing it up now.
Holmes: I see... Hmm... Right. At what stage of the process? Contemplative?

    • Later,

Watson: She loves an entrance, your muse.

  • Disney Villain Death: Lord Blackwood seems set to fall victim to this with a rope and wooden planks dragging him off the bridge, but Holmes saves him. A part of the bridge's steelwork then collapses and Blackwood falls into a noose of chains.
    • Played straight with Moriarty in the sequel, as per the original confrontation.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Holmes puts a man in the hospital ("Physical recovery: six weeks.") for spitting at the back of his head. Granted, it was in a boxing match, but the moment before Holmes was about to step out of the ring and end the match.
  • Fake Nationality: Quite a few examples.
    • Obviously, Holmes himself is played by Robert Downey Jr., making him a Fake Brit.
    • Canadian actress Rachel McAdams plays the only major character who actually is American, oddly enough.
    • Dredger, the large French man from the first movie, is actually French-Canadian.
    • William Hope, a Canadian actor, played Standish, the American ambassador in the first film.
    • Noomi Rapace, a Swedish actress, plays a French gypsy woman.
  • Femme Fatale: Irene Adler.
  • Flynning: Averted hard. Holmes actually uses a form very similar to Bartitsu, but with Wing Chun boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jutsu and swordfighting introduced (the choreographer even called it "neo-Bartitsu"). The fighting in the sequel even more closely resembles historical Bartitsu.
  • Friend Versus Lover: Holmes and Mary.
  • The Gambling Addict: Heavily implied for Watson.
    • Confirmed in the second movie.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Holmes and Watson.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Cocaine is never mentioned in the 2009 movie. However, at one point Watson looks at some bottles, picks one up and says disgustedly, "You do know what you're drinking is for eye surgery." Cocaine was used for anaesthetic in eye surgeries in the late 1800s.
    • In the second movie Mrs. Hudson says that Holmes has been living on cigarettes and coca leaves. Guess what cocaine is made out of.
  • Go Seduce My Arch-Nemesis: Again, Irene Adler (see Femme Fatale above). Hired by Professor Moriarty to, among other things, seduce Holmes. A bit of an aversion, as it's implied that Adler and Holmes were already involved in some fashion, and Moriarty just used Adler's pre-existing relationship with Holmes to further his own goals. He also makes it clear at one point that it's more a case of Go Seduce My Arch-Nemesis Who You're Already Kind Of In Love With, Or I'll Kill Him If You Don't.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Mixed with a healthy dose of Combat Pragmatist, this is Watson's fighting style.
    • Holmes engages in a pit match.
  • Guile Hero: Holmes, of course.
  • Handicapped Badass: Watson is a very proficient and agile fighter both with and without weapons in spite of having a fairly pronounced (to the point of needing a walking stick) limp.
  • Hero Insurance: Played with; Holmes and Watson commit a few minor crimes (such as breaking and entering and withholding evidence) without receiving any punishment. However, after their investigation leads to the demolition of a shipyard and the earlier-than-scheduled launching (and not entirely unexpected sinking) of the ship under construction), Holmes and Watson spend the night in the pokey. This is apparently all the punishment they face. Then again, it's explicitly stated that powerful persons intervened to get Holmes out for the shipyard incident and considering that the end result of this investigation is the prevention of a gas attack on Parliament which would have killed most of the MPs and the government and a thwarted coup, it's little wonder that strings might be pulled to get him out of trouble.
    • The sequel later confirms that, as in the original novels, Holmes' brother Mycroft is "indispensible" to the British government, which would undoubtedly smooth such things over a bit.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Holmes and Watson.
  • Hot Chick in a Badass Suit: Irene Adler.
  • Hyper Awareness: Holmes sees, hears and even smells everything around him...

Sim: What do you see?
Holmes: Everything. Such is my curse.

  • I Drank What: Holmes drinks a bottle of a chemical intended for use in surgery in the first film and is chastised by Watson. A similar exchange occurs in the second when Holmes pours himself a drink from a bottle of formaldehyde.
  • I Know Karate: Holmes' proficiency in martial arts; specifically, the British modification of Japan's Jujitsu known as "baritsu",[1] taught by one Lord Barry. However, its application onscreen is liberally mixed with Wing-Chun Kung-Fu (Robert Downey Junior's primary style of Martial Arts) and a generous helping of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (director Guy Ritchie is a BJJ Brown Belt). Ironically, when Holmes fights a Chinese mook who also Knows Kung Fu, he doesn't fare so well, apparently being used to opponents who use Good Old Fisticuffs.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: There is an outstanding amount of "no one was hit" in both films, from both the good guys and bad. Which is exactly the way it usually is in a real firefight, especially with the era's relatively inaccurate guns. While there are more deaths in the second film, most of them are Red Shirts, and/or are at the hands of Sebastian Moran, the Cold Sniper Dragon.
  • Improbable Weapon User: See Applied Phlebotinum.
  • Improvised Weapon User: Watson's weapon of choice appears to be his coat combined with whatever he can get his hands on. And he manages quite well at it too.
  • Inspector Lestrade: The actual Inspector Lestrade, too.
  • Insufferable Genius: Holmes.
  • Kink Meme: Inspired one that went to 8000 comments in less than ten days.
  • Leitmotif: Holmes' signature sound is the plucking of violin strings. It shows up whenever he is doing some heavy deduction.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis:
    • Not invoked by the film itself, unless you count Mary's comment that Watson's journals would make interesting reading, but the film's divergences from the Canon can be handily explained by applying the standard theory that Watson's published accounts were somewhat fictionalized (with the film, by this hypothesis, showing the actual reality). Considering what happened to Blackwood's poison gas device (confiscated by the military), it's possible that Holmes and Watson were sworn to secrecy for reasons of national security. Hence, Watson couldn't publish this one. This would explain why he ends up sneaking bits of dialogue into other stories (see Mythology Gag).
    • The second film opens and closes with him writing a book.
      • Not just any book: "The Final Problem", the actual short story that A Game of Shadows is loosely based on.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Watson to Holmes.
  • Meta Casting: As in his earlier Iron Man film, Robert Downey Jr., a guy known for being a brilliant but troubled addict plays... a brilliant but troubled addict.
  • Misplaced Names Poster: The poster in the page image doesn't qualify, but this one does.
  • The Mockbuster: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes by The Asylum (The Asylum specialize in mockbusters), released in 2010 with Ianto Jones as Watson and Dominic Keating as Spring-Heeled Jack. Featuring Holmes fighting giant monsters.
  • The Muse: Watson claims Irene is this for Holmes.

Watson: [after Irene breaks cover, guns blasting] She loves an entrance, your muse.

  • Mythology Gag:
    • Many to the original canon, from re-appropriated lines, to Watson limping (and never running), to one or two references to cocaine use.

Watson: You realize what you're drinking is intended for eye surgery?
[from the second film] ...you're drinking embalming fluid?!

    • Mary quotes Watson as saying that his friendship with Holmes is "worth the wounds". Watson, in his narration of "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs", expresses a similar sentiment in similar words: "It was worth a wound - it was worth many wounds - to see [how much Holmes cares about him]".
    • Mycroft Holmes is also mentioned. In the second film he's an actual participating character.
    • Near the end of the first movie, Mary Morstan sees all of Watson's journals about his and Sherlock's adventure, and says she'd like to read them. This, of course, is a reference to how almost all the Sherlock Holmes stories are told by Watson.
    • Similarly, the second movie is bookended by scenes of Watson frantically typing up the stories. It's implied that Holmes' death pushed him into it; this is in accordance with the real-life publication dates of the first two volumes of Holmes stories, which were all published between 1891 and 1893, when Watson would have believed his friend was dead.
    • Irene's photo from "A Scandal in Bohemia", which Holmes asked the King of Bohemia to give him as a souvenir, is seen.
    • Holmes shooting the initials "V.R." into the wall, mentioned in "The Musgrave Ritual" as his idea of patriotic decorating.
    • The talk about how you could tell that a drinker owned a watch is from The Sign of Four, although it was a different context.
    • Irene cuts Holmes off before he can finish mentioning the details of "A Scandal in Bohemia".
    • Holmes' boxing matches is a reference to Sign of Four, in which a former boxing champion of England recognizes Holmes as an amateur who held his own against him a few years back. Additionally, both the boxer in the book and the film are named McMurdo.
    • The line "It does make a considerable difference to me having someone with me on whom I can thoroughly rely", which was given prominence in most of the trailers, is lifted wholesale from "The Boscombe Valley Mystery". The line, "There's nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact," is from the same story.
    • "Data, data, data! I can't make bricks without clay!" is similarly filched from "The Copper Beeches".
    • In a similar vein, "My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work..." is from The Sign of Four.
    • And "You have the grand gift of silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion." from "The Man with the Twisted Lip". Someone had fun.
    • Watson's injury was a Shout-Out to Doyle's indecision about whether the bullet hit the shoulder or the leg. Fanon has different theories as to which, with both being a popular choice.
    • The comments Watson makes about Scotland Yard's rugby match are a Shout-Out to A Study In Scarlet, where Holmes compares the officers to a herd of bison.
    • Holmes's reference to Don Giovanni is another reference to Fanon. Irene Adler was a contralto opera singer in "A Scandal in Bohemia", and some fans believe that Holmes frequented the opera in hopes of seeing her.
    • Holmes as a pugilist.
    • Holmes' use of disguise to sneak a peek at Irene's employer.
    • Conan Doyle described Holmes' fits of melancholy and many have speculated that Holmes was bipolar. Holmes seemed a little unbalanced at the beginning -- "Is it November?"—although this was mostly played for laughs.
    • "Sherlock Holmes Aides Police" is a shout-out to the several instances in the books where Lestrade gets the credit for a crime Holmes solves.
    • Watson's bulldog is canonical but little-known, being mentioned once in the first chapter of the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, and then never again (among those fans who remember the dog at all, it's often assumed that Watson sold it or gave it away shortly after moving in with Holmes). The running joke about Holmes testing anaesthetics on the dog is also inspired by a scene in A Study in Scarlet, although that involved a different dog, an aged and infirm terrier that was waiting to be put out of its misery when Holmes appropriated it to test a substance he suspected of being poisonous.
    • Holmes looks up at the ceiling when thinking, a habit described in the stories.
      • As is his absentmindedly plucking on the violin when deep in thought.
    • The film incorporates Holmes' line about keeping Watson's checkbook locked in his desk and adopts the interpretation drawn from that and other hints that Watson had a weakness for gambling.
    • A Game of Shadows unsurprisingly has quite a few to "The Final Problem." In particular, several lines of dialogue are lifted directly from the story:

Moriarty: Rest assured. If you attempt to bring destruction down upon me, I shall do the same to you. My respect for you, Mr. Holmes, is the only reason you're still alive.
Holmes: You've paid me several compliments. Let me pay you one in return, when I say that if I were assured of the former eventuality - I would cheerfully accept the latter.

    • And, later on:

Holmes: No possible solution could be more congenial to me than this.

    • Moriarty's monograph Dynamics of an Asteroid (from "The Valley of Fear," natch) makes a couple of prominent appearances in Game of Shadows.
    • His asking Holmes whether he has actually read the book may be a subtle one as well—in the stories, the monograph was so advanced that no scientist could understand it well enough to critique it. Especially considering that in "A Study in Scarlet," Watson makes a length of Holmes's strengths and weaknesses, noting that the detective knows absolutely nothing about astronomy.
    • The binomial theorem features on Moriarty's blackboard and as part of the key to the code in his notebook. In the books, his treatise on the binomial theorem, written at the age of 21, was the thing that won him his professor's chair.
    • There is a train chase in the original story, though it's SIGNIFICANTLY more...subdued.
    • The postcard from Holmes to Watson outside the weapons factory, "Come at once if convenient" and subsequently "If inconvenient, come all the same" is from the original Doyle story The Adventure of the Creeping Man.
    • Some street urchins are present at Holmes' funeral at the end of the second movie. The Baker Street Irregulars, perhaps?
    • Reichenbach Falls.
    • From the second film: the fake wax dummy of Holmes and the fact that Moran is still at large at the end and Holmes has been to his brother's safehouse (where he got the oxygen thingy) relate to "The Adventure of the Empty House".
    • The description of Holmes near the end of the second film, "He played the game for the game's own sake", is what Holmes says of himself in "The Bruce-Partington Plans" when it's suggested he might get a big reward for solving the mystery.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Trailers for both films basically consisted of all the comedic moments taken out of context inter-spliced with action scenes, making the movie seem like a spoof of Sherlock Holmes, starring Movieverse Tony Stark in 19th century England.
  • Noodle Incident: Apart from various Mythology Gags mentioned earlier, there's also the second time Irene Adler outsmarted Holmes (assuming the first was a reference to A Scandal in Bohemia). Whatever happened apparently involved a stolen diamond and led to Holmes and Adler sharing a room in the Grand Hotel. The fact that Holmes prepares to defend his life when Adler reaches inside her Victoria's Secret Compartment indicates that things didn't turn out well.
  • Perma-Stubble: The first time Sherlock Holmes has ever been depicted with it. You'll notice Holmes is somewhat more cleaned up after someone tells him to clean up. During the dinner with Watson and Mary, he is nearly clean-shaven... but not quite. In fact, his Perma-Stubble may be constantly on his face, but it is done realistically. No Bruce Willis here!
  • Private Detective: But of course.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Irene Adler... in the tradition of every single Holmes adaptation ever.
  • Public Domain Character: Duh.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Blackwood covers the inside of his cell with mystical runes and imagery. Holmes is less-than-impressed.

"You know Holmes, in another life you'd make an excellent criminal."
"Yes, and you an excellent policeman."

    • Related to this; Holmes will frequently ask to borrow something from Lestrade (such as a pen or a handkerchief), use it to do something rather unpleasant (such as poking at a corpse or messily blowing his nose) and blithely hand it back, much to Lestrade's disgust.
    • Holmes twice attempts to stealthily break into somewhere, only for someone to abruptly interrupt him by opening (or kicking down) the door.
    • Holmes drugging the dog.
    • One that spans over two movies "Get that thing out of my face." "It's not in your face, it's in my hand." "Get what's in your hand out of my face."
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Constable Clarky and Lestrade trust Holmes more than their chief officers.
  • Sequel Hook: The first film had Adler revealing she was working for Moriarity.
    • The second film had "THE END?"
  • Sherlock Scan: Holmes himself is in top form, of course, though one of his scans does get him in trouble with Mary towards the start of the movie. Watson shows how much he's learned as Holmes's partner by pulling off several himself (He's even better at it in the second movie). Holmes even manages to weaponize his scans: in his first Awesomeness By Analysis scene, as noted above, he notes that his opponent is a "heavy drinker" and aims a shot at his bloated liver.
  • Shirtless Scene
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: The depiction of London skews very strongly on the side of gritty.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Oh yes. Most conversations between Holmes and Watson are filled with snarky back-and-forth banter.
  • Spirited Competitor:
    • This is implied to be Holmes's general outlook, that he enjoys the chase and the intellectual challenges his work provides, and rejects cases that don't stimulate him."My mind rebels at stagnation, give me problems, give me work."
    • Further emphasized in A Game of Shadows, at Holmes' funeral, where his epitaph reads: "He Played The Game For The Game's Own Sake"
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted in both films. In the first, after the explosions on the dock, everyone's ears are shown to be ringing and Sherlock seems extremely dazed and barely able to stand, indicating possible damage to his inner ear. In the second, Watson takes care to put on ear mufflers before firing the cannon. Later on, it's shown in a first-person slo-mo shot that everyone is having trouble hearing, even their own yells, as they run through the forest trying to dodge the cannons and gunfire.
  • The Summation
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration: Courtesy of his Awesomeness By Analysis and Adrenaline Time, above.
  • Super Senses: Holmes's observations often seem like this.
  • Sword Cane: Watson's.
  • Trigger Happy:
    • Irene Adler's idea of an entrance is to start shooting and knocking people out.
    • Holmes could also be considered this too. Early in the film he was trying to construct a silencer and later in the film he empties his whole gun just moments after telling Watson to "save your bullets". Watson calls him on it.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Holmes and Watson with Irene in the first film and Sim in the second.
  • Victorian London
  • Video Credits
  • The Watson: A nice subversion occurs: Holmes asks Watson about a watch and Watson explains it, using his own deductive skills. Then it's revealed Holmes already knew everything Watson said.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What did Moriarty want that radio-control device he stole at the end of the first film for?
  • Will They or Won't They?: Irene and Holmes to an extent.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Holmes is a master, pitted against Blackwood's Magnificent Bastard and Moriarty's Chessmaster.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • In the first film, Holmes deduces that Riordan was killed as soon as his experiments were successful, for this reason.
    • Moriarty doesn't leave loose ends.
  • Younger and Hipper: The films have been called this, though the actors are actually a good ten to fifteen years older than Holmes and Watson would have been when their partnership began (Sherlockians generally place Holmes and Watson in their late twenties to early thirties at the start of A Study in Scarlet) and just a couple of years younger than Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce when they started in their roles.

Sherlock Holmes[edit | hide]

  • Action Prologue / In Medias Res: The movie starts with Holmes, Watson, and the Yard capturing Lord Blackwood after he murders five girls, and thwarts his murdering a sixth.
  • Affably Evil: Dredger—considering his interactions with Holmes generally involve them trying to beat the crap out of each other, he's unfailingly polite.

Holmes: "(in French) One moment, please."
Dredger: "(in French) I'm in no hurry." (and while he advances after saying so, he did let Holmes climb to his feet and speak)

    • Blackwood is also quite polite, not to mention charismatic. Which is of course part of his scheme, that he's a showman who makes his scientific feats look like magical conjurations.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: Holmes, Watson and Mary are relaxing after the case is over when P.C Clark comes by with a summons from Lestrade: a police officer has been murdered and a vital element of Blackwood's device stolen, and Holmes recognizes the M.O as belonging to a certain professor who's recently been brought to his attention.

Holmes: Clarkie... case re-opened.

  • The Antichrist: Blackwood deliberately invokes all the tropes associated with the The Antichrist—witchcraft, raising from the dead after three days, grand plans for World Domination, disciples, etc. In one scene, he's reading from the Book of Revelation about the biblical Beast.
  • The Apple Falls Far: Irene tries to cross a bridge at the climax only to find just in time that it hasn't been completed yet. A length of chain falls off the gap in her stead.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Holmes briefly uses a powerful electrode as a weapon which apparently needs to be charged with a hand-cranked generator.

Watson: What is that?
Holmes: Je ne sais pas! [subtitle: "I don't know!"]

    • To be more precise, this shocking device is perfectly possible (a powerful capacitor with two terminals). It is small size, and capability of delivering multiple shocks without reloading that makes it Applied Phlebotinum.
  • Almost Kiss: Sherlock leans forwards as if to kiss Irene at the end, then removes her stolen necklace instead.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Blackwood.
  • Art Major Biology: If someone is hanged there are physical signs—a broken neck or deep ligature marks from strangulation, bulging eyes, bowel failure, etc. Watson should have been just a little suspicious of Lord Blackwood's completely unmarked neck, at least.
    • Also the scene where Holmes blocks the chimney while talking with Lord Coward, slowly filling the room with smoke to escape. Both he and Coward keep speaking casually, even though with that much smoke around both should have been coughing their lungs out. Not to mention that Coward would have smelled the smoke sooner than he saw it.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Averted. Robert Maillet, Dredger's actor, is French-Canadian, specifically from Acadia. Incidentally, Dredger is also supposed to be French-Canadian—the actor's accent may have inspired this coincidence of nationality.
  • Ascended Extra: Irene Adler only appeared in one of the original Doyle stories ("A Scandal in Bohemia", where she was the antagonist), and Holmes only briefly encounters her in it. Here, she's upgraded to a major supporting character with hints of a romantic interest in Holmes.
  • Batman Cold Open: The opening action sequence.
  • Bastard Bastard: Blackwood was conceived out of wedlock during a magic ritual.
  • Batman Gambit: Blackwood's attempt to scare everybody into thinking he had great magical powers and thus he would rule England / the world. Of course, they may all be a part of the Evil Plan of Professor Moriarty by exploiting the confusion caused by Blackwood's plan.
  • Berserk Button: Blackwood needs Standish to try and shoot him so he'll become a self-inflicted victim of Kill It with Fire, so he drops a few threatening lines about conquering America while referring to it as a colony. Blackwood knows that Standish is a firm believer in Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?, and it works perfectly.
    • Never, ever, spit on Holmes.
  • Bifauxnen: Irene Adler dresses in men's clothing in some scenes, probably referencing how she managed to get past Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia", where she says that she dresses as a man to enjoy the liberties to which she was otherwise not entitled in Victorian England. She even calls her men's clothing her walking clothes. (Though she doesn't bother to hide her figure or remove her make-up at all - she'd never be taken for a man.)
  • Bitter Almonds: How Holmes discovers the nature of Blackwood's weapon.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Blackwood, in the opening scene, attempts to stab Watson with one made of glass.
  • Blindfolded Trip:

Sir Thomas: Mr. Holmes, apologies for summoning you like this. I'm sure it's quite a mystery as to where you are, and who I am...
Sherlock Holmes: As to where I am, I was, admittedly, lost for a moment, between Charing Cross and Holborn, but I was saved by the bread shop on Saffron Hill. The only baker to use a certain French glaze on their loaves - a Brittany sage. After that, the carriage forked left, then right, and then the tell-tale bump at the Fleet Conduit. And as to who you are, that took every ounce of my not-inconsiderable experience. The letters on your desk were addressed to a Sir Thomas Rotherham. Lord Chief Justice, that would be the official title. Who you really are is, of course, another matter entirely. Judging by the sacred ox on your ring, you're the secret head of the Temple of the Four Orders in whose headquarters we now sit, located on the northwest corner of St. James Square, I think. As to the mystery, the only mystery is why you bothered to blindfold me at all.
Beat
Sir Thomas:Yes well...Standard procedure.

  • Board to Death: What Blackwood intended to do to Parliament
  • Doomsayer: Crowds of of these are seen being broken up by mounted police outside the Houses of Parliament, indicating the "Panic, sheer bloody panic!" inspired by the villainous Lord Blackwood's return from the dead. One man really goes to town describing the terrible events to come.

"The end is nigh! Blackwood's come back from Hell, and laid a curse upon this land! He walks in every shadow, and every puff of smoke. Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every ene shall see him and every soul shall wail because of him! You cannot stop him! No one can!"

  • Brick Joke: In the beginning, after Blackwood has supposedly come Back from the Dead, Holmes says they have to investigate it to preserve Watson's professional integrity as "No woman wants to marry a doctor who cannot tell if a man's dead or not." It goes unmentioned until the final scene where Holmes is doing the summation of how Blackwood faked his death, and begins his explanation of how he didn't have a pulse by saying he will now restore Watson's doctoral reputation.
    • Also, during the Action Prologue, Watson gets the drop on a Mook about to strike Holmes and covers his nose to render him unconscious. After a moment or so, Holmes remarks that Watson is a doctor after all. Near the end, Watson has Dredger in a choke-hold and says "Relax...I'm a doctor" before Dredger finally loses consciousness.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Happens during the first fight scene, when Sherlock spots a mook coming towards him with a revolver and uses some fancy martial arts technique to maneuver the mook he is currently fighting into taking the bullet for him.
  • Cane Fu: Holmes, Watson and Blackwood are all proficient.
  • Captain Obvious: Blackwood's coffin is opened to reveal the midget's corpse.

Lestrade: "That's not Blackwood!"
Holmes closes his eyes in exasperation: "Well, now we have a firm grasp of the obvious."

  • Car Cushion: The 19th century version. A burning Standish falls out of a window on top of a horse-drawn carriage.
  • Chained to a Bed: Holmes, in a Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The mentions of the bridge that's being built at the beginning.
    • Also Lord Coward's shoes.
  • Chekhov's Armory: The "Ginger Midget's" lab and the flashes Holmes gets as he looks around. Arguably, with Holmes, the entire film.
  • Choke Holds: A thug sneaking up on Holmes is put in a blood choke by Watson. To prevent the Mook from screaming, Holmes immediately pinches off his nose and mouth. They chat for a bit and, once the thug has passed out, move on. At the end of the film, a big mook has to be slowly air choked because he's just too darn big for anything else.
  • Climbing Climax: The final fight between Holmes and Blackwood on the half built Tower Bridge.
  • Clipboard of Authority: Watson uses one to infiltrate a factory.
  • Connect the Deaths: In its use of this trope, it's a better adaptation of Alan Moore's From Hell than the actual movie of From Hell.
  • Conveyor Belt O' Doom: The slaughterhouse scene.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Among many of the technologies Lord Blackwood uses to simulate magic, the gas machine is a remarkable invention. Subverted in that Moriarty sees the value in the radio receiver and steals it.
    • The whole Blackwood plot, although haphazard at first, has a very practical goal: a coup d'état installing Blackwood's supporters in the highest seats of power.
  • Cutting the Knot: Holmes is trying to open a locked door with an array of lock picks. Watson merely kicks the door open.
  • Dark Messiah: Lord Blackwood would very much like to be thought of as one of these, and goes a long way towards convincing the entire country he is. But then, in the end, he actually isn't...probably.
  • Dark is/Not Evil: Everything connected with Blackwood is always associated with pure darkness. Also, Blackwood is always seen wearing a wicked-looking black leather trenchcoat while his minions wear dark cloaks. However Holmes himself is Tall, Dark and Snarky, and also dresses in gloomy black, complete with Sinister Shades.
  • Death Trap: Several... one for Irene, one for Parliament, one for Standish, etc.
  • Doing In the Wizard: At the end of the movie, Holmes beautifully deconstructs Blackwood's every known act of sorcery, explaining exactly how each was done via friends in high places, applied science, and plain old theatrics. He also notes that Blackwood had better hope the occult parts were all baseless superstition, since he did the rituals perfectly.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Blackwood and later revealed Moriarty.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the pit-fighting scene, Holmes gave up and walked away...at which point his opponent spat at the back of his head. The following No-Holds-Barred Beatdown / Curb Stomp Battle was performed solely so that the opponent couldn't spit at him again. The fact that Holmes had spied Irene in the audience a few moments before probably had a lot to do with that. He couldn't exactly look bad in front of her. Again.
  • Esoteric Motifs: The four murders planned by Blackwood correspond to the four classical elements:
    • Earth:Reordan is buried in Blackwood's dirt-filled coffin after being killed.
    • Water:Sir Thomas is drowned in his bath when when Blackwood sneaks a paralytic chemical into it.
    • Fire:Standish is burned to death when his pistol backfires.
    • Air:Everyone in Parliament is nearly killed by poison gas. Instead, Blackwood ends up hanging himself.
    • This is never mentioned, at all. Presumably they wanted to be careful around another recent movie that had coincidentally pulled exactly the same trick.
    • Additionally, the elements are paired with their opposites for each murder.
      • Earth:Reordan is buried in the earth and dies from a lack of air.
      • Water:Sir Thomas dies submerged in water that is heated by fire.
      • Fire:Standish is immolated by fire, hastened by the fact that he was soaked in a chemical he took to be water.
      • Air:Parliament would have been killed by poison gas pumped in from beneath the earth.
    • In addition, the four murders also correspond to four animals: the man, ox, lion, and eagle, which have various significances:
    • In The Bible, cherubim are described in the book of Ezekiel as having the faces of these four animals.
    • In early Christian thought, they represent the authors of the four Gospels.
    • They also represent the four classical elements, though their traditional attributions don't quite match up with the movie's elemental correspondences; namely, the eagle traditionally represents Water, but the victim in the movie who corresponds to the eagle is the Fire murder. Of course, since the eagle is also a symbol of America, it makes sense that the writers would have the American victim be the eagle, so that little bit of artistic license is pretty well justified.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: The scene where Dr Watson realizes that Holmes deliberately forgot his gun to get him to come along, then almost immediately heads off after Holmes; cue Animal Reaction Shot.
  • Everything Sounds More Sophisticated In French: The various fight scenes with "Dredger"
  • Evil Is Stylish: Lord Blackwood.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Lord Blackwood. Although, he does not actually have any powers, just common sense, sleight of hand, and a well-tuned sense of theatricality.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Dredger, the giant French henchman.
  • The Faceless: Professor Moriarty
  • Fandom Nod: In the extended preview (aired during the Monk series finale), there's yet another clip of the Holmes-Watson Vitriolic Best Buds routine, then a cut to Adler going "They've been flirting like this for hours." To the general public, a funny joke. To those aware of the Holmes/Watson-shipping fanbase, bloody hilarious. As it happened, this seems to have been a deleted scene referring to Watson's bickering with a boat captain.
  • Five-Bad Band: Split into two competing groups but otherwise fitting their roles.
  • Food Slap: When Sherlock implies that Mary is only in a relationship with Watson for his money, she pours a drink on him.
  • Futile Hand Reach: Watson does one of these towards Holmes right before the pier blows up.
  • Gallows Humor: A very literal example at the end, when Holmes hangs himself as a forensic experiment, but never stops wisecracking.
  • Giant Mook: "Dredger," Blackwood's giant French enforcer.
  • Genre Savvy: Watson at the very end, who enters his lodgings to find that Holmes has apparently hanged himself. While his fiancee Mary is shocked, Watson just rolls his eyes and snarks a little. By this time, he (and the viewers) knows enough to recognize this as yet another Sherlock Holmes experiment.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: See Orphaned Punchline and Holding the Floor below and keep in mind that Holmes tells this joke in jail.
  • Government Conspiracy
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Beneath this pillow lies the key to Sherlock's release.
  • Go Look At the Distraction: Holmes sends the officers to find where Sir Thomas kept his bath salts while he looks for Thomas's occult paraphernalia.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Blackwood makes his short drop for real at the end, we are indicated that he's dead not by seeing him hit the sudden stop directly, but by seeing the chain that ended up around his neck going suddenly taut.
  • The Group: An exclusive secret society that supposedly rules the British Empire and manipulates much of the rest of the world. Blackwood takes over and uses it to attack Holmes. Possibly subverted in that the group is likely not as powerful as it likes to think, given the failure of the parliamentary coup and the death of several of its members. Something of a deconstruction as well; the supposedly all-powerful and omnipotent secret society is ultimately revealed to be little more than a bunch of superstitious and ineffectual old men who'll let any old charlatan with a theatrical manner and some admittedly impressive conjuring tricks seduce them with dreams of power and glory.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Blackwood tries this on Holmes before his execution.
  • Herr Doctor: Holmes disguises himself as a German-accented doctor after Watson gets caught in one of the villain's traps and winds up in hospital.
  • Hikikomori: Sherlock spent two weeks without leaving his room. That's a very hikki thing.
  • Holding the Floor: When left in prison, Holmes avoids getting beaten up by fellow inmates by telling jokes.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Holmes is trying to build one early in the film, much to the annoyance of Watson and Mrs. Hudson. Somewhat subverted, since the silencer does not work. At all.
  • Homage Shot: The Establishing Shot of Baker Street is very clearly modeled after the opening credits of the Granada TV series starring Jeremy Brett.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Robert Downey, Jr.. and especially Jude Law, who cuts a very different profile from the typical image of Watson. Of course, when you think about it, he couldn't have been drawing in women on moustache alone.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "What was that about saving your bullets?"
  • Inherently Funny Words: Ginger Midget. Repeat as necessary.
  • Insistent Terminology: Reardon is a midget, not a dwarf. Holmes is correct about there being a technical difference, a midget has the same body proportions as the norm and a dwarf does not. For the time the movie is set this is correct usage. "Midget" being used as a disparaging term and applied to all small people was a later evolution of language.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Very mild, subtle example: Dr. Watson and Captain Tanner (captain of the tugboat Holmes charters) are constantly bickering in the scenes they appear together in. Watson is, of course, an old army man, and Tanner was in the navy...
  • Jack the Ripper: It is subtly hinted that Blackwood may have been somehow involved ("Those five girls were not the first to be butchered... no one could prove anything, but we all knew.").
  • Karmic Death: Lord Blackwood's entire scheme hinges on him cheating the gallows and escaping a well-deserved hanging. Guess what happens to him at the end...
  • Kill It with Fire: Sort of. Lord Blackwood tricks one of his enemies into killing himself with fire.
  • Lame Comeback:

Watson: Dinner at eight. Wear a jacket.
Holmes: You wear a jacket.

Holmes: Madam, I need you to remain calm. And trust me, I'm a professional. Beneath this pillow, lies the key to my release.

  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: If your title is Lord Blackwood, it's almost a requirement that you'll be involved in the dark arts. Also, Lord Coward. To the general public, a funny, jovial guy. And neither does Standish's name sound very antagonistic, in comparison to Coward's.
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: Pulled by Moriarty in the train car.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Professor Moriarty's signature weapon is a hidden gun in his sleeve.
  • Oh Crap: The look on Holmes and Watson's faces when Dredger walks into the midget's lodgings.

Holmes: (points to Dredger) Meat...(points to two other Mooks with Dredger) Or potatoes?
Watson: My 10 minutes are up. (cue awesome fight scene)

  • Oh, No, Not Again: "He's killed the dog...again!"
  • Outrun the Fireball: Averted. So very averted. As Team Holmes leaves a slaughterhouse, Watson pulls ahead and accidentally hits a tripwire. He realizes what's going on and tries to warn Holmes, so Holmes gets to watch his best friend get blown up. Then Adler. He then grabs a tray to use as a shield, and heads back to Irene while his shield is destroyed by the explosion. He picks her up, and they try to outrun the blast and save Watson, but get about two steps before they're both caught in it. All in glorious bullet time. And followed up by Shell-Shock Silence.
  • Orphaned Punchline: "...to which the barman says, 'May I push in your stool?'"
  • Posthumous Character: The Ginger Midget is dead before we even get to meet him, but the things he does in his experiments for Blackwood lie at the core of the film.
  • Punch-Punch-Punch Uh-Oh: Holmes vs. Dredger. It somehow manages to be played straight, subverted, and averted throughout the entire course of the film.
  • Ravens and Crows
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Tower Bridge is designed so well to blend in with much older nearby buildings (like the Tower of London) that some viewers were shocked to see its half-completed steel skeleton form the setting for the final confrontation with Blackwood.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Both Clarkie and Lestrade continue to trust Holmes after a warrant is issued for his arrest; Clarkie makes sure he escapes the police at the slaughterhouse, and Lestrade slips him the key to his handcuffs.
  • Red Herring: You know that sinister looking black bird? The one that manages to show up whenever Lord Blackwood kills someone by seemingly supernatural means? It's a perfectly ordinary raven, similar to those commonly found all over the UK.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Undertones in the main hero and main villain. Sherlock is very much Enlightened; believing in rationality and science, expressing awe and appreciation in the power of industry and believing in justice. Blackwood is very Romantic, having strokes of Ubermensch-ness, belief that Democracy Is Bad, and being very steeped in the occult. Seeing that the hero of the story is Sherlock, the movie seems to come off as pro-Enlightenment.
  • Save the Villain: Holmes saves Blackwood from being dragged off the bridge, if only so he can be properly hanged this time around. After Blackwood tries to kill him again, though, Holmes lets the hanging take place sooner than Blackwood had hoped.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: The truth about the strange phenomena around Lord Blackwood.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules: When the Order approaches Holmes asking him to clear up the mess they ended up creating with Blackwood and offers to allow him to name his price, Holmes coolly remarks that the advantage of being a consulting detective means he gets to pick and choose his clients, and agrees to stop Blackwood... "but not for you. And certainly not for a price."
  • Sequel Hook: Irene's employer? None other than Professor Moriarty. Subverted slightly in that Moriarty's reason for being involved is not brought up in the sequel.
  • Slipping a Mickey: When Holmes goes to see Irene, she offers him a glass of wine from an unopened bottle. Then, after Holmes drinks it and collapses, we get to see a short flashback-- of her doctoring the bottle with a syringe, and resealing it.
  • Smug Snake: Lord Coward, who is admittedly working with genuine Magnificent Bastard Blackwood. Even taking this into account, however, he seems to spend most of the movie doing little more than standing around looking rather smug; he does attempt to avert Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him, but fails miserably.
  • Snipe Hunt: Variation, in that Holmes sends the police to go find something that actually is there, but still used to get them out of the way so he can do his thing. And steal evidence.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: Ambassador Standish bursts into flames when he attempts to shoot Lord Blackwood. This is intended to be taken as a magical occurrence, displaying the dark powers Blackwood has protecting him from those who oppose him, but in the end a clear, external cause is revealed by Holmes that has nothing at all to do with magic.
  • A Storm Is Coming
  • Stunned Silence: Holmes' No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of the boxer who made the mistake of spitting at the back of his head reduces the crowd of spectators from howling for blood into stunned, meek silence within seconds—except for one chap who blurts out "where the hell did that come from?!" (not too loudly, though, presumably in case Holmes took exception and came looking for him)..
  • Tempting Fate: Blackwood's "It's a long journey from here to the rope." at the end of the movie.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Holmes of course, gets the best one. Of course, It Makes Sense in Context.

Holmes: Beneath this pillow lies the key to my release.

Holmes: Madam, I need you to remain calm. And trust me, I'm a professional. Beneath this pillow, lies the key to my release.

Holmes: That's the Irene I know.

  • You Just Told Me: "I don't care much what you think. I just simply wanted to know the location of Blackwood’s final ceremony. And now you've given it to me. "


A Game of Shadows[edit | hide]

