Follow TV Tropes


Film / Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Go To
"Death... is only the beginning."
Irene Adler: Why are you always so suspicious?
Sherlock: Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?

Sherlock Holmes is a 2009 film directed by Guy Ritchie, starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong, and based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. The film updates (or maybe restores) Holmes and Watson as thinking men of action, with the addition of some modern blockbuster tropes and a zany Hans Zimmer soundtrack.

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 titled Sherlock Holmes: 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.

The long-delayed third film is to be directed by Dexter Fletcher, though not much appears to have moved forward on it yet.

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.

This franchise provides examples of the following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    The Series in General 

  • Actionized Adaptation: The films focus on large action set pieces where Holmes and Watson are regularly brawling with suspects, getting into gunfights with thugs. One notable example is the invention of Holmes using his Sherlock Scan to dismantle opponents in combat. While Doyle's characters were always tough customers (a soldier and a martial artist), the original stories involve very little fighting.
  • Adaptational Badass: Irene Adler. In the books, she was nothing more than an unusually clever opera singer who happened to get her hands on a compromising photograph, and was smart enough to prevent Holmes from stealing it back. Here's, she's a full-on professional thief and a Femme Fatale who's able to match Holmes in a fight.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: McMurdo, Holmes' prizefight opponent, is taken from The Sign of the Four where the two meet briefly and chat amicably, with McMurdo recounting their past fights and concluding that Holmes could have quite a career in the ring. Here, he spits on Holmes when the latter tries to forfeit the fight and gets severly beaten for it.
  • Adrenaline Time: An interesting version, as Holmes is able to play out some of his 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 first film; in every fight where Holmes loses badly, 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 you. Essentially, it's his eponymous Sherlock Scan, weaponized. It's also used in the Game of Shadows forest chase. Game of Shadows has a subversion where Holmes plans out his takedown of a Cossack hired to kill Simza, but he only gets to accomplish the first two of his planned moves before Simza lobs some of her throwing knives into the Cossack's chest, forcing Holmes to improvise.
  • Anachronism Stew: So much it needed its own page.
  • Anonymous Killer Narrator: The film cuts between Sherlock's investigations and the many unnatural killings committed by the villain, all without revealing how or why he committed the murders.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • In the opening to the first film, Holmes observes that the guard at the top of the stairs is partially deaf, a heavy drinker, and has a slight limp, and proceeds to bring him down with four attacks; one each to the ear, liver, and knee, plus one to the vocal cords to stop his screams.
    • In the second, Moriarty's strategy for beating Holmes in a fistfight is to repeatedly target Holmes' injured shoulder.
  • 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 hyperactive 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.
  • Author Appeal: Holmes and Watson manage to subdue Dredger with an arm bar and rear-naked choke, as director Guy Ritchie is a fan and ardent practitioner of Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  • 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 the injury Holmes received on his right arm from torture prior to the train yard shootout in Heilbronn. Holmes realizes that his demise is inevitable unless he takes a second option: drag Moriarty down Reichenbach Falls with him instead.
  • Badass Longcoat: Holmes, Watson and Blackwood each wear one.
  • 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 moves where Holmes can win. The audience has the benefit of being treated to Holmes' foresight, while his opponents do not, and generally do none of the unpredictable things that could ruin his plan. We are treated to him analyzing how to carry out the fight, which is seen with the moves being played in slo-mo, then we see them again in real time.
    • It's also demonstrated to have a severe limitation; that no allies interfere in the fight. We see this in Game of Shadows when Holmes is about to fight a Cossack assassin Moriarty has sent to kill Simza. Holmes plans out a Curb-Stomp Battle for the assassin, only for not-so-Damsel in Distress to try and shank the guy with throwing knives. His plan thus foiled, he is forced to grab Simza and run.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: In the first, Irene gets dirty and a little bloody but her face remains unblemished, even after the explosion at the slaughterhouse almost kills Watson. In the second, Sim at least gets a bloody nose in her fight with the Cossack and again during the pursuit in the woods by German soldiers. Both of them are surprisingly clean for the Victorian-era.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Harming Irene in any way is usually this for Holmes. 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. Twice in the second film: first, he's throttling Holmes after Holmes throws Mary off the train to save her from Moriarty's attack (although Holmes insists he timed it perfectly, and indeed, we see that he did) he mutely takes it when the gypsies loot his garb until one of them takes his scarf (Mary's gift). Then he punches out the perp.
    • Threatening either Watson or Mary is also this to Holmes.
    • On the evil side of things, Colonel Sebastian Moran's button is definitely when someone puts Moriarty in harm's way. When Watson drops a tower on him, the normally cool as ice Moran becomes pretty feral, threatening the German unit commander and his troops with death if Holmes, Watson and the gypsies get away. He also becomes a Determinator, charging into a hail of bullets to ensure their capture and even after being shot in the side by Watson, still trying to (and succeeding in) thin Holmes' herd by firing off a shot that picks off one of the unlucky gypsies.
  • Blatant Lies: Plenty of these by Holmes; they usually count as a Funny Moment as well.
  • Bullet Hole Spelling: Sherlock tests a gun silencer by "writing" Queen Victoria's royal cypher in a wall with the gun.
  • Bullet Time: In both films, notably the pier explosion in the first and the forest foot chase in Game of Shadows, in which the sequence continuously moves in and out of it. In this case, bullet time allows us to see one of Moran's bullets grazing Watson's side, and also to emphasize just how fast a round fired out of Little Hansel travels.
  • Casting Gag: Geraldine James has acted in an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Here, she plays Mrs. Hudson.
  • Character Exaggeration: Irene Adler, in the Doyle canon, was just an opera singer who was known for her cleverness, and she went down as an Ensemble Dark Horse for outsmarting Holmes by stopping him from stealing back a compromising photo that she'd gotten her hands on through pure happenstance. In this movie, she's made into a full-on Femme Fatale/Action Girl and a professional thief.
  • Clock Punk/Steampunk: Both Blackwood and Moriarty employ such devices, Blackwood building a cyanide gas spewing machine and Moriarty building time bombs.
  • The Coats Are Off: Watson removes his overcoat (keeps his suit jacket on) before every fight.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Watson. He uses any sort of improvised weapon he can get his hands on without a second thought. During the second fight against Dredger he grabs him from behind, using his own coat no less, to restrain Dredger and let Holmes land a solid hit.
    • 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.
