Actors have come back from personal issues before, but few have done it as successfully as Robert Downey Jr; star of the new sequel to Downey’s 2009 smash hit, Sherlock Holmes. On Friday, December 16 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows opens at theaters, expecting to continue the roll which has made Downey one of the current top draws in film.
Downey and Jude Law reprise their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson as they match wits and wit with the sinister Professor Moriarty. Directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey (wife of Robert), and Dan Lin, it also has a supporting cast of Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry and Rachel McAdams. The screenplay was written by Kieran and Michele Mulroney. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is rated PG-13.
Probably the biggest keys to the sequel are the infinite possibilities of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character of Holmes, plus the chemistry of Downey and Law. Director 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.”
However, Holmes character has been redefined by Downey for present day audiences and the film relies on a lot of action sequences. 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.”
Another key component was introducing a villainous character who seriously challenged the intellect of Holmes; enter Professor Moriarty, played by Jared Harris. “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 adds, “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.” Director Ritchie also notes , “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.”
Downey spent a good portion of the nineties and early part of last decade in and out of drug rehab and jail. Since 2003 he has been clean and wisely restarted his career by doing some low profile short subject and independent films. Then in 2008 he landed the title role in the Iron Man/Incredible Hulk series and got good reviews with Tropic Thunder and The Soloist. Along with Iron Man and the 2009 Holmes’ film, this makes two concurrent blockbuster series in which he is starring.
Ritchie feels Downey is the only actor who could portray Holmes’ for present day, action-expectant audiences. Not merely the super intelligent sleuth of the Doyle novels nor the coldly analytic, tweed adorned film character portrayed by Basil Rathbone in the 1940’s, Downey adds a physical presence that lets him kick some butt when brawn matters more than brain and use humor to take him closer to the audience.
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 acknowledges, “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 dignity.”
The first Holmes’ film grossed $500 million so expectations are high for this one. With Downey and Law back along with most of the supporting cast, and the new additions of Moriarty (and the introduction of Holmes’ brother, Mycroft) there should be enough characters and action to satisfy fans. The film characterization of Holmes likely isn’t what author Doyle could possibly have envisioned, but that’s part of the charm and Downey will try to prove it once again.
Theatrical Trailer Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
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