In 2009, Guy Ritchie brought us a re-imagined Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. In 2011, he presented the sequel, Game of Shadows.
I absolutely loved the '09 flick, and have watched many many times. I thought it was fresh, inviting and a totally new presentation of a long loved character. The soundtrack was amazing- totally engaging on its own without being distracting.
RDJ's Holmes was cocky, brilliant, most of the time one step ahead, and at times at the mercy of his skill to observe all. Law's Watson was his wingman, straightman, external conscience but not without his own flaws. Watson's weakness for bets leads to Holmes holding his money more often than not.
The movie is a fun story (it never felt like it took itself that seriously), a mystery with numerous fast witty jokes and showing a great bromance in action. Easily an 8/10 for me.
The second movie picks up chronologically after the first one. If memory serves, it's a few months after. Subplots in the first movie that you thought might be important show up center stage. What this sequel didn't do, which I am grateful for, is try to use the successful formula from the first movie. Sure, it uses some of the same imagery (the pre attack thought process Holmes goes through; the slow motion attack scenes; Holmes' penchant for ridiculous disguises), but the stakes are higher, the bad guy is badder (and at times quite sadistic) and there are threats of loss and actual loss. Holmes is almost in over his head. There is one amazing sequence where he is following clues aggressively only to reach what should be the solution but finds he was delibrately led astray by the story's villian, Moriarty, fanstically and creepily played by Jared Harris.
The first movie show's Holmes in element; the second shows him out of it, at times desperately pulling things together as he runs for his life. That's why I like it. The amped up ante reflects the potential consequences of the case should Holmes fail. And it works. It keeps you guessing the whole time, wondering what will finally do the bad guy in... wondering too if the good guys will actually win this round. And again, the music was spot on.
This movie was also easily an 8/10. Can't wait to watch it again.