    • Simza interrupts Holmes' usual calculated combat style by just throwing a knife into the guy. Which ironically allows the Cossack to play possum and escape, as he was wearing a knife-proof vest.
    • In A Game Of Shadows, Moran is in a lighthouse with a rifle, training the light down on Watson's only avenue of approach, keeping him pinned down. Then Watson realizes he's taken cover behind a naval cannon, which causes one of the best reactions from Moran.
      Moran: That's not fair!
    • Shortly after that, our heroes are trading gunfire with Moriarty's men while racing away from them through the forest. The bad guys decide turnabout is fair play, and the commander decides to deploy "Little Hansel." It's not clear what kind of gun it is, but individual shots fired out of it are powerful enough to rip trees apart.
    • 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.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Sherlock acts like this towards Watson about his relationship with Mary, even attempting to sabotage 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, including the original stories (illustrated by Sidney Paget).
    • 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.
  • Creator In-Joke: A brief shot of an inn called 'The Punch Bowl' is visible. Guy Ritchie owns a pub called The Punch Bowl in Mayfair.
  • Credits Gag: There are a couple, mostly in the juxtaposition of assorted credits with images from the film. The best of these is that the Costume Designer's credit appears with an image of the naked Holmes tied to a bed.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than your classic Holmes adaptations.
  • Dating Catwoman: Holmes and Irene.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Holmes and Watson often 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... [looks at the constables, all of whom are firmly rooted to the ground] Hmm... Right. At what stage of the process? Contemplative?
    • Later,
      Watson: [when Irene opens fire on Blackwood's henchmen] 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.
  • The Dung Ages: Both films are far less idealized than previous screen adaptations, and show plainly (as in the Holmes boxing scene) the dirt and filth of poorer quarters and people of European cities. Holmes even makes a few quick references to it, when he says Lord Coward got his clothes dirty with excrement in the sewers.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the opening, Blackwood baits Watson into coming straight at him and almost runs face-first into a nigh-invisible glass blade that Blackwood was holding out if not for Sherlock spotting it. This sets up Blackwood using tricks to kill people and make it look like magic.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: Half averted. What Holmes uses is an embellished form of "Bartitsu," a real-life British martial art based on Japan's jujitsu used by the literary Sherlock Holmes.note  However, its application onscreen is liberally mixed with Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (added by director Guy Ritchie, who has belts in both arts - but limiting to basics Bartitsu actually contained thanks to its judo and jujitsu origins) and Wing Chun kung fu (Robert Downey, Jr.'s primary style of martial arts, which was speculated in-universe by the choreographer of the film as due to Holmes having a book of Chinese boxing which he tested in his bareknuckle fights), as well as some serious Improv Fu. The final duel at the sequel even more closely resembles historical Bartitsu.
  • Friend Versus Lover: Holmes and Mary to Watson.
  • Group-Identifying Feature: Inspector Lestrade discreetly wears a Greek chi symbol which he uses to pretend to be a member of the Temple of the Four Orders as he turns in Sherlock to Lord Coward. No one else is seen wearing such a symbol, but Coward accepts it immediately and without question.
  • 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, when their attempt to investigate a laboratory owned by Blackwood's chemist, 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 stories, Holmes' brother Mycroft is "indispensable" to the British government, which would undoubtedly smooth such things over a bit.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • "What was that about saving your bullets?" from the first film.
    • The second has Holmes chastising Watson for being rude to Simza, before Watson reminds him that he threw Mary from a speeding train.
    • Also from the second film, Holmes advises Watson "Whatever you do, don't let these gypsies make you drink," then takes a large swig from the bottle Simza just offered him.
    • Watson realises Holmes has forgotten (deliberately or otherwise) to organise his stag party so he can investigate a lead on Moriarty instead, and thus Watson stuck celebrating his impending marriage with Sherlock and Mycroft instead of the lads from the Rugby Club. After expressing his disapproval and storming off, Mycroft says, "He's all me, me me!"
  • Identity Concealment Disposal: Throughout the movie, Moriarty only appears with his face in the shadows. In the sequel he appears this way only in the film's introduction, during which he reveals himself and stays revealed for the rest of the film.
  • 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.
  • Kink Meme: Inspired one that went to 8,000 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.
  • Le Parkour: Holmes uses some through the films.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Both movies feature copious amounts of Holmes and Watson bickering with each other like they're the ones who have been married, rather than Watson and Mary.
  • Logo Joke:
    • In the first film, the Warner Bros. shield, Village Roadshow W, and Silver Pictures square appear as metal-worked sewer covers on a cobblestone street; the camera pulls back to reveal the street as part of the movie's opening chase.
    • In A Game of Shadows, the Warner Bros, Village Roadshow, and Silver Pictures logos, plus the opening title, appear in the pages of Dr. Watson's manuscript.
  • Meta Casting: Just like Tony Stark in Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr., a guy known for being a brilliant but (at least in his younger years) troubled addict plays... a brilliant but troubled addict.
  • Mythology Gag: So many to the original canon and other versions that they were given their own page.
  • Passing the Torch: It's subtle, but throughout both movies Holmes is often training Watson in his methods, like a school teacher with a student—note how many times Holmes lets Watson take first crack at a deduction, and in the climax of Game of Shadows, even leaves the final question up to Watson while he's out of the room. Likely, Holmes wasn't entirely confident of surviving Moriarty, and wanted to make sure someone could work in his stead.
  • Poisoned Drink Drop: When Sherlock Holmes visits Irene Adler in her hotel room, he opens a bottle of wine. Despite her warnings to "let it breathe," Holmes pours two glasses and immediately downs his. He then slumps and falls, knocking over and breaking his glass. As it turns out, Irene drugged the wine before Holmes visited.
  • Public Domain Character: The titular Sherlock Holmes.
  • Revealing Skill:
    • In the first movie, Sherlock knows that Professor Moriarty was the one who killed a potential witness, because he's the only man known to keep a hidden derringer in his sleeve and the dead man had powder burns on his face.
    • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sherlock and Watson are able to deduce that the man hired for the hotel assassination was the legendary Cold Sniper Sebastian Moran, because shooting a man at night from at least six hundred yards away with a small-caliber bullet would have been impossible for any other Englishman, even with the help of a gun rest and a wind gauge.
  • Room Full of Crazy:
    • Blackwood covers the inside of his cell with mystical runes and imagery. Holmes is less-than-impressed.
