- Anti-Climax Boss: Both Sherlock and Moriarty pictured how the battle would go in their minds, but Holmes decided on a Taking You with Me on Moriarty, defeating him in just 9 seconds.
- Awesome Music: Some parts of the soundtrack pinches Ennio Morricone's theme from Two Mules for Sister Sara.
- Complete Monster: Professor James Moriarty, dubbed "The Napoleon of Crime" by Sherlock Holmes, is a heartless criminal mastermind, as well as Holmes's equal and opposite in terms of intellect. After fatally poisoning Irene Adler to remove her from his employ, Moriarty makes it clear that he has no intention of sparing Holmes's best friend Dr. John Watson or Watson's wife Mary if Holmes continues to interfere with his plans. True to his word, Moriarty tries to have Watson and Mary killed, destroying the train they were travelling on in the process. Engineering a plot to jumpstart World War I so that he can profit from the bloodshed through the sale of munitions, Moriarty enacts this plot through manipulation and murder, staging a series of bombings to increase tensions between nations, driving a French revolutionary to suicide, and having his henchman, Sebastian Moran, assassinate a businessman so Moriarty can acquire his company, killing many others in an explosion to conceal the murder. After capturing Holmes, Moriarty brutally tortures him with a meat hook, calmly singing Schubert as he does, going on to massacre many of Madame Simza Heron's Gypsy tribe when they rescue Holmes. Having forced Simza's brother to act as an assassin, Moriarty plans to kill a dignitary at a peace summit to incite war. After this plan is thwarted and his assets are seized by the police, Moriarty intends to kill Holmes and his friends in revenge, only being stopped when Holmes throws them both over a waterfall. Ruthless, sadistic, callous, and cruel, Moriarty stands out as the most dangerous criminal Holmes has ever encountered.
- Contested Sequel: Audience score in Rotten Tomatoes remains in 77% for both films, curiously enough, but the critical reception of the sequel was significantly lower than the first.
- Genius Bonus: When Gladstone collapses (just before Holmes gives Watson his wedding present), Holmes mentions to Watson that he's been experimenting with Ricinus communis— the castor oil plant from which the poison ricin is derived.
- He's Just Hiding!: It's fairly common to see fans purposing ways Irene Adler's death didn't actually happen (check the WMG page for a few of them). Early rumors that Rachel McAdams would be cast again in the third film only helped to it, and even despite they have not been confirmed, they support the perception that Irene's death was purposedly left ambiguous in order to open the door to a future return.
- Ho Yay: Like the previous film, there was so much of it that it had to given a page of its own.
- It Was His Sled: Anyone who's read the books knew what to expect when Mycroft dropped the name of Reichenbach, Switzerland.
- Like You Would Really Do It: When Holmes briefly appears to die on the train. Obviously the plot can't go on without him, and any Holmes fan knows that even if the writers did kill off Holmes, he would have to die alongside Moriarty. (Which makes the second death scene a lot more convincing.)
- Moral Event Horizon: At first, Professor Moriarty comes across as an Affably Evil Worthy Opponent to Holmes, but any possible claim to playing fair is utterly destroyed when he announces his intent to make Watson collateral damage for no other reason than to hurt Holmes, and in the same breath reveals that he has already poisoned Irene Adler because she outlived her usefulness. And that's just the beginning; he speeds joyfully deeper throughout the course of the movie. Disturbingly brutal torture is involved.
- Paranoia Fuel: Holmes' urban camouflage. He could be hiding in your room, watching what you're doing, right now. The end?
- Tear Jerker:
- Sherlock's departure from John's wedding after the holy union between him and Mary, counts as both this and heartwarming.
- Irene's death stands out as the most prominent.
- Also a twofer in the movie's climax, the first being Sim's wailing when her brother suddenly dies from poison right in front of her, and the other being when Holmes grabbed Moriarty and plunged over the falls and its aftermath. What's worse is John's last words in his manuscript, describing him playing witness to this potential Heroic Sacrifice."A few words may suffice to tell the little that remains. Any attempt at finding the bodies was absolutely hopeless. And so there, deep down in that dreadful cauldron of swirling water and seething foam, would lie for all time, the most dangerous criminal and the foremost champion of the law of their generation. I shall ever regard him as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known."
- On top of that, the original story, "The Final Problem", had John responding to a fake call for help from an inn, leaving Holmes to face Moriarty alone and hurl the both of them off the waterfall, with John figuring this out minutes later. In this version, he gets to where Holmes and Moriarty are, just in time for him to see Holmes closing his eyes and throwing himself and Moriarty off the ledge and into the waters below.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
- The radio transmitter from the previous film is in no way mentioned in the sequel. However, with the second sequel in production, it could be a contingency plan for Moriarty.
- Also, the death of Irene Adler feels like a waste when you consider they obviously thought the two heroes one villainess formula worked from last film, but felt they should have her carry the Idiot Ball enough to keep an appointment with Moriarty after she failed him. Plus, it really ticks off Nero Wolfe fans...
YMMV / Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows