As a child, I grew up watching Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Beginning in 1939 with "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", they were in fifteen films all together ending with "Dressed to Kill" in 1946. They faced Professor James Moriarty (played by George Zucco, Lionel Atwill and Henry Daniell) only three times directly, but Moriarty was always a specter lurking in the back of everyone's mind.


Ronald Howard took over the series when it moved to television for a couple of years (1954-55) for 39 episodes; never once facing Moriarty! Jeremy Brett played Sherlock for three series from 1984-5 (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)and again 1986-88 (The Return of Sherlock Holmes) then finally 1991-3 (The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes). I don't even remember him!


Legendary actor John Barrymore tackled Holmes in 1922 with Gistav von Seyggertitz as Moriarty. Peter Cushing helmed the character in a 1960's television series which played mainly in Europe via the BBC. I had a chance to see an episode once and it was exceptional. But somehow (from what I gleaned from IMDB) he managed to avoid Moriarty altogether!

This is all to get to one point. Professor James Moriarty was Sherlock Holmes intellectual equal. He was to Sherlock what The Joker was to Batman or Green Goblin to Spiderman or Lex Luther to Superman. He was the guy that the hero couldn't quite get a handle on. Moriarty is a criminal mastermind, described by Holmes as the "Napoleon of Crime".


For reference, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Moriarty specifically to kill Holmes; as a character in the original book series, he only appeared twice but was ever present in Holmes mind. [Note: Dr Watson never meets Moriarty in the book series nor in the Basil Rathbone series. In fact Nigel Bruce, who played Watson seemed sarcastic whenever he referred to Moriarty - as if he questioned the man's existence.]


Bottom line: Moriarty = really bad ass genius.


Guy Ritchie takes the directing reins once again for "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" were he introduces Moriarty completely. We got a glance of him in the first "Sherlock Holmes" (2009) as we learn he was the puppet master for dozens of criminals that Holmes faced.

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law once again return as Sherlock and Watson as action heroes and not slower stagnant crime fighter as in previous versions of the Doyle series. This approached was effective and entertaining in Ritchie's first "Sherlock Holmes". But as is sometimes the case, he got happy with it.


Law is ready to go on his honeymoon with his ever-so-patient fiance/wife when Holmes gets involved in a series of seemingly unrelated crimes. The game is afoot!


With the help of Madam Simza Heron (Noomi McAdams) he is drawn to Moriarty as the mind behind the crimes. Moriarty's goal is, as with any decent evil guy, world domination. And, as with every truly evil guy, he seemingly has endless amount of money at his disposal.


With a well placed assassination, Moriarty plans to engage Britain, Germany, France, and most of Europe in a global conflict - presumably World War I. The benefit to Moriarty would be unlimited wealth as the chief arms dealer to both sides.

Holmes job is to decipher various riddles that ultimately lead him to Moriarty, stop Moriarty, and defeat Moriarty.


While the narrative is at first compelling, much along the line of most James Bond adventures, Guy Ritchie gets effects happy. His overuse of the stop-action/flashback sequencing that made the first film fun, detracts from this installment. And, for whatever reason, we don't see enough interaction between Holmes and Moriarty. The few scenes we get are delicious repartee's between Downey Jr. and the very well cast Jared Harris.


Instead Ritchie continued to expand the relationship between Watson and Holmes when that wasn't needed. We want the bad guy; bad guys are much more interesting. A perfect example is the final chess game between Holmes and Moriarty which becomes a heart pounding scene that is missing from the rest of the film.


"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is easily a film that could have, no...should have been much better. Guy Ritchie misses an opportunity to showcase acting by showcasing a worn out special effect.   -- GEOFF BURTON