It’s nearly impossible to watch a prequel and not compare it to its predecessor. This puts a huge amount of pressure on sequels and is perhaps why it’s so difficult to decide exactly where Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows falls in the grand scheme of cinema. The cast and crew are all the same from the original Sherlock, however in the two years between their releases, something seems to have been lost and is desperately missing in Game of Shadows.
The plot in essence is sinister; a villain in want of mass destruction for personal benefits is always disturbing. Despite this, the overall plot of the film for the first half or so is quite lighthearted and filled with laughter, on Dr. Watson and Holmes’ part. The chemistry and banter between Watson and Holmes has always been fun and quick, but in Game of Shadows it is amped up to bromance-level flirting and jokes (much to the chagrin of many viewers, surely). However, this feels forced, over the top, and for the most part not very funny, much like the rest of the film itself, despite the wonderful acting abilities of Jude Law and the terribly charming and charismatic Robert Downey, Jr.
As far as visuals go, Game of Shadows feels off somehow. Most noticeable was the change in the moment when Holmes is contemplating how to take down his enemies. In Game of Shadows the slow-mo effect from the first film is applied, except with the addition of a strange wibbly, wobbly effect which distorts the action instead of focusing in on it. During a lot of the other fight scenes, they are lit so dimly that again the action is sadly lost. However, towards the end of the film there is a quite awesome scene where we find our protagonists running through a forest and the slow-mo style of Guy Ritchie is utilized in a crisp, dazzling manner. At this same point, the pacing slows to an enjoyable speed and the secrets and twists of the movie are all brought together in a fairly satisfying reveal. All in all, the film as a stand alone might have been okay, but as a sequel makes some decisions, plot, dialogue and style-wise that are likely to disappoint.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows runs 129 minutes and is rated PG-13