Those two tantalizing words at the close of 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes” promised audiences that more adventures lie ahead. Now “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 reunites the stars and filmmakers behind that worldwide hit.
Director Guy Ritchie says, “I was very keen to return to Sherlock Holmes’ world because the experience of making the first movie was so positive, both personally and creatively. There were a myriad of story possibilities in revisiting this character because he has so many interesting facets. His idiosyncrasies almost transcend description, so I wanted the opportunity to explore that more, while giving audiences something they hadn’t seen.”
Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” had redefined Sir Arthur Conan 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.
Producer Joel Silver states, “There was a kind of magic that came out of the dynamic between Robert and Jude as Holmes and Watson, and this film gave us a chance to take that up a notch. In the first movie, we had to give audiences the time to get to know the foibles of the characters. Coming into this movie, we had already laid the foundation, so we could launch right into the action, which is bigger, funnier and more explosive in every sense of the word.”
“First and foremost,” Robert Downey Jr. 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.
“We needed a mystery that raises the bar for Holmes, so we pitted him against his most famous foe,” notes producer Susan Downey. “At the end of the last film, Sherlock fleetingly learned of Moriarty from Irene Adler. In the time elapsed, he has become increasingly obsessed with what Moriarty is up to and has only begun to realize the breadth of his plan.”
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.”
To write the screenplay, the producers enlisted husband-and-wife writing team Kieran and Michele Mulroney, with the latter being exceptionally well-versed in the source material. She offers, “Growing up in England, I remember reading the books and being awed by the weird and wonderful way Holmes’ mind worked. It was a joy to revisit the original stories and still marvel at the inventiveness and intricacies of Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries.”
In fact, true Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts will notice that the filmmakers paid homage to the author by incorporating some of Conan Doyle’s language in the dialogue.
The screenwriters also felt a responsibility to do justice to the story’s villain, as well as its heroes. “We knew that whatever dire scheme Moriarty had up his sleeve, it had to feel insurmountable,” Kieran Mulroney confirms. “The stakes needed to be proportionate to the professor’s appetite for evil, which is obviously huge. Our goal was to push Holmes and Watson to their limits in pursuit of this man…to test their relationship even more than in the last film.”
“I was thrilled that the connection between Holmes and Watson, as we had developed it, was still very much the heart and soul of the story,” says Jude Law, who returns in the role of Watson.
Producer Dan Lin, who had worked with the Mulroneys before, observes, “Kieran and Michele’s script explores the evolution of Holmes and Watson’s relationship after the first movie—with Sherlock ready for the next case, and Watson engaged to Mary and planning to settle down and step away from the life of a private detective. What does this mean for their future? And how will the world survive without them, especially with Sherlock’s most formidable nemesis, Professor Moriarty, on the loose?”