    • Holmes gets such a room for himself in both films.
  • Running Gag:
    • Holmes insulting Lestrade. After it's revealed Lestrade is part of the conspiracy, he punches Holmes. "I've wanted to do that for years." However, since he was actually working with Holmes...
      Lestrade: You know, Holmes, in another life you'd make an excellent criminal.
      Holmes: 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 Watson's 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 has Adler revealing she was working for Moriarity.
    • The second film has Holmes typing a suspicious question mark after Watson's "THE END."
  • Sex Magic: The Temple of the Four Orders apparently practices this (or tries to: their "magic" is all mundane stage magic), as villain Lord Blackwood was "conceived during one of their rituals."
  • 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. In the first film he makes a mockery of a Blindfolded Trip by completely ruining the Masons' attempt to disguise their identity and present location. Watson shows how much he's learned as Holmes' partner by pulling off several himself. 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To other Holmes adaptations:
      • Combined with Continuity Nod, the Establishing Shot of Baker Street in the first film is almost exactly the same shot that opened the Granada Sherlock Holmes series with the seminal Jeremy Brett.
      • In the second film, take a close look at Moriarty's little red notebook. Then go watch the Granada version of "The Final Problem" - specifically, the scene where Moriarty visits Holmes in Baker Street and consults his notebook about when Holmes first crossed his path.
      • When Watson comes to find Holmes after his boxing match in the first movie, Holmes' experiment with his violin and a jar full of flies is a recreation of a similar scene in the Basil Rathbone film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
      • "Dredger" bears some resemblance to Rondo Hatton, who played a similar hulking villain in the 1944 Holmes film The Pearl of Death.
      • The scene where Watson tries to interest Holmes in some seemingly bizarre cases that people have written in to him about, only for Holmes to curtly reveal he's deduced the actually-very-mundane solutions from simply reading the letters, harkens back to a similar scene in Billy Wilder's The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes.
      • Holmes' semi-anachronistic automobile from Game of Shadows is a (probably unintentional) reference to Sherlock Hound an Italian-Japanese World of Funny Animals adaptation from the mid-1980s that had Hound (Holmes) racing around in an ornate car based on the Ford Quadricycle.
    • To other works:
      • A line from Henry V, Act III while leaving the cemetery:
        Watson: "Follow your spirit..."
        Holmes: [joining] "And upon this charge, cry God for Harry, England, and St. George!"
      • Of course, the most important part of this quote is the first line: "The game's afoot"...
      • A rather far-fetched Shout-Out is the newspaper a certain character reads at one point. The headline says "Panic in the streets." It's a London newspaper. Does Guy Ritchie like the Smiths?
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: The depiction of London skews very strongly on the side of gritty, although even then, it's cleaner than real-life Victorian London would have been.
  • 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."
  • Stylistic Suck: Played With. All the music in the series is played quite elegantly on deliberately out-of-tune instruments.
  • The Summation: Holmes does this at the end during his final confrontation with Blackwood.
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration: Courtesy of his Awesomeness by Analysis and Adrenaline Time.
  • Tranquil Fury: During the pub fight: "This mustn't register at an emotional level."
  • 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.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Shades of this between Sherlock and Watson, of course.
  • Waistcoat of Style: All over the place.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Irene and Holmes to an extent.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Holmes is a master, pitted against Blackwood and Moriarty's Chessmaster.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One:
    • The Big Bad says early on that he will kill three people and Holmes will fail to save any of them. He succeeds in doing so, but Holmes thwarts his plan before he can attack his fourth and final target.
    • Likewise in the sequel, the Big Bad Moriarty is always one step ahead of Holmes, managing to pull off his schemes without a hitch while distracting and misleading the good detective at every turn. By the end of the film, with minutes left to go, it looks like The Bad Guy Wins — until Holmes reveals the fruition of his Batman Gambit to get Moriarty's notes, which allow the police to dismantle his financial empire. Even at this stage, Holmes' Awesome by Analysis fighting style (which Moriarty is also capable of) predicts that he will be on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle from Moriarty unless he performs the iconic Heroic Sacrifice over Reichenbach Falls.
  • 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 knows one simple rule: no loose ends. Which is why Rene is shot with a poison dart by Moran after his assassination attempt is stopped, and is also how Moriarty got Claude to kill himself right in front of Holmes, Watson and Simza.
    • Quoted by Moriarty in the second film when he "dismisses" Irene from their lunch engagement, though on-screen Never Found the Body by Holmes, so who knows (see greenlighted sequel above).
  • 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.
  • Xenafication: Irene Adler gets an Adaptational Badass boost to help her keep up with the soldier Watson and martial artist Holmes in these Actionized Adaptations.

    Sherlock Holmes 

  • Action Prologue: The movie starts with Holmes, Watson and the Yard capturing Lord Blackwood after he murders five girls, and thwarts his murdering a sixth.
  • Adapted Out: The event of The Sign of the Four, the story that originally introduced Mary Morstan, did not occur or have yet to happen.
  • Almost Kiss: Sherlock leans forwards as if to kiss Irene at the end, then removes her stolen necklace instead. Before he leaves he quickly kisses her on the forehead.
  • America Is Still a Colony: While explaining his Evil Plan to the Temple of the Four Orders, Lord Blackwood says that after they've dominated England, they'll "take back" the colony across the Atlantic that was once theirs, which should be easy since "their government is as corrupt and ineffectual as ours." One of the members of the Temple listening to this speech is the U.S. Ambassador, Standish, and he is not amused.
  • 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.
  • Animal Motifs: A crow is always seen whenever Blackwood is about to kill someone. So at the end, when Blackwood really does die for real, it flies away. The crow turns out to be nothing more than a normal crow.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Holmes briefly uses a powerful electrode as a weapon which apparently needs to be charged with a hand-cranked generator.
    Watson: Holmes, 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), but well beyond the technology of the period.
  • Artistic License Martial Arts:
    • In order to incapacitate the first mook of the film, Sherlock manually sweeps his leg and punches the side of his kneecap to blow the limb. While not terribly unrealistic, a punch to the side of the opponent's knee would be very difficult to pull in a real life, and would not do as much damage as, say, a kick. (Needless to say, you'd better not attempt to punch an aggressor's knee in real life.)
    • Bareknuckle boxing matches at the time had a more open ruleset than modern day boxing, and included wrestling and some informal striking variety as portrayed in the film. However, a boxer finishing off his opponent with a kick should have made the judges scratch their heads. Presumably justified because they are too shocked (and intimidated) with Holmes' quick victory to notice the fact.
    • In the beginning of the movie, Watson applies a hold on the neck of a lackey attempting to sneak up on Holmes. Due to how quickly the man loses consciousness, as well as the position of Watson's arms, it would appear that Watson is applying a typical 'sleeper' hold. Such holds aren't actually chokes, and render people unconscious by restricting the blood flow from the carotid artery in the neck, not by preventing oxygen from entering the lungs, so Holmes covering the man's nose is completely pointless. Additionally, if Watson is actually supposed to be choking him, then it would have taken him far, far longer to become unconscious.
  • Artistic License Biology:
    • During his Sherlock Scan on the guard at the top of the stairs, Holmes tells himself to deliver a liver shot through the floating ribs, but this is inaccurate, as the liver isn't behind the floating ribs, but the false ribs. Most jarringly, Sherlock then proceeds to hit the left side of the mook's torso, despite the liver being located to the right side.
    • 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.
  • Back from the Dead: Subverted. Lord Blackwood, after being hanged and declared dead by Dr. Watson, comes back from the dead and wreaking fear and panic all across England. Turns out he had actually faked his death.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Watson is bailed out of the prison yard and Holmes is not, a rather large and intimidating inmate threateningly informs Holmes that he'd better be getting out of there soon, since "the boys are getting hungry". One scene later, when Lestrade comes to fetch Holmes, there's a loud, noisy commotion in the centre of the yard, with the implication being that Holmes is getting the snot kicked out of him. Lestrade rushes forward with the guards to break it up... only to discover that Holmes is in fact entertaining the intimidating inmate and the others with jokes.
  • Batman Cold Open: The opening action sequence shows Sherlock's mettle at analysis and combat prowess.
  • 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 provokes Standish into trying to shoot him so he'll set himself on fire (due to Dredger planting rigged blanks in Standish's gun), 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. Blackwood wins either way, since if Standish submits, it'll be taken as a sign that Blackwood is the one true leader.
    • Never, ever spit on Sherlock 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 toxic gas weapon.
    Holmes: Note the blue discoloration, the faint smell of bitter almonds.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Blackwood has a glass blade hidden in the sleeves of his robes, and attempts to stab Watson with it in the film's opening scene.
  • Blindfolded Trip: Holmes has his head covered and is taken to a secret location... however, being Sherlock Holmes, he easily reconstructs a turn-by-turn account of their route.
  • Blown Across the Room: During the fight in Reordan's lab, Holmes engages in fisticuffs with Dredger, getting the upper hand on Dredger twice by using a prototype taser that zaps Dredger severely enough to throw him backwards through walls.
  • Board to Death: What Blackwood intended to do to Parliament
  • Bookcase Passage: Holmes discovers a secret room in the house of Blackwood's father.
  • 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: In the opening fight scene, as Holmes and Watson battle Blackwood's guards, Holmes spots a henchman coming towards him with a revolver and uses some fancy martial arts technique to maneuver the henchman he is currently fighting into taking the bullet for him.
  • Cane Fu: Holmes, Watson and Blackwood are all proficient.
  • Car Cushion: The 19th century version. A burning Standish falls out of a window on top of a horse-drawn carriage.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: During the Action Prologue, one of Lord Blackwood's men attempts to sneak up on Holmes, only to be ambushed and put into a choke-hold by Watson. As Sherlock grabs and holds the man's nose to keep him from breathing further, Holmes and Watson have a rather pleasant conversation.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: At the start, Inspector Lestrade and the police arrive in time to arrest Blackwood and his guards, after Holmes and Watson have defeated them.
  • Chained to a Bed: Irene drugs Holmes, undresses him and leaves him naked tied to a bed, save for a pillow she leaves on his crotch... but she also leaves the key for the handcuffs below the pillows.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: In the Evidence Dungeon that is Reordan's lab, Holmes finds little traces of pretty much everything Blackwood is using for his charades.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Tower Bridge is displayed prominently in several shots, well before the climax.
  • The rat's tail that Holmes snips off at Blackwood's factory is how he figures out that Blackwood is using rats and swine to test his new cyanide poison for the Parliament attack.
  • When Holmes and Watson are at Blackwood's tomb, Holmes is seen licking a rock. Later, one of the items he observes in Reordan's laboratory is a honeycomb substance. This is him figuring out how Blackwood got the slab over his tomb broken before burial and then had it glued back together
  • Chewing the Scenery: Blackwood does this in front of groups to play up their fear of him. Given how often he talks about using fear as a weapon, is it any wonder they made him Thaal Sinestro?
  • Choke Holds: A thug sneaking up on Holmes is put in a blood choke by Watson. To prevent the guy from screaming, Holmes immediately pinches off his nose and mouth. They chat for a bit even as Watson chokes the guy into unconsciousness, and once the thug has passed out, move on. At the end of the film, Dredger has to be slowly air choked because he's just too darn big for anything else.
  • Cloth Fu: Holmes, during a pit-fighting match, grabs a handkerchief off the wall of the pit and flings it into his opponent's face as part of a planned attack sequence.
  • The Coats Are Off: Both Dr. Watson and Dredger take their coats off before the fight in the laboratory.
  • Concealing Canvas: Sherlock quickly checks the safe behind his painting is still locked after waking up to find Irene Adler in the room.
  • Connect the Deaths: Holmes discovers that Blackwood performed five human sacrifices in locations in London that form the points of a pentagram. In its use of this trope, this movie is a better adaptation of Alan Moore's From Hell than the actual movie From Hell.
  • Construction Zone Calamity: The climactic fight between Holmes and Blackwood on the half-built Tower Bridge.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: The slaughterhouse scene involves Blackwood having Irene hogtied with the intention of having her sliced open.
  • Creepy Ravens: A raven is seen perching nearby every time someone is killed or implied to be killed.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The Evil Genius has developed a method of radio control seven years before it was invented by Nikola Tesla. Blackwood uses his remarkable invention to pretend to have magical powers and kill opposing politicians). Subverted when Moriarty sees the real value in the device 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.
  • Cue the Falling Object: Holmes and Watson look upon the aftermath of their fight with a giant mook at the wharf. In a comedic moment, Holmes blames Watson for the havoc while we see a structure topple in the background.
  • 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.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Holmes has been vegetating in a dark room with the curtains drawn for weeks; Watson comes in and tears the curtains aside to let in the sunlight, eliciting a yell of pain from Holmes.
  • Deadly Bath: Sir Thomas is murdered in his bath.
  • Deadly Gas: Blackwood's plan involved gas-poisoning people at the Parliament.
  • Death by Childbirth: Blackwood's mother is revealed to have died giving birth to him.
  • Death Trap: Several... one for Irene, one for Parliament, one for Standish, etc.
  • Diagnosis from Dr. Badass: Sherlock Holmes makes a habit of mentally running through the intended physical effects of a series of precise blows to an opponent, just before he actually makes his attack.
  • Dirty Cop: The simplest of Blackwood's tricks involved Dredger paying one of the prison guards to pretend to be possessed.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the pit-fighting scene, Holmes gives up and walked which point his opponent spits at the back of his head. The following No-Holds-Barred Beatdown/Curb-Stomp Battle is performed solely so that the opponent couldn't spit at him again. The fact that Holmes has spied Irene in the audience a few moments before was almost certainly his inspiration for doing so; he'd never hear the end of getting one-upped like that in front of her.
  • Diving Save: Watson dives for Holmes when the ship on the wharf rushes on.
  • 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, save for the last soul he planned to offer...
  • Doomsayer: Crowds of these are seen being broken up by mounted police outside the Houses of Parliament, indicating the "Panic, sheer bloody panic!" inspired by Lord Blackwood's return from the dead. One man really goes to town describing the terrible events to come.
    Crier: 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 everyone shall see him and every soul shall wail because of him! You cannot stop him! No one can!
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: After the Final Battle on Tower Bridge, Holmes rips Irene's stolen necklace off her neck.
  • Ma'am, He's, Like, In a Coma: Irene kisses Holmes after he passes out from the drug she slipped into his wine. She also strips him naked and chains him to a bed while he's in the same unconscious state.
  • Ear Ache: The first Mook Holmes encounters in the Action Prologue moves with his head cocked to the left, indicating he is partially deaf. So Holmes attacks that part first.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: During the final sequence atop the Tower Bridge, Holmes pulls back the curtain on all of Blackwood's supposed dark magic from his resurrection to his ability to "conjure" magic. See Once More, with Clarity below.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The first few minutes of the movie takes pains to illustrate how it is an Actionized Sequel, opening with Holmes and Watson racing to rescue a kidnap victim about to be murdered, crowned by Holmes essentially using his Sherlock Scan as a weapon.
    Holmes scans the thug on guard quickly and hides around a corner
    Head cocked to the left. Partial deafness in ear. First point of attack —
    Holmes envisions slamming his palm into the thug's working ear.
    Two, throat. Paralyze vocal cords, stop screaming.
    Holmes now slams his palm into the man's neck.
    Three. Got to be heavy drinker. Floating rib to the liver.
    Holmes punches the thug in the side.
    Four. Finally, drag in left leg, fist to patella.
    Holmes punches the man's knee out.
    Summary prognosis: conscious in ninety seconds. Martial efficacy: quarter of an hour at best. Full faculty recovery: unlikely.
    Holmes stops planning, and proceeds to do everything planned in a few seconds.
  • 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."
  • Exploited Immunity: Blackwood plans an attack on the Houses of Parliament that involves gassing everyone inside with cyanide, leaving his opponents dead and his supporters alive, allowing them to seize power for him while reinforcing his image of being an Evil Sorcerer who protects those loyal to him with dark magic. He secretly immunises his supporters against cyanide poisoning the night before the attack by having them drink a toast in his honor.
  • Eye-Obscuring Hat: The thug working for Lord Blackwood who tries to shoot Watson in the opening temple fight. Likely a sign that he's a Professional Killer (the hat pulled down is to obscure his face from witnesses).
  • Failed a Spot Check: Holmes is so busy trying to analyze the strange smell in Reordan's place, he doesn't notice two thugs have sauntered through the door, one eating a toffee apple, the source of the smell.
  • Faking the Dead: Blackwood faked his death as described by Holmes in his summation.
  • Faux Symbolism: Invoked in-universe. Blackwood killed the five girls in locations that form a pentagram on a map when lines are drawn to connect them. The four victims he claims (or attempts to claim) during film form a cross through the pentagram. Further, each victim is connected to one of the four animals that make up the parts of the sphinx and is killed in a manner invoking one of the four elements. However, it's all for show — Blackwood has no magical powers and is using the symbolism of his crimes to reinforce the idea he does have powers, making it easier to inspire loyalty and obedience through fear. Sherlock calls out that the ritualistic elements to his crimes are a ruse during the climax, but remarks that Blackwood had better hope none of it is real since "the devil's due a soul."
  • Fiery Cover Up: Two mooks arrive at Reordan's quarters as Holmes and Watson are investigating them. Holmes recognises the gear they're carrying as an arsonist's toolkit and guesses Blackwood has ordered them to torch the place.
  • Fight Clubbing: Sherlock is competing in a fight club in one scene.
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Used to contrast two of the most dramatic onscreen murders, both of which occur at the midpoint of the film when Lord Blackwood's plan is coming together. We see Blackwood drown Sir Thomas Rotheram in his bathtub about 15 minutes before he burns Ambassador Standish alive.
  • Flashback Effects: Holmes' flashbacks during his summation fade out with an overexposure effect.
  • Food Slap: When Sherlock implies that Mary is only in a relationship with Watson for his money, she splashes her wine on him.
  • Foreseeing My Death: Watson claims to have met a man in India who predicted the circumstances of his death, down to the number of bullets it would take to kill him and where each of those bullets would hit him.
  • Foreshadowing: A man sets up a false supernatural occurrence with the intention of using it to manipulate another for his own gain. Are we describing Holmes setting Watson up with a fraudulent fortune teller purportedly telling him about his unhappy future with Mary, or what Lord Blackwood's entire scheme is revealed to be?
  • Fortune Teller: Played for fun. Holmes pays a Gypsy woman so she would hand-read a bleak future for Watson and his wife. Holmes solemnly echoes everything she says, and Watson realizes this was a huge setup on Holmes' part.
  • Friendly Enemy: Played with; while they're understandably rather threatening to one of the great champions of law and order in the country being among their presence, Holmes is nevertheless able to charm the prisoners he's sharing a yard with (and escape a beating or worse) by telling them jokes, and seems on reasonably polite terms with their leader as he leaves.
