“Case reopened…” Those two tantalizing words at the close of 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes” promised audiences that more adventures lie ahead. Now Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” fulfills that promise, bringing the legendary detective back to the big screen in a new action-packed mystery that celebrates the genius of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
The 2009 “Sherlock Holmes” movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, had redefined Doyle’s iconic character for a new generation, with Robert Downey Jr. creating his own unique incarnation of the role, alongside Jude Law as Holmes’ friend, partner, and occasional foil, Dr. John Watson.
Indeed, the titular character had defied convention. Gone were the once-emblematic deerstalker hat, curved pipe and posh British decorum, replaced by a streetwise, bare-knuckled brawler, whose physical prowess was equal to his superlative mind and preternatural powers of perception.
Ritchie says, “One of the most important things about the first movie was to get away from the somewhat dustier, if you will, impression of the character that I think many people were expecting. In keeping with Conan Doyle’s original creation, we wanted to access the physicality of Holmes while conveying his intelligence and wit, and Robert brought all that and more to the equation. There were a lot of little nuances going on that added so much to the role. I find it impossible now to imagine anyone else as Sherlock Holmes.”
Downey reciprocates, “I love working with Guy; it’s such a collaborative process and he has a terrific sense of humor that really comes into play here.
On this film, there was an element of rediscovering Sherlock Holmes all over again. We wanted to maintain that sense of fun but with even more gravitas.”
“Robert knew how to get inside Sherlock Holmes’ head-to make him funny and eccentric and yet absolutely believable as the most renowned detective of all time. It was fantastic to watch,” producer Joel Silver remarks.
“First and foremost,” Downey adds, “we wanted to maintain the visceral tone that was part of Guy’s original vision, while presenting Holmes with an even more difficult case, one that would challenge his considerable skills.”
That challenge arises out of the threat from a redoubtable adversary, one whose name is familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Sherlock Holmes canon: professor James Moriarty.
Producer Lionel Wigram comments, “Moriarty is the greatest criminal mastermind in the world. He is a genius-albeit a mad genius-but because he is so brilliant, Holmes may have met his match.”
Ritchie emphasizes, “Because they are intellectual equals to a degree, there is the sense that this is a game that is stimulating to them both. In this way, they actually need each other, and that idea is authentic to the books. Holmes needs Moriarty as much as Moriarty needs Holmes.”
As the vastness of Moriarty’s conspiracy unfolds, it broadens the scope of the action beyond the confines of London, to France, Germany and on to Switzerland. Ritchie affirms, “Our narrative enabled us to spread our wings across Europe to expand the topography and tapestry of the story.”
Wigram says, “It also allowed us to add a different flavor to the mix that dovetails nicely into what was happening at the end of the 19th century, politically, economically and especially in terms of industry. It was the beginning of the modern age, where we see the seeds of the military-industrial complex, with bigger and more powerful weapons and more efficient warfare.”
With a changing world on the brink, there is danger afoot. For someone who knows how to stir the pot, however, there is also tremendous opportunity to grasp untold wealth and power. Only Sherlock Holmes has deduced that professor James Moriarty is the one stoking the fire…and it is only a matter of time before everything boils over.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is now showing.