Considering my feelings after catching the first Sherlock Holmes effort in 2009 were ‘that was better than I thought it would be’, I approached this sequel with some trepidation.

Chances are, I thought, that with inflated expectations comes bigger disappointment.

But, while Guy Ritchie’s second take on the character is far, far from perfect, this romp is entertaining enough and likely to do enough at the box office to generate a third production.

Delving into the Holmes mythology, Game of Shadows elects to throw arch-villain Moriarty into the mix, as the Professor seeks to set about a chain of events to force the world into an all-encompassing war.

Naturally Holmes and Dr Watson are on the case, hopping their way about Europe as they attempt to save the day and thwart those nefarious plans.

As with the first film, huge swathes of the running time are given over to the relationship between Holmes and Watson, and Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law deliver the goods.

I must admit it took me about a good ten to 15 minutes or so to get ‘into’ the rhythm of their performances (notably Downey Jr), but once you get over that jump there is plenty to enjoy in their bickering bromance.

The irony is that Watson is actually in the midst of getting married, and his attempts to get to Brighton for his honeymoon is a gag that is overplayed throughout the movie.

In fact overplaying things is one of the real faults of the movie.

The slow-motion fight scenes are technically excellent and enjoyable – there are just too many of them.

At times Ritchie seems obsessed with slo-mo, with no opportunity to wind the clock down missed.

There are also a couple of convenient plot twists that ensure the whole thing keeps moving forward.

The big plusses this time around though come in the excellent casting.

Not only do we get Downey Jr and Law, but we also get the bonus delight of Stephen Fry as Holmes’ brother Mycroft, as well as a cameo from star of first film Rachel McAdams.

Topping all of them though is Jared Harris as Moriarty, a superb creation of controlled menace and it is very much his performance that pushes the film into ‘good’ territory.

After all, what is a character like Sherlock Holmes without a memorable opponent, and they do not come bigger than Moriarty.

Noomi Rapace is lost in the swirls of intrigue as gypsy Madam Heron, given very little to do and subsequently fading into the background in many scenes.

The locations and period detail are bang on (my missus even informed me an ink-pot in one scene was spot-on vintage) and there is an overall air of quality about the production that comes from having a bigger budget this time around.

With a clutch of big-hitters released this Christmas, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows will have its work cut out to create the same impact as its predecessor.

But as a standalone film, this is an improvement on the first.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.