  • Gallows Humor: A very literal example at the end, when Holmes hangs himself as a forensic experiment, but never stops wisecracking.
  • Gambit Roulette: Lord Blackwood's plan to kill Ambassador Standish would have failed if it hadn't been raining that day (since it required that Standish be doused in oil without realizing it). However, it is England, so it's less of a gamble than it might initially seem.
  • Giant Mook: Dredger, Blackwood's giant french henchman.
  • Glass Weapon: Blackwood attempts to stab Watson with a Blade Below the Shoulder made of glass in the opening scene of the movie.
  • Godly Sidestep: Holmes claims that his experimenting with one of the Hermetic rituals used by the Temple of the Four Orders has allowed him to reconcile nearly 2000 years of theological disparity... unfortunately, it's a story for another time, since stopping Blackwood from toppling Parliament is a more pressing concern.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Beneath this pillow lies the key to Sherlock's release.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Blackwood makes his short drop and sudden stop 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.
  • Go Seduce My Arch Nemesis: Irene Adler is hired by Professor Moriarty to, among other things, seduce Holmes. Subverted, 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.
  • GPS Evidence:
    • After Holmes was taken on a Blindfolded Trip, he is able to tell where they are by the scent from a specific bakery they passed on their way.
      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.
    • Holmes determines from trace clues on Lord Coward's clothing what he's done and the fact that he's been helping Blackwood set up a machine in the sewers to assassinate Parliament.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: While fighting The Dredger and some Mooks Holmes uses an electrical device to launch The Dredger into a Mook, which we later learn killed him.
  • Groin Attack: Holmes kicks the giant mook in the nuts during their climactic fight.
  • The Group: The Temple of the Four Orders is 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.
  • Gut Feeling: How Holmes expected Blackwood's Blade Below the Shoulder attack: "I was looking for it."
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Played straight as an arrow. Holmes pulls a pin from Irene's hair to open her handcuffs after the Slaughterhouse Fight. Badass as he is, Holmes doesn't even look down at the lock while picking it open.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Blackwood tries this on Holmes before his execution.
  • Hat Damage: Twice.
    • During the Slaughterhouse Fight, Holmes comes dangerously close to a rotating chainsaw on the Conveyor Belt o' Doom. His hat doesn't survive the encounter.
    • Irene Adler shoots Dredger clean through the bowler hat. It just misses the top of his head inside the hat, prompting the punny one-liner, "Did you... miss me?"
  • 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.
  • Hit Stop: Used a few times while Holmes is going through his fight moves in his head. The actual fight is then shown in real time to prove that Holmes' moves worked.
  • 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. Of note is that the creators have Shown Their Work here, he's using a Nagant, which forces the cylinder forward to seal the chamber, making it the only revolver that can actually be suppressed.
  • 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...
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Holmes does this to Watson's wife-to-be Mary upon meeting her. It's probably intended on his part to be a bit unsettling, given that he spends the entirety of their meeting trying to drive her and Watson apart.
  • 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.
  • Inter-Service 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...
  • I Shall Taunt You: Blackwood calls Watson Holmes' "loyal dog" and taunts him about the murders he's committed. Watson charges him, unaware that Blackwood is holding a long glass spike in front of him (invisible in the dark room). Thankfully, Holmes stops Watson in time.
  • 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.
  • Last Request: Blackwell's request to see Holmes again before his execution is granted.
  • Left the Background Music On: A minor example where Holmes is shown following Irene Adler and the music played during this scene is revealed to be him playing his violin.
  • Left Your Revolver Behind: Invoked. Watson is furious when Sherlock leaves without his revolver, knowing he did it deliberately so his friend will feel obliged to chase after him.
  • Local Reference: The villain mentions during his Evil Gloating that he has plans to take over America as well as Britain. Amazingly, this is actually an in-universe Invoked Trope because Blackwood really needed to push the Berserk Button of the American ambassador. Whether he meant to follow through on the threat is iffy.
  • Magic from Technology: Blackwood isn't really an Evil Sorceror. He's just aware of Clarke's Third Law and has a fine sense of theatrics.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In the end, while Blackwood himself is revealed to definitely not possess any magical powers, the nature of his death, along with some mysterious coincidences such as a raven that can be keeps appearing throughout the film during Blackwood's scenes, is this. With his death in particular a crane just happens to randomly break away and entangles his neck in chains, hanging him exactly as he was sentenced to be. It could be nothing more than mere coincidence, or the vague possibility that Blackwood genuinely did provoke sinister powers beyond his understanding, unbeknownst to even himself, during his theatrics.
    You had best hope it's nothing more than superstition, as you performed all the rituals perfectly. The devil's due a soul, I think.
  • Meaningful Name: Something of a Genius Bonus, which may very well have been accidental - Blackwood's name brings to mind Blackwood's Magazine, one of the chief competitors to The Strand, the magazine in which almost all of the original Holmes stories were serialized.
  • Men Can't Keep House: The first time we see Holmes' apartment, it is a darkened disheveled mess, complete with bullet holes in the walls. This trope is indirectly discussed when Mrs. Hudson enters and Holmes teases her for not making her rounds more frequently.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: The poster in the page image doesn't qualify, but this one does.
  • Mistaken Death Confirmation: Lord Blackwood fakes his death through a harness (to foil his hanging) and drugs that slowed his vitals. This completely fools Watson, who pronounces him dead at the scene.
  • Modesty Towel: Irene is wearing one when she catches Sherlock trying to pick a lock of her room.
  • Monumental Battle: Atop the incomplete Tower Bridge.
  • Mood Whiplash: Noted by many a reviewer. The film's pacing is a little odd, so at times it suffers from this.
  • Mugging the Monster: Two thugs try to rob Irene. You can guess how that turns out.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Invoked by Lord Blackwood before his execution. His death was faked, of course. His real death actually is a beginning, just not the one he planned for - shortly after he dies we get a Sequel Hook featuring Holmes true nemesis Moriarty.
  • Mystical City Planning: Holmes points this out during Sherlock's explanation of figuring out Blackwood's Connect the Deaths scheme: he says that cities have encoded references to the Masonic beliefs added to their design, which Blackwood has used to amplify his pretense of having come back from the dead. And using this, he discovers that the last target of Blackwood's "dark magic" rampage will be The Parliament.