  • Actionized Sequel: This movie spends more time on the chase rather than the deduction, as opposed to the first film. While it echoes a lot of the moments and cinematic elements of the first installment, they tend to be more ramped up here (the chase through the forest vs. the explosion run, for instance).
    • Strangely enough, this is an accurate reflection of "The Final Problem", the canon story that A Game of Shadows is loosely based on. That story had no central mystery and very little deductive sequences, and was instead concerned entirely with the Holmes/Moriarty conflict.
  • Actor Allusion: Jude Law being pinned down by a sniper, finding a 'creative' solution to help him escape.
  • Almighty Janitor: Mycroft is indispensible to the British government, even though no one knows what he exactly does.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Mycroft Holmes. At least.
    • Sherlock Holmes himself, even more than in the first film.
  • Anachronism Stew: All of Moriarty's new weapons (with the exception of the Gatling and Maxim machine guns) are anachronistic. The Mauser C96 pistol was not produced until 1896, for instance. Given that the entire basis of Moriarty's plot revolves around producing new, technologically advanced weapons so that he can turn an enormous profit by starting World War I, this makes perfect sense. Presumably the weapons are prototypes. It's not a stretch to imagine that other companies got their hands on the designs after Moriarty died and began producing them a few years later.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too: Moriarty makes a point of threatening Watson and Mary for no other reason than to get back at Holmes.
  • Arch Enemy: Moriarty, naturally.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Holmes suspects the bomb is at the opera house where Don Giovanni is playing and Moriarty is attending.
  • Awesome By Analysis: Back again with Holmes' ability to play out a fight in his head before it begins to achieve victory. Subverted when both Holmes and Moriarty do this simultaneously for the climactic battle with both concluding that Moriarty will win. Unless...
    • Also subverted earlier, when Holmes' attempt to do with this with an assassin is cut short when the nearby fortune teller intervenes, sending a throwing knife into the assassin's chest partway through Holmes' planned-out beatdown. However, the assassin had on chest armor, allowing him to live long enough for the ensuing sequence to last considerably longer.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: when Holmes tries to use his Sherlock Scan to devise a strategy to beat Moriarty in a fight, he finds out that Moriarty has the same ability. They both deduce that, with Holmes's injury, Moriarty would eventually, inevitably, overpower and kill Holmes in a physical confrontation.
  • Bigger Stick: Moran has Watson pinned behind a covered piece of machinery, until Watson notices what it is he's behind--a massive cannon.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Sim and her brother were a member of an anarchist organization before they grew too extreme.
  • Book Ends: Irene's handkerchief in relation to her entering and exiting the films' plots.
  • Brick Joke: Holmes's camouflage.
  • Call Back:
    • Holmes use of the pipe ashes to distract Moriarty is reminiscent of his use of Irene's handkerchief in the first film to distract a boxing opponent.
    • Watson is still good at kicking down doors.
    • Holmes talked about going to see Don Giovanni in the first film.
    • The large cove in the bowler from the prison yard shows up at Holmes's funeral.
    • "Always good to see you, Watson," is a bittersweet example, especially in light of the fact that Watson is the last thing he sees. He even closes his eyes to make sure of it.
  • Cane Fu: Holmes uses his umbrella to hold off a knife wielding Cossack.
  • Ceiling Cling: The Cossack assassin.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Ho boy, where to start.
    • Moriarty feeding the pigeons, the plants in his office, the equations on the board, Holmes's camouflage, the oxygen device, the twin Mooks, the wedding gift. About the only past plot point that doesn't come into play is the radio device from the first film.
    • Which is odd, because Moriarty apparently stole that specific device for a reason - and then it's never heard of again. Then again, if there's anything Moriarty will do, it's to acquire options just in case he needs to use them.
    • It's implied that he used the technology from that machine to spearhead chemical weapons development and become a frontrunner in the arms industry.
  • Chekhov's Skill: While describing him to Watson near the beginning, Holmes offhandedly mentions that Moriarty was the boxing champion of Cambridge.
  • Chess Motifs: All over the place, especially in the Grand Finale, which consists largely of a literal chess game between Holmes and Moriarty.
  • The Chessmaster: Both Holmes and Moriarty, as per the norm. The climax of the film even has them playing chess outside the location of an assassination, their moves mirroring what their 'pieces' are doing inside. The game actually ends verbally, with them stating their moves aloud until one of them wins both the game and the game of wits they've been going at the entire film.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A hook through the shoulder is not fun. It's even less fun when someone is intentionally twisting it around while the poor victim is hanging from it the way Moriarty did to Holmes.
  • Cold Sniper: Sebastian Moran.
  • Complexity Addiction: Moriarty,with the means at his disposal, he probably could have killed Holmes any time he wanted. Moran could have done it without much trouble, if nothing else. He clearly wanted an opponent to make the game more interesting.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted. Watson's chest compressions do not revive Holmes, so he has to use adrenaline. After Holmes is revived, he mentions that his chest really hurts. This also averts Magical Defibrillator for once in Movie history, as adrenaline is what's actually used to restart a heart that's completely stopped..
  • Curb Stomp Battle:
    • The final fistfight as predicted by Holmes and Moriarty, subverted in that they both conclude that Holmes will be the one stomped into the curb.
    • Also subverted because as both men reach the conclusion that Moriarty's victory is inevitable, Holmes blows embers in Moriarty's face and Takes a Third Option rather than allow the battle to occur.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Holmes seems to consider his own exceptional perception abilities to be this.

Sim: What do you see?
Holmes: Everything. That is my curse.

  • Dangerously Genre Savvy:
    • Moriarty is perfectly aware that Holmes will figure out his plans if left to his own devices, so he leaves red herrings to distract him and lure him into vulnerable positions.
    • He also correctly deduces that Irene would make him meet her in a crowded, public area. To solve that, he literally buys out the entire crowd to leave on command. And poisons not her first pot of tea, which is waiting for her when she arrives and she has replaced, but her second. Maybe both.
      • He didn't poison the pots at all. He poisoned the tea strainer which she never bothered to have replaced.
    • The Cossack sent to kill Sim put protection in his coat because he knew she uses throwing knives. Ironically, if she hadn't, Holmes might've hurt his hand on that exact same protection, throwing him off to possibly fatal effect.
    • Moriarty's tendency to kill pretty everybody that even has a vague idea of who he is means that Holmes has a very difficult time gathering evidence against him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Aside from the snarkers from the first movie, Mary Morstan of all people has a few wonderfully snark-tastic moments in the sequel.
  • Deal with the Devil: The leader of the French Anarchists describes his alliance with Moriarty as this.
  • Demoted to Extra: Inspector Lestrade, who appears for all of about five seconds and has one line in the second movie, after being a somewhat prominent character in the first.
    • Also Irene, who even gets killed.
  • Determinator: The Cossack goes through a hell of a lot of punishment without slowing down.
  • Didn't See That Coming: For Holmes, that Moriarty had tricked him into going to the opera. For Moriarty, that Holmes noticed his red notebook.
  • Disguised in Drag: Holmes. In fact, he does it so poorly, that he doesn't seem to have bothered to shave... though he is wearing lipstick. This is Played for Laughs, of course.
  • Disney Death:Holmes
  • Disney Villain Death: Moriarty.
  • Double Entendre: Holmes dislikes riding horses because he doesn't like the thought of something with a mind of its own between his legs...
  • Damsel in Distress: Averted. When Watson pins an assassin, Mary makes sure to grab his gun and hold it against his head.
  • The Dragon: Sebastian Moran, to Moriarty.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Irene, unfortunately.
  • Dying Alone: Watson reveals one of the reasons he wants to get married so badly is to avoid this.
  • The End - or Is It?: A Not Quite Dead Sherlock sneaks into the room where Watson is typing the story of their adventure and types a question mark at the end of THE END at the end of the movie.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Watson apparently, as Holmes has him send a telegram. Justified in that Watson was a serviceman.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: This is how Holmes wakes Watson up the morning after the stag party... just minutes before the wedding, no less.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: This is the deciding factor in the 'duel' between Holmes and Moriarty at the end; Moriarty thinks, like Holmes, that he is guaranteed to win the fight because of Holmes' injury, but he fails to take into account the idea of Holmes sacrificing himself to kill Moriarty. Holmes even explicitly says that he'd be willing to do a Heroic Sacrifice if it completely assured Moriarty's destruction as well, and Moriarty still doesn't factor it in.
    • Or maybe he did and we will find out in the next movie.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Moriarty to Holmes, with a mind to match his, fighting skills to the same, and he's even capable of the same Sherlock Scan Holmes uses to defeat opponents.
    • Moran is an Evil Counterpart to Watson. They're both reliable, competent, neat sidekicks, former military men (who fought in the same war), and they are both excellent marksmen. They both have a remarkable amount of devotion to Moriarty and Holmes, respectively.
  • Exact Words: Rene's letter includes a sketched self-portrait and urges Sim to memorize his face, because she will never see it again. Much later, it's revealed that Rene has undergone Magic Plastic Surgery in order to impersonate one of the delegates at the peace conference.
  • Fair Play Whodunit: One clue is available for the audience, but not for Holmes. Moriarty is going to see Don Giovanni, but says Moran won't need his ticket. We see him backstage at the play later, leaving as Team Holmes comes in. Turns out he wouldn't see the play not because he'd be backstage, but because he'd be someplace else entirely. Other clues and plot points, such as the key to the encoding of Moriarty's notebook, and Holmes' early efforts to pickpocket it from him, are also displayed to the audience well before they pay off.
  • Fan Disservice: Naked Stephen Fry.
    • Also, half-naked, rather built Robert Downey Jr... wearing badly applied blue eyeshadow and lipstick.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Moriarty. He drops the act entirely during the interrogation scene.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The camera gives us a really nice view of Reichenbach Falls in the establishing shot of the castle just before the climax of the movie. Anyone familiar with Holmes mythology knows where they were headed.
    • Mycroft makes a quick mention of a peace summit at Reichenbach very early on in the film, right before Watson's stag party.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Holmes first officially meets Moriarty, he mentions that if it one-hundred percent assured Moriarty's destruction, he would gladly accept his own. He follows this through to the extreme at the end when he does a suicide leap off a cliff and takes Moriarty with him.
      • Before that, when showing Watson his web of conspiracy, Holmes told him he'd give his life to see Moriarty's demise.
    • Also, the fate of the Parisian bomb-maker, who commits suicide in an attempt to save his loved ones from Moriarty.
    • The wax figure of Holmes may be this for the potential sequel—in the novels he used one as a bait for Moran.
    • Holmes warned Irene about working for Moriarty.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: The way the final fight plays out is almost entirely determined by the fact that Holmes' shoulder has been incapacitated by torture, and Moriarty has zero qualms about exploiting it.
  • Genre Blind: Irene, despite knowing very well that Moriarty doesn't like to leave loose ends, still works for him and knows that he'd kill her the moment he let her go. The point where this comes in is that while she's Genre Savvy enough to ask for a different pot of tea when she sees one setting at the table, she doesn't think twice about the second pot. Or simply not drinking tea.
  • Genius Bruiser: Moriarty was a boxing champion at Cambridge.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Moriarty has a more standard boxing style compared to Holmes' esoteric fighting skills. Holmes describes it as "feral" but still good enough to get the job done.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Holmes steals handfuls of rice and beans from a market stall, and later throws them in the face of Moriarty's thugs during a fight. Later still, when he faces down Moriarty, he blows a cloud of tobacco ash into his face.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Holmes. Knowing he can't beat Moriarty in a straight fight due to his crippled arm, he takes a third option and chooses to take Moriarty with him. Perhaps cannier members of the audience knew how that one was going to end, but what matters is that Holmes thought he was going to die.
  • He's Just Hiding: In-Universe, literally.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Watson to Holmes.
  • I Have Your Wife And Kids: Moriarty uses this to force the leader of the anarchists to follow his orders, including shooting himself in the head.
    • This is basically how Watson gets involved in the plot. Holmes tells Moriarty that Watson is not part of the game, Moriarty announces his plans to kill Watson and Mary anyway. It is averted, however: Moriarty expected Holmes to rescue Mary and John, it was one of many diversions the Professor planned to keep Holmes, the only man who could stop him, busy.
  • I Call It "Vera": Little Hansel
  • It Got Worse: Near the end of the film, while Holmes and Moriarty fight in their minds, Holmes starts by noting that Moriarty has a serious advantage from Holmes' disabled arm. Shortly thereafter, he thinks something we have never hear him say the like of in any fight in the two films: "Arsenal running low." Moriarty "kills" him seconds later. He is both physically and mentally incapable of beating Moriarty in hand-to-hand, and they both know Moriarty's going to try to kill him.
  • It's Personal: In their first face to face meeting, Moriarty reveals he killed Irene and Watson is next. Holmes goes from being almost giddy about his rivalry with Moriarty to being much more withdrawn, showing some Tranquil Fury, and decides that Moriarty needs to be stopped. No matter the cost.
  • Just Between You and Me
  • Karma Houdini: Moran slips away after killing Sim's brother. This is consistent with "The Final Problem," as Moran still being at large was the main reason Holmes had to fake his death.
  • Kill and Replace: How Moriarty plans to smuggle an assassin into the peace conference.
  • Killed Off for Real: Irene and Moriarty.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Moriarty tells Holmes, "Let's not waste any more of each other's time. We both know how this ends." As do any viewers who have read "The Final Problem."
  • Le Parkour: The Cossack assassin uses agility to chase and fight Holmes and Sim. Cossacks, even today, really are good at acrobatics.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Sim's brother is made to look like one of the ambassadors as part of the peace summit plot. The "magic" part is averted, though, in that when trying to identify him, Sim and Watson look for exactly the sort of features that this trope usually ignores.
  • More Dakka: Including a gat and an early LMG.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: The Cossack. (see Determinator, above)
  • Naked People Are Funny: Mycroft apparently has a habit of wandering around his home stark naked. He has a cheerful conversation with a mortified Mary when she runs into him like this, while his servants don't even bat an eye when they come in to serve breakfast.
  • Neat Freak: Mycroft is implied to be this. Doesn't like to shake hands, barely goes anywhere other than his home and office, carries a personal supply of oxygen... even his habit of walking around his house naked could be a reference to Super OCD sufferer Howard Hughes.
  • Never Found the Body: Holmes and Moriarty. In the case of Holmes, he is revealed to be alive at the end of the film.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: When Holmes, Watson, and the gypsies are trapped in a weapons factory and pinned down, the guards try to take them out with an artillery cannon. However, they miss and only succeed in blowing a hole in the wall, giving our heroes a quick escape route.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Even though it never actually takes place except in Holmes' and Moriarty's minds, the final confrontation definitely qualifies. It's not so much a fistfight as an excuse for Moriarty to repeatedly and brutally whale on Holmes' wounded shoulder.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Moriarty arranges a bombing in a banquet hall at the Hotel de Triomphe to conceal the assassination by sniper of one of the celebrants. The bomb alone would surely have been sufficient to kill him all on its own.
  • Not So Stoic: Moriarty during his chilling torture of Holmes. He's clearly enjoying it.
    • Holmes himself, during the same scene. Seeing the guy who has kept an almost-perfect poker face over the course of two movies - in the face of physical punishment, worry that he's losing his best friend to marriage, Watson almost being blown up by Blackwood's booby trap, the news of Irene's murder being sprung on him, Moriarty's threats toward Watson and Mary, Ravache putting a gun to his own head and pulling the trigger right in front of them, and carnage from a bombing that he could have prevented - break down and howl in agony while Moriarty tortures him is incredibly disturbing.
  • Oh Crap: Moran's reaction when Watson reveals he's been hiding behind a giant cannon.

"That's not fair!"

