Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ***

December 29, 2011 by J-Wire
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It can be argued that few things embolden a filmmaker more than success. When Guy Ritchie re-invented the world’s best-known detective for his 2009 Sherlock Holmes, no one knew how the movie would be received. Ritchie’s vision was validated by a strong world-wide box office. For the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Ritchie’s more confident style betrays his assurance. No longer as reliant upon visual flourishes and spastic camera movement, the director allows the story to be the primary source of propulsion. A Game of Shadows is a stronger, better realized movie that builds upon the strengths of the original and jettisons some of the weaknesses.

For the nearly 120 years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the character in the 1893 story, “The Final Problem,” James Moriarty has been a fan obsession. Holmes’ equal-but-opposite, Moriarty is the perfect foil for the consulting detective – a brilliant mathematician whose intelligence matches that of his adversary. Moriarty appeared in only one of Conan Doyle’s 60 Sherlock Holmes stories (the aforementioned “The Final Problem”) but has become a staple of Holmes lore and is frequently employed in the ever-growing non-Conan Doyle library of the detective’s adventures (Reichenbach Falls notwithstanding). It makes sense, therefore, that Ritchie would bring Moriarty to the screen – what better rival for Robert Downey Jr.’s incarnation of the detective than a man who can match him in deduction, gamesmanship, and physicality?

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