With almighty concoction of crashing, cross-dressing and sleuthing, Sherlock Holmes has returned to our screens. The adventure began with the unpromising components of an American (Robert Downey Jr.), a man who can't act (Jude Law) and a director with roughly one and a half filmic techniques under his belt (Guy Ritchie), yet, this cobbled-together team of charlatans miraculously spawned a rollicking riot of a film, which not only pleased the punters, but left the door wide open for a money-spinning sequel.
So the real question is: can the Sherlock miracle happen twice? Or was it a one trick pony, a fluke, a lucky strike? Guy Ritchie has ostensibly made the same film but with different words since the late nineties, so the chances of originality, or even a touch of ingenuity seemed slim to none... But although Game of Shadows is a visual carbon copy of every Ritchie film since the beginning of time, it is (at least) every bit as good as the previous instalment. It doesn't play to the Conan Doyle rules in the slightest - 'based on' really is used in the most casual fashion - and is, in parts more disorientating than a drunken spin on a playground roundabout. Yet it is also thrilling, funny, and like a drunken spin on a roundabout, caters to the child within.
The story resumes on the eve of Watson's marriage - which has rather astoundingly remained intact despite Sherlock's best efforts to hog Dr. Watson all for himself (if I was Watson's fiancé I'd have left his sorry behind by now... but I suppose this isn't the era of AD Bridget Jones, when singles didn't have the open arms of Ben and Jerry to run into - Jude Law will have to suffice).
As predicted - or as is narrative necessity, Holmes not only manages to ruin Watson's honeymoon, but also drags him into yet another case. This time, the mystery at hand involves several catastrophic bombings across Europe. As everyone else in the world is seemingly unable to pin down the perpetrators, Holmes lays the blame at the feet of the impressively bearded, ominously brooding Porfessor Moriati (for no apparent reason. But such is the nature of his genius - and the beard is surely an indicator of evil intentions).
What ensues is a super-speedy gallivant around Europe - the only clear 'Conan Doylian' aspects of the film are these European wanderings - picking up Simza the gypsy (Noomi Rapace), and a very naked Stephen Fry along the way (the latter being every bit as hysterically terrifying as you're imagining). To be brutally honest, I had no idea what was going on until the last 20 minutes of the film. My career as a detective would obviously be about as successful as Kerry Katona's career as... well, just Kerry Katona's career. But regardless of whether anything made crystal-clear narrative, logical or common sense, I was having a jolly good time watching it anyway.
Sometimes all you want from the cinema is some unashamedly lavish adventure, and in this respect, Sherlock Holmes will satiate your needs. Marrying just the right measures of humour, mystery and fisty cuffs, Sherlock succeeds in a genre that Pirates of the Caribbean couldn't and that Harry Potter was always a bit young for. Admittedly, eyes will roll at Ritchie's well-worn guerrilla warfare with his cameras, but in itself, it does make for interesting viewing, and lends itself well to Sherlock's scuffles. It's only because we've seen the same thing in Lock Stock, Snatch and RocknRolla et al that we're sick to the back teeth of his ducking, cutting, warping and sprinting.
Downey Jr. is overflowing with quirky charm and charisma, Law is a barren wasteland of both. I like to think they balance each other out. The addition of Stephen Fry to the cast list is a genius decision - thanks in part, apparently, to Chris Martin, who suggested Mr Fry for the role... who knew?! - he brings pomp, circumstance and high-class campery to the proceedings, and it's quite simply marvellous.
The women in Game of Shadows are woefully underused however: Miss Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) comes to an abrupt end before we've even really started, Mary (Kelly Reilly) is chucked off a train and stolidly told to go home, and Madam Simza (Noomi Rapace) feels like a token gesture to the feminists. In what should be a break through role for Rapace, I feel like all I saw her do was chuck a couple of knives and eat with appalling table manners. Not exactly the stuff of actor's dreams.
Sherlock Homes: Game of Shadows is certainly not without its faults. There's an abundance of tried, tested and flogged-like-a-dead-horse directing, some insufficient scripting, and enough removal from the Conan Doyle original to get the loyalists in the flap to end all flaps. But it's a riotous frolic of a film, and with plenty of rainy days to fill at this time of year... Sherlock should definitely get a look in.