  • Naked People Are Funny: When Holmes is Chained to a Bed.
    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.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Blackwood had pushed the button that would seal the fate of the British Parliament. Irene and Holmes had found the device but were struggling with how to actually stop its operation. Furthermore, they had to deal with Blackwood's henchmen guarding the device, any of whom could have possibly stopped them right at the critical moment.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailers led us to believe that Irene was warning Holmes about Blackwood instead of Moriarty. And that there would be actual dark forces involved.
    • The warehouse explosion scene in the trailer is cut in such a way that the implication is that Watson has just seen something dangerous happening to Holmes and is doing a Futile Hand Reach.
  • New Era Speech: Blackwood gives one at the Parliament.
    Blackwood: I will create an empire that will endure for millennia... indestructible... and eternal. [...] The new order... begins now.
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: Pulled by Moriarty in the train car.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: The film features three leading characters all caught smack in the middle of a cluster of fiery debris-scattering explosions. Some minor skin loss and smudges are suffered, but everyone keeps their pretty faces, hair, eyes, ears, and bones intact, and soon shake it off. Watson winds up in the hospital for a bit, but he's fine by the end of the film.
  • Noodle Incident: Apart from various Mythology Gags, 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.
  • Noose Catch: Lord Blackwood falls and is hanged by chains.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Professor Moriarty's signature weapon is a hidden gun in his sleeve.
  • No, You: A Lame Comeback by Holmes.
    Watson: Dinner at eight. Wear a jacket.
    Holmes: You wear a jacket.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The look on Holmes and Watson's faces when Dredger walks into the midget's lodgings after Watson had only promised to help Holmes investigate a building for 10 minutes.
      Holmes: [points to Dredger] Meat... [points to two other mooks with Dredger] Or potatoes?
      Watson: My 10 minutes are up. [cue awesome fight scene]
    • Watson when he realises he's set off a trip wire. He manages to warn Holmes not to come any closer before the explosion occurs.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Mrs. Hudson's reaction to his finding Watson's long-suffering dog Gladstone at the end of another one of Sherlock's experiments.
    Mrs. Hudson: He's killed the dog... again!"
  • Once More, with Clarity: Holmes explains all of Blackwood's sorcery at the end with accompanying scenes that show the real "magic" at work.
  • Orphaned Punchline: " which the barman says, 'May I push in your stool?'"
  • Paying for the Action Scene: Holmes engages in a pit fight in a dingy pub and eventually knocks his opponent through the wood wall. He collects his winnings and leaves some of it on the bar counter, apparently as payment for the wall and the extra bottle he takes from the bar.
  • Plummet Perspective: 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.
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: Inspector Lestrade has trouble saying that a witness is cata... cata... ("Catatonic, sir.").
  • 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.
  • Privacy by Distraction: Holmes sends the officers to find where Sir Thomas kept his bath salts while he looks for Thomas' occult paraphernalia.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Holmes stops Lord Blackwood just as he's about to sacrifice a young woman for a black magic ritual. Blackwood doesn't lay a finger on her; instead the woman is shown thrashing about in a trance on his altar stone, then lifting a dagger to plunge it into her chest before Holmes grabs her hand Just in Time. Given that Blackwood's magic is shown to be mere trickery, he presumably used a combination of drugs and hypnosis on her.
  • 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.
  • Race Against the Clock: Literally; Lord Blackwood announces that when Big Ben chimes twelve, everyone in Parliament who's not part of his cult will die. In the sewers below, Holmes and Watson are struggling with Dredger while Irene Adler tries to defuse a Steampunk Deadly Gas device.
  • 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.
  • Red Herring: You know that sinister-looking black bird? The one that manages to show up and hang around whenever Lord Blackwood kills someone by seemingly supernatural means? It's a perfectly ordinary raven, similar to those commonly found all over the UK. However, if one reads Blackwood's highly-contrived death at the end of the film as an offended response to him using 'real' magic rituals perfectly in his phony acts then the raven could be seen as someone or something keeping tabs on Blackwood until full payment for his blasphemy is due.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Sherlock Holmes went out of his way to try to get Dr. Watson to not get engaged to Mary since he wanted to keep him for himself. He insulted Mary with a deduction and he paid a fortune teller to plant seeds of doubt into Watson's head. He eventually did give his consent.
  • 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.
  • Saved by the Platform Below: Blackwood pushes Irene Adler from Tower Bridge and it seems she fell to her death. A few scenes later we discover she just fell onto a platform below and is well off.
  • 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.
  • Say My Name: Watson, while running after the villain with Holmes following a couple hundred feet behind him, trips a bomb wire, hears ticking, and in (what he thinks is) his last living moment, has the presence of mind to turn around with his hand thrown out in the universal "stop" gesture and scream "HOOOOLLLMMES!" to warn Holmes not to come any nearer, as he's about to get blown up.
  • Scenery Censor:
    • When Irene drops her towel in front of Holmes we only get a brief view of her bare back before she steps behind a dressing screen that blocks her from the head down before she puts her clothes on.
    • When Irene leaves Sherlock naked and Chained to a Bed she is kind enough to leave a pillow strategically place to cover his crotch... and also mischievously leaves the key to his release below said pillow.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: The truth about the strange phenomena around Lord Blackwood.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: When the Order approaches Holmes 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. He agrees to stop Blackwood... "But not for you. And certainly not for a price."
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The opening sacrifice scene.
  • Sequel Hook: Irene's employer? None other than Professor Moriarty. Downplayed in that Moriarty's reason for being involved is not brought up in the sequel.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: Happens after the warehouse explodes.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: When Irene first shows up to ask for Holmes' help and he reflexively grabs her wrist to stop her from pulling something out of her jacket pocket. Turns out, she only wanted to produce an envelope.
  • Slaughterhouse Fight: When Watson and Sherlock try to save Irene who's chained to a Conveyor Belt of Doom leading to a bandsaw and gas pipes spewing flame. The location was later justified when it's revealed Blackwood was refining his poison gas in pigs' bellies.
  • Sleep Cute: Holmes falls asleep against Watson after spending the night in a prison yard.
  • 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.
  • Slow Electricity: When Holmes is fighting Dredger in an abandoned warehouse with the aid of an electric cattle prod. At one point, Dredger is hanging on to a pipe on the wall for support, and Holmes touches the far end of the pipe with the cattle prod. Although it moves quickly the movement of the electricity (well, the magic blue sparks showing where the electricity is) as it races down the pipe is clearly visible.
