Watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, it’s almost impossible to imagine that this sequel is only two years out from its first installment, so weary is its attitude and tone. One might think that this series has been going on, and on, for years, and that its stars are understandably bored. Such is the sad case of this much anticipated follow-up to the brilliantly madcap Sherlock Holmes of 2009, in which Robert Downey, Jr., imbued the brilliant detective with a trace of malice, a soupcon of athletic agility and more than a little sly sexuality.
This being a Guy Ritchie film, the pyrotechnics are of the first, and most important, order, and so we have Germans and Austrians and the Brits gunning for military preeminence and jockeying for world domination, to the point that this viewer had to keep reminding herself that World War I is about 25 years away. Still, the action scenes, which comprise the majority of what stands in for plot here, are exciting, especially a stop-action chase through the German woods, where we watch the trajectory of bullets chasing Holmes, Dr. Watson (an underutilized Jude Law) and their gypsy fortune teller companion Sim (Noomi Rapace).
This time around, Holmes comes face to face with his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), and while it’s true that the movie’s most compelling moments are those in which the pair verbally spar, it’s also true that we’re left wanting so much more from these two. Secondary characters, like Watson’s new bride Mary, Inspector LaStrade and even Mrs. Hudson, are paraded in for cameo-type appearances, but the movie is less about people than it is about explosives. A Game of Shadows is one of those films that, if you just stop thinking, you might enjoy on a purely visceral level; but is ultimately convoluted and curiously empty, like a big bag of Fritos that you suck down during a game. You end up feeling full but kind of crappy, and completely unfulfilled.