Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, start off with Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) on the verge of solving another case on the eve of his best friend Watson's (Jude Law) wedding. The case involved Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), who has been buying up many different industries, as well as placing bombs and assassins in strategic places to increase Franco-German tensions in 1890. Holmes believes that Moriarty is the mastermind behind these attacks, while the rest of the world thinks it is the goverments of each country. After Watson and his new wife become targets of Moriarty, he joins Holmes, as well as a young gypsy Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), who has a deep connection to Moriarty's plan, to try to stop him before his evil plan is complete.
I personally was not a big fan of the first one, as the conclusion of this long adventure ended in about two minutes. A frustrating narrative flaw to say the least. I am proud to say that the ending of part 2 is much better, and the pacing of the second is a lot faster, with much more action, making it a more enjoyable experience. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. are at their witty finest, and Noomi Rapace is a nice addition to the cast. While I kind of missed the sexiness and sultriness of Rachel McAdams (who does briefly make an appearence), I enjoyed the change of pace with Noomi, and am happy she is starting to make a dent in American cinema. The action is thrilling, and the technical elements, including Hans Zimmer's score, the sets and costumes are all top notch. More importantly, the final conclusion is a lot more fun, a lot less rushed, and actually leaves some welcomed ambiguity.
While Game of Shadows improved on many accounts or at least maintained the positive aspects that made the first decent, there are still some major flaws in the film that are hard to overlook, and, at moments, makes it difficult to watch. First of all, it is incredibly long, and there are some scenes that continue to drag, and should have been cut. Second of all, despite fine performances from his actors, Guy Ritchie need to learn to pick his spots with some of his directorial flourishes. I know he is trying to show us the mind of Sherlock Holmes, but by the fifth or sixth time, you are wanting to hit the fast forward button and get to the good stuff. Finally, Moriarty is a good foil in terms of intellect for Holmes, but divulging him so early loses some of the mystery, and he seems to be lacking the sinister nature of Mark Strong from the original.
So Game of Shadows is a flawed effort, but I'll admit, a fun one. It manages to keep you entertained throughout most of its long run time, and is a nice diversion during the holiday season.
Oscar Potential: Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects