It was erratic with its storytelling and pacing, self-indulgent with it’s features — such as Holmes’ ability to see everything at once — but still overall entertaining to watch.
In fact, the first movie is much like the titular character acts when he doesn’t have a case that he feels meets his level of crime solving intellect.
Game of Shadows on the other hand is focused, to the point, intriguing, fast-paced, smart and still filled with Sherlockian quirks that keep the movie light and interesting.
So, like Sherlock Holmes when he’s being challenged, Game of Shadows is Sherlock at his best.
The sequel picks up a few months after the first film ends and Sherlock, played again in hysterical fashion by Robert Downey Jr., has discovered the shadowy puppet master from the first film, Professor Moriarty is plotting a crime on a monumental scale.
Holmes again enlists his long-time partner, best friend and newly wed Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law, for help.
And standing opposite Holmes and Watson is Jared Harris as Moriarty.
Harris plays the cold, calculating criminal with absolute precision. Harris brings the dry and cut throat execution that when he has the upper hand on Holmes it’s fantastically terrifying for the audience because it leads them to the same dread that Holmes is feeling: How could one man be this much smarter than everyone else around him and what can anyone do to stop him.
And that’s not even the best part.
As Holmes and Watson are on the trail of Moriarty across Europe the eventual confrontation between the greatest detective and the original super villain is the equivalent of an intellectual heavy-weight boxing match — the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ of minds if you will.
Downey and Harris trading intellectual blows one after the other to each other to expose the flaws in their thinking and deduction work so well against each other that it overshadows every other high point, every flaw and everything in between.
These scenes between Holmes and Moriarty, Downey and Harris, are in a word awesome and makes Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows head and shoulders better than the first.