    • Similarly, Moriarity has a brief one before their chess match when Holmes mentions "your bishop against mine" and deduces that Holmes means Watson. "That's not exactly fair." He has a much more real Oh Crap moment when he realizes that Holmes spotted (and subsequently replaced) his little red book.
    • Moriarty has an even bigger Oh Crap moment when Holmes asks "Does the art of domestic horticulture mean anything to you?".
    • Watson has one when his winnings get scattered across the floor and he realises he's surrounded by a bunch of opportunistic gamblers.
    • Watson has another when he knocks out the head gypsy for taking his scarf, to look around him and see a whole bunch of knife carrying angry gypsies.
    • One of the assassins on the train has just enough time to realize that he can't find the grenade he dropped in the satchel full of them and look at his comrade before the whole thing blows up.
    • Irene has a very subtle one when she realizes Moriarty hired everyone in the restaurant they were meeting in, and makes them leave, meaning their public meeting is actually a lot more private than she expected.
    • Watson gets one after hearing the usually nigh-omniscient Holmes utter the words "I was mistaken."
    • One for the audience members who have read the original stories when Mycroft casually mentions going to a summit at Reichenbach early in the movie. Yeah, this isn't going to end well.
    • As Holmes begins to run through his upcoming fight with Moriarty in his mind as he often does before battle. There is a beat where it cuts to Moriarty. His voice then takes over... "Come now, you really think you're the only one who can play this game?" It's certainly one for the audience.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Holmes gets a hook set in his shoulder and is dangled by it during Moriarty's interrogation. He is capable of running through the forest with it, but bleeds out some time later, and is only saved by some adrenaline he gave Watson earlier. At the climax, his arm is still injured and both he and Moriarty know that Holmes will lose because of it.
    • Moran possibly counts here too, considering that he got shot in the side, yet seemed pretty fine just a few days later when he killed Rene at the peace conference.
  • The Other Darrin: Moriarty played by Jared Harris, in a way. He appears in shadow in the first movie and is played by Ed Tolputt in an uncredited role.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Sim and her brother after he collapses from Moran's poisoned dart.
  • Politically-Correct History: Holmes and Watson share a dance together and nobody bats an eyelash - despite homosexuality being illegal at the time.
    • They do manage a few odd looks from some older gentlemen behind them, but nothing else.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Both Holmes and Moriarty, despite being on opposite sides of the law, are men of brightest intelligence, courage and ruthlessness - while at the same time Moriarty (the evil conspirator) is the man of science, technology, progress, strict and merciless organization of everything that moves under his hand (having Germans as the most trusted workers and bodyguards no less). Holmes (despite being the man of the law) is the one who doesn't give a damn on the prejudices of the time, even allying himself with Gypsies (living personification of whatever is disorderly on the Earth) out of all people.
  • Refuge in Audacity: A meta example. The car Holmes uses is 'so overt its covert'.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Irene. Think about how capable she was in the first movie, and how easily Moriarty has her killed in this one.
  • Scry vs. Scry: Holmes's usual Bullet Time battle analysis monologue is interrupted by Moriarty, who is also capable of this and counters his moves to the point of proving Holmes couldn't win a straight fight. Of course, Holmes doesn't fight fair. He fights smart.
  • Self-Stitching: There's a brief shot of Watson stitching up his own side after a particularly harrowing chase scene.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Moriarty's primary plan is to try and start World War I. While Holmes manages to thwart his plan, the audience already knows that all he did was delay the inevitable. Moriarty even Lampshades this during his Hannibal Lecture to Holmes. Oddly enough, the first World War did not start between France and Germany, although they played a larger role in the second one.
    • Though at least Holmes prevented it from happening under the influence of a single criminal mastermind who could potential manipulate events to prolong the war.
  • Shot to the Heart: Holmes invents an epi-pen. Watson later uses it to revive him after his heart stops from blood loss.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Moriarty plans to start World War I and profit off weapons sales, much like the expy of Moriarty.
    • Mycroft's ( and Sherlock's) oxygen device is basically a steampunk version of the James Bond rebreather gadget, continuing the long fanon tradition of him being the head of British Intelligence (a idea that has in some cases gone as far as to saying he is the originator of the position of M.)
    • Holmes' make-up during the scene on the train to Brighton, blue eyeshadow and smeared red lipstick, mimics Joker's facepaint from The Dark Knight. This is especially funny since RDJ plays the title character in Iron Man, which has a Fandom Rivalry with the Dark Knight Saga fans.
    • Before a climactic fight sequence, Holmes and Moriarty both use their Awesomeness By Analysis to calculate each other's strategies, and the most likely outcome of the fight, resulting in a Battle in the Center of the Mind scenario. A similar scene occurs in Hero.
    • Watson uses an adrenaline shot to revive Holmes after his heart stops, reminiscent of a similar scene in Pulp Fiction.
    • Moriarty's torture of choice is hanging by hooks through the chest.
  • Skyward Scream: A variant is done by Sim, after her poisoned brother dies in her arms.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Holmes and Moriarty play a game, the winning gambit echoing the events happening elsewhere that the two have set in motion. They finish up the game without the board entirely, just talking to each other, and Holmes wins, foreshadowing the way they'll fight in their minds.
  • The Sociopath / Narcissist: Moriarty.
  • Soft Water: Falling hundreds of feet into a lake will not break your fall. At terminal velocity, hitting water would be only slightly better than hitting concrete. However, the water tension is broken by the waterfall; riding the stream down would severely soften the landing of moving water.
    • Holmes might have maneuvered Moriarty into hitting the water first, explaining the former's survival and the latter's death.
      • We don't know Moriarty's dead
    • Played straighter during the train scene. Regardless of how "perfectly timed" it was, Mary came out remarkably unscathed for someone who feel at least fifty feet into a lake out of a speeding train.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Moriarty plays (and sings along with) a cheery, innocuous little Schubert tune while dangling Holmes from the ceiling by a meat hook impaled in his shoulder. "Die Forelle" may never be quite the same.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: Regarding Moriarty's red notebook.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Irene Adler is killed off before the opening titles to make it clear how dangerous Moriarty is.
  • Take a Third Option: Holmes realizes that if he directly fights Moriarty, he'll lose, and he can't escape. Cue blowing soot in his face and invoking Taking You with Me.
  • Taking You with Me: To be expected considering the final battle.
  • Tarot Troubles: Holmes takes Sim's Tarot deck and deals out a few cards to go along with his summation of her current predicament before naming his own goal with one final card: The Devil, Moriarty.
  • Title Drop: Sorta

Holmes: Has all my instruction been for naught? You still read the official statement and believe it. It's a game, dear man, a shadowy game.

  • Tragic Keepsake: Irene's handkerchief, given to him as a dog kicking by Moriarty. Subverted in that he disposes of it so it wouldn't cloud his thoughts in pursuing Moriarty with the full range of his intellect.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The "woman" on the train is Holmes.
  • Up to Eleven: Almost every trope in the first film is cranked up in the second.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Officially, Holmes can't touch Moriarty since he's a world famous mathematician and author, is a personal friend of the English Prime Minister, and has many business and political connections. A great deal of the plot is Holmes trying to obtain the necessary evidence to implicate him. (Ironically, these are often some of the benefits Holmes himself enjoys.)
  • Villainous Breakdown: Moriarty has a subtle one when he realizes that Holmes has stolen his ledger, decoded it, and used it to dismantle his whole organization. It progresses to a much more direct example as Moriarty screams his brains out as he plummets to his demise, unlike the composed Holmes. Admittedly he has just had burning embers thrown in his eyes so they could be screams of pain.
  • Villainous Friendship: Colonel Moran and Professor Moriarty. Although Moran is referred to as a gun-for-hire, he is very loyal - at one point he vows to kill the heroes after digging Moriarty out of the wreckage of a building - and the two of them have plans to go to the opera together.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Moriarty going to see Don Giovanni, and later feeding pigeons in the park.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The foundation of Moriarty's plot. It's actually exactly the same as his plan in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • War Is Hell: The chase sequence in Germany seems to evoke this trope, giving a taste of what Moriarty's new weapons would do to Europe.
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk: Holmes being interrogated by Moriarty.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Colonel Moran shoots Rene with a curare dart, then leaves the party. As far as the viewer knows, he gets away. Instead, he is saved as a Sequel Hook.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Holmes, to get in the train. (The original script had him as a priest, as in the original short story, but Downey Jr. asked to change for crossdressing as it was funnier.)
  • Wicked Cultured: Moriarty takes this trope to its logical extreme, torturing Holmes while listening to and singing along with Schubert on a phonograph. Moran also says he really wanted to see Don Giovanni himself.
    • Even the Mooks get in on it, whistling Mozart of all things while ganging up on Holmes in a back alley.
  • Worthy Opponent: Holmes and Moriarty both emphasize the deep respect they have for each other.
  1. In real life named "Bartitsu", but "Baritsu" was what Conan Doyle wrote Holmes having.