A total misfire, this sequel doesn't come close to living up to its predecessor. The plot is so convoluted that it actually makes watching the film a headache-inducing experience. The action is ramped up, yet still reminds us of what was done better just a few years ago in director Guy Ritchie's first foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes. And as for the jokes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has lost its sense of fun, making the comical moments seem forced, lifeless, and - even more disheartening - predictable.
2009's Sherlock Holmes didn't make a lot of sense (however it was so entertaining that it didn't matter), but there's even less of a coherent story in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Ostensibly, the plot has something to do with Moriarty and tension between France and Germany, Holmes in drag, Watson getting married, death threats from Moriarty against the newlyweds, and Mrs. Watson then getting pushed out of a moving train by Holmes. And there's a gypsy fortune teller (Noomi Rapace) looking for her missing brother who may or may not now be an assassin for the bad guys. But don't drive yourself crazy trying to put two and two together because in this Sherlock Holmes nothing adds up and cohesive storytelling is thrown out to make room for more outlandish action sequences.
Performances by Jared Harris as Holmes' nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, Stephen Fry as Sherlock's brother, and the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace as a gypsy are decent but not enough to energize this sequel.
There's a lot of fighting in slow-mo then repeated in sped up-mo, a lot of explosions, and it's obvious not a penny of the special effects budget was spared in making sure A Game of Shadows surpassed the action scenes of 2009's Sherlock Holmes. So how can a film with so much going on on screen seem like nothing's really happening for an hour and a half before finishing up with a 25 minute third act that finally shows some signs of life? It's too late by then to save A Game of Shadows from just disappearing into the shadows of our minds, fading completely away from our memory while walking out the theater's door.
About 45 minutes into the movie, I leaned over to a fellow critic and very quietly whispered, "I have no idea what's going on or what this film's about," a sentiment shared by the recipient of my whispered observation. Look up 'to zone out' in the dictionary and the definition should read: "Normal response to watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."
GRADE: C- (only because of some of the bigger action sequences, otherwise it would have earned a D)
Sherlock Holmes: A Games of Shadows was directed by Guy Ritchie and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material.
Theatrical Release: December 16, 2011