Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows can be found here.

While Dr John Watson (Jude Law) makes plans for his upcoming wedding, eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has been keeping busy investigating a series of presumed terrorist attacks, bombings, and assassinations all over Europe. Holmes has somehow connected these to his nemesis, Professor James Moriarity (Jared Harris), who warns him to cease with his invetigations or he will consider the newlyweds fair game. Consequently, Holmes arranges to be on the same train to Brighton on which Watson and his bride Mary (Kelly Reilly) are honeymooning. True to his word, Moriarity launches an attack on the lovebirds, and Holmes is forced to toss Mