There are real pitfalls in creating a sequel to an enormously popular film, and the peril lies in ramping up everything that made the initial offering such an amazing success — everything, that is, except the plot and the character development. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" certainly delivers more special effects, more action, more quirkiness, more frenetic flashbacks and outright mayhem, all while leaving dialogue and plot development in the dust.
Robert Downey Jr. once again delivers a compelling, yet unorthodox Holmes, who this time is acting as best man to longtime friend Dr. Watson all while trying to thwart the diabolical Professor Moriarty from driving Europe into cataclysmic war. Jude Law returns as Watson and Jared Harris is a wonderfully atypical Moriarty — no Snidely Whiplash melodrama here. He is deliciously, ah, professorial.
While many of the scenes are overblown with overwrought action and effects, one interaction between Holmes and Moriarty is worth the entire price of admission. The two arch-enemies are matching wits in an exchange that is mesmerizing. While engaged in tense conversation revealing their knowledge of each other's plans and plots, Holmes and the professor are playing chess. Making this so riveting is the fact that the game leaves the board as both men walk about the room mentally playing the match to its conclusion, calling out moves verbally, all while their heated discussion continues. It's a fabulous moment that underscores the intellect of these legendary rivals.
Don't get me wrong. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is worth seeing; it's just that I had such high expectations. The first movie was terrific, bringing the great characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to life for a new time and a new generation all while not taking traditionalists off a cliff. This time, there is far too much reliance on the eye candy, action, violence and gimmicks.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" gets three stars and is rated PG-13.
Doug Wright is host of the KSL Movie Show on Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM.