Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
After finishing Sherlock Holmes on Blu-ray, I found I had enjoyed it so much that I was now eager to see its sequel. Luckily for me, one of my UltraViolet group members had already added it to our shared library.
I was far more comfortable with this film's political machinations than its predecessor's "supernatural" scheme, so that aspect engaged me more. So did this film's scale. Though I know Holmes primarily operates within London, I've always enjoyed his field trips elsewhere.
As for Professor Moriarty, I tend to tire of him in movies (the Wontner series seemed incapable of using any other adversary), but he was well written here. Jared Harris played the role with just the right balance of stoic, self-assured control, and bigger-than-life gravitas. Having recently revisited Mission: Impossible III, I drew some parallels between Harris's Moriarty and that film's Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Like many people, I tend to be more drawn into a story when the protagonist is a step behind the antagonist.
I knew the moment I saw the waterfall where we were headed, and I give credit to the movie for building that suspense subtly. It didn't have to lead to the showdown playing out the way it did, of course, since this wasn't a direct adaptation, but instinctively it just felt right that the film should go there. The finale played out nicely, and I confess that in the coda, I had entirely forgotten about [that thing]. That's exceedingly rare for me to not hold onto seeing something like that earlier in the movie, so it's worth noting here.
Though on the whole I enjoyed A Game of Shadows, it felt too much like a "Bigger! Better!" sequel. The assault on the train, for instance, was a sequence I should have loved, but it just felt so over the top that it lost me. Later, the escape from the factory through the woods was so laden with editing gimmickry that I checked out and didn't care what happened. And while I'm pro-Stephen Fry in just about anything (he and Hugh Laurie really ought to have been Holmes & Watson), his nude scene was so Family Guy that all I could do was roll my eyes.
I think a succinct way of putting it is that I favor the story in the sequel, but the storytelling in the first picture.
How Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Entered My Flickchart
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > The King of California --> #811
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows < Diamonds Are Forever --> #811
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows < Memphis Belle --> #811
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows < Sunshine Cleaning --> #811
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > Monsters vs. Aliens --> #760
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > I'll Wait for the Next One --> #735
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > Kronk's New Groove --> #722
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > To Joy --> #715
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > The Edge --> #712
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > Wag the Dog --> #711
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows > Charlotte's Web (1973) --> #710
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows entered my Flickchart at #710/1622