Detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) looks on in horror as the wedding of his partner John Watson (Jude Law) begins. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” picks up where the 2009 hit left off as Holmes encounters his greatest foe, Prof. Moriarty (Jared Harris).

Warner Bros. Pictures/Courtesy

Detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) looks on in horror as the wedding of his partner John Watson (Jude Law) begins. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” picks up where the 2009 hit left off as Holmes encounters his greatest foe, Prof. Moriarty (Jared Harris).

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

Movie At A Glance ...

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

2.5 out of 4 stars

129 minutes

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace and Jared Harris.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs

The olfactory sensation of body odor and vodka might mean little to most people.

For the hero of “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” it's just one of many observations that keep him from getting one-upped in a world where everybody's trying to futilely stay a step ahead of him.

Mass bombings by anarchists all over Europe have rocked the core of 1891 Great Britain as ordinary citizens wonder if their society can hold up under these conditions. Right in the thick of things is super sleuth Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), who is less concerned with these events and more worried about the prospect of losing his partner and best friend, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law).

With Watson's marriage inevitable, he intends to associate less and less with Holmes and his erratic behavior, but the world's greatest detective doesn't give his companions up so easily.

Especially when they're marked for destruction.

Holmes is in the midst of a battle of wills with his nemesis, Prof. James Moriarty (Jared Harris), a mathematical scholar whose sterling reputation in England is merely a charade, masking that of a devious criminal mastermind. With the blackguard ready and able to do anything that might keep Holmes off his trail, Watson reluctantly joins him for one last case, if for nothing more than his own safety.

Between Holmes and his ongoing bit as Tony Stark/Iron Man, it's a wonder Downey even has time to sleep these days. Sherlock's haggard appearance suggests that maybe he doesn't, but you can hardly tell with all the pep that goes into this master of deduction, jumping into new endeavors and schemes with nary a thought for the consequences.

Law's scowl is justified considering how much his cohort puts him through, whether it's a raucous night out before the nuptials or tossing Watson's new wife (Kelly Reilly) off a speeding train into a river.

On their honeymoon, no less.

With Rachel McAdams out of the picture only minutes into the story, Noomi Rapace provides us with a fresh female presence. The original girl with the dragon tattoo makes her English-language debut as Simza, a gypsy fortuneteller in search of her brother, who may be serving the sinister interests of Moriarty.

For a man who's supposed to be evil personified, Harris is curiously submissive as Holmes' worst nightmare - someone who's as tactically proficient as he is and a physical powerhouse to boot.

Yet, even when Moriarty unleashes his more primal side, he never comes off that threatening.

Holmes might disagree when he is trapped with a meat hook through his shoulder, dangling like a worm as his enemy sings along to a record of Schubert's “Die Forelle” and watches him writhe.

Hans Zimmer's intentionally disjointed musical score plays around with the idea that there is a thin line between chaos and order, madness and brilliance. This is the dominant trait in Guy Ritchie's take on Arthur Conan Doyle's creation.

Spending his days developing the science of “urban camouflage” within his own personal indoor jungle in 221B Baker St., and patrolling around London observing the back alleys from a distance in a variety of costumes - Which is better, the opium-afflicted Chinaman stereotype or the world's ugliest woman? - Downey's Holmes always gives us the impression that he's lost his mind before we see the logic in his arguments.

The expository rewind and fast-forward we go through time and again starts to get old fast, dulling our senses for an explosive chase through a French forest that's much too long and made longer still by Ritchie's insistence at using slow-mo every five seconds.

Some of the novelty has worn off in this second feature, and even Stephen Fry as snide, elder Holmes brother Mycroft doesn't do much to help.

When Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were on duty, they kept the Holmes/Watson team simple through 14 films, and though their stint is admittedly more physical, Downey and Law look like they've already put in enough effort for 10 movies rather than two.

What “A Game of Shadows” has working for it is a good grasp of the “Sherlock Holmes” chronology. The plot may be more complicated than it needs to be, but it's worth puzzling out once you get into it.

And, if the question mark following “The End” is any indication, this isn't the last we've heard of Ritchie's version of these stories.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

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