All that being said, I love Robert Downey, Jr. He's fantastic in Iron Man and he's rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors, even though I haven't seen him in very much (call me a bandwagon jumper in this if you must. Like I said, I don't follow a lot of actors). Though I was a little wary of seeing him as Sherlock Holmes at first - would he be able to pull off the famous literary British detective that we all know and love (and what in the world is with the shirtless boxing? Not that I mind, but it's not something I associate with Holmes). I didn't need to worry because that first Sherlock Holmes movie was really good - part of that has to do with Downey, Jr.'s chemistry with Jude Law, who plays Dr. John Watson (the straight man to Holmes' lovable eccentricities). And sequels - Dear Sweet Gallifrey, I do love me a good sequel.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows capitalizes on what I loves about the first movie. If you're going to read any Sherlock Holmes story, you have to pay attention. Even though Holmes explains the ins-and-outs of the conflict resolution by the end of the story, it still takes an alert audience to fully appreciate the intricacies of such things (and by "alert," I mean don't fall asleep before the ending). The first movie did this very well and the second only intensified the intrigue. Case in point - I usually have a notebook and take notes during the movie (don't laugh - I'm sure some of you have things I could point at and snort derisively). But this time, I was too enthralled by the story and characters. I don't know about Downey, Jr.'s other roles, but he has some spectacular dialogue, not to mention his delivery is a joy to listen to (as is his cadence as Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies - must be a thing he does). The pacing of the story is really good too. Not once did I feel like it was going too fast or too slow. I love the choreography in the fight scenes and, yeah, I can buy Sherlock Holmes going at it mano-a-mano with the bad guys in the streets (and the pre-fight narration and step-by-step "Here's How I'm Going to Kick this Dude's Ass" is a nice touch too).
I've got to mention Professor James Moriarty here - because the first movie didn't have Holmes' arch-nemesis (being more or less an introduction to Sherlock), this movie was a great way to bring the best ever smarty-pants baddie into the franchise (seriously - Lex Luthor wears Professor Moriarty pajamas). I'd never heard of Jared Harris, who plays Moriarty, but he was excellent and his back-and-forth with Downey, Jr. (I can't really say enough good things about the ending scene. All they do is talk, but it's as good as any Big Time Explodey Ending you could find elsewhere).
What else? The music is great, the costuming is fantastic (I love it when Holmes is in disguise and his makeup is just off enough that the audience can tell it's him - like the makeup artists planned that or something. Right?) Oh, and special shout-out to Mary Watson (played by Kelly Reilly) who has a great little badass moment of her own as she and her new husband are off on their honeymoon and it gets interrupted by a bunch of Moriarty's thugs. Didn't expect it from her, but I guess if you're going to be married to Sherlock Holmes' best buddy, you'd better pick up something along the way. Oh, and Stephen Fry is in this as Holmes' brother, Mycroft. Did I forget to mention that? He calls Sherlock "Sherly," by the way.
I can't say anything bad about this movie. It's definitely worth seeing in theaters, if only because you really want to pay attention to what's going on (don't wait for the DVD because then the phone will ring or the kids'll want something and you'll have to pause it and you'll get lost). And there's going to be a third movie which thrills me to no end.