2009 saw what would split purists and and new-found fans down the middle - Guy Ritchie's version of the greatest detective ever, Sherlock Holmes. His version of the super sleuth was more villain-killer than deer-stalker.
For those who visit the cinema a lot, this sequel may come as a breath of fresh air. There is no "all the rage" 3D. Nor is there any travelling down the road of "darker, grittier" as so many other follow-ups have done of late to try and please and keep their audiences. This is a true definition of it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Despite new writers, new locations and new villains, A Game Of Shadows feels, looks and rolls along just like its predecessor. All the touches that stood out back then have just been emphasised more, and it's this familiarity that definitely builds content. Ritchie has great fun in depicting Holmes' keen intellect once again with the Matrix-like ability to see things before they happen, in this case, just before one of the various fight sequences. All is mapped out in his mind and then come to fruition, except for scenario which brings a new slant to the definition of cock fighting.
The other, and much more welcome return, is the sheer grin-inducing bromance between Downey Jr's Holmes and Law's Watson. The banter is bigger, sharper, quicker and at times ruder between them - "you've been enjoying Mary's muffins." This keeps them squarely at the top of the pile of recent cinema buddy teamings and conjours up memories of the early Riggs and Murtaugh exchanges of Lethal Weapon. The repercussions of the stag night on Watson's wedding day are a delight to behold as you see Holmes still struggle to let his relationship/partnership with him move inevitably on.
The plot, as before, will become second fiddle to the set pieces, the banter and the action and you will find yourself feeling that you're just hanging on in there and being led through the locations of London, Paris, Germany and Switzerland, but it's done in such a way that you don't feel disgruntled or cheated. Instead, like Watson partly, you're along for the ride and you just have to sit back and follow Holmes's lead. If there is a disappointment, it's the fact that Dragon Tattoo's Rapace is never given anything much to allow her to shine like McAdams did in the first outing. Neither love interest or plot-essential, she is even upstaged by a lesser character - Stephen Fry's brother of Holmes is ridiculously posh and quirky and far more memorable.
Great fun and exciting to boot, this is a sequel that, unlike most, is worth seeing. It's elementary.
UK release date: 16.12.11