  • 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.
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: Holmes, disguised as a hobo, arranges a run-in with the carriage carrying Irene and her employer. He then begs for change in order to get a better look at the two occupants.
  • Stopped Clock: Watson reminds Holmes that he forgot to determine the midget's time of death by checking the broken pocket watch.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Subverted. The storm is coming line is AFTER the finale, and everything being resolved... Unless it was about Moriarty...
  • 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.)
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration: The film has two scenes wherein Sherlock plans a beatdown out in advance before delivery. Assisted by Robert Downey Jr's real-life knowledge of Wing Chun.
  • Take Over the World: Blackwood's goal as mentioned during his New Era Speech at the Parliament.
  • Television Geography: In the climax, characters somehow manage to run from the sewers of the Houses of Parliament to the top of the newly constructed Tower Bridge within minutes. The two landmarks are miles apart.
  • Tempting Fate: Blackwood's "It's a long journey from here to the rope..." at the end of the movie. Turns out it isn't so long as all that.
    • After Holmes meets with Sir Thomas, he asks Sir Thomas how long he expects to live if the rest of Blackwood's family has been killed, and tells him to consider it as food for thought. It's Harsher in Hindsight given that Blackwood drowns him in his bathtub that night.
  • 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.
  • Theory Tunnel Vision: Holmes and Watson discuss this trope, in regards to Lord Blackwood's apparent resurrection from his execution. Watson, having seen his fair share of weird shit during his military career, suggests that this time the case could have genuine supernatural elements to it. While Holmes is open to the possibility, he also warns Watson to wait until they have all the facts first. "Inevitably one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."
  • They Would Cut You Up: When Blackwood says his five victims were sacrifices for a higher purpose, Holmes responds by suggesting that after Blackwood is executed, Watson would have access to dissect Blackwood's brain to see what makes him evil.
    "I wonder if they'd let Watson and me dissect your brain. After you're hanged, of course. I'd wager there's some deformity that'd be scientifically significant. Then you too, could serve a greater purpose."
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Dredger throws a barrel at Holmes, tripping him up.
  • Toplessness from the Back: When Irene drops her towel while walking towards her dressing partition during Holmes' visit.
  • Trust Me, I'm an X:
    • First, the famous chained-to-the-bed scene:
      Holmes: Madam, I need you to remain calm. And trust me, I'm a professional. Beneath this pillow, lies the key to my release.
    • When Watson is choking Dredger.
      Watson: [reassuringly] Relax, I'm a doctor.
  • Uncertain Doom: Whether Lord Coward survived being overcome by the rest of parliament is unclear.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: Holmes is stripped naked by Irene after she drugs him. He wakes up to find himself Chained to a Bed.
  • Unexpectedly Real Magic: Lord Blackwood passes himself off as a talented magician. His spells turn out to be tricks, but Holmes notes that Blackwood performed all the magic rituals perfectly, which could mean "the devil's due a soul." Sure enough, there's a conspicuous raven following Blackwood around everywhere he goes...
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Irene and Holmes get nothing more than a quick kiss on the cheek by the movie's end.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee:
    • Holmes meticulously plans his beatdown of his opponent step-by-step, via internal monologue, and it goes exactly as he planned it.
    • Lestrade arrests Holmes, and seems to enjoy the thought of turning him in to Lord Coward. However, he was shown to be working with Holmes the entire time, even slipping him the key to his handcuffs to facilitate his escape.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • As we learn at the end, Lord Blackwood himself is one of Moriarty's pawns.
    • Irene, who ignores Moriarty's Kansas City Shuffle about what component of the machine he is actually seeking.
    • Holmes himself; while he ultimately solves the plot through sheer genius and tenacity, the first two thirds of the movie has him falling into Blackwood's plan and pretty much doing as Blackwood expected. And he ultimately falls for the distraction that allows Moriarty to get what he wanted.
  • Use Your Head: Holmes gives the giant French henchman a headbutt but the latter seems underwhelmed by it.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Coward's motivation for supporting Blackwood's scheme is "to provide the weak masses with a strong shepherd."
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment:
    • Inverted as Holmes drops the handcuff key down between Irene Adler's breasts to have her to get someone else to fish around in there for it, as she is handcuffed behind her back. Just like she did to him earlier.
    • Also played straight with the 'Maharajah's Diamond' and, earlier, the 'deadly' envelope.
  • Weaponized Headgear: Sherlock takes out one of Lord Blackwood's thugs by putting a bowler hat (stolen from another guard) over his eyes, then punching him during the momentary disorientation this causes.
  • Weapon Stomp: During the fight in the basement of the Parliament, Holmes lies on the floor and tries to reach for an ax, but the giant mook prevents this by stepping on his arm.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Played with: Holmes does a Sherlock Scan on Watson's fiancée Mary and observes that she has a lighter spot on her ring finger, leading him to the assumption that she was engaged before but left her fiancé for not having enough Gold Digger potential. Mary is outraged and splashes her wine on Holmes. Then she reveals she removed her engagement ring because her former fiancé died.
  • Westminster Chimes: Can be heard during Blackwood's New Era Speech at the Parliament.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The very end features Moriarty stealing a wireless-control-mechanism. Holmes alludes to this as important, but it is not even given a passing mention in the sequel.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Blackwood's device is set to detonate on the twelfth chime of Big Ben.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Holmes disguises himself with a false nose, hat, eye patch, and some stones in his mouth when following Irene Adler.
  • Xanatos Gambit/Kansas City Shuffle: The second is part of the first. Everyone assumes that Irene's employer wants the gas, and indeed, her mission is to steal it for him. But it ultimately doesn't matter at all to Moriarty whether the gas is used against Parliament or not, or whether Adler succeeds in stealing the canister. He's really after the first-of-its-kind radio transmitter, a far rarer artifact (yet more versatile) than poison gas, something that would be quite easy to come by in industrial London. Everything she does serves only to distract Holmes and Blackwood.
  • You Just Told Me: Holmes tricks Coward into giving him enough time to get all the information he needs.
    Holmes: 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.

"Case re-opened."


Video Example(s):


Holmes vs Dredger

Holmes may be a top-notch fighter, but he's no match for the enormous Dredger, whose implacable pursuit of his diminutive opponent is played for laughs.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / DavidVersusGoliath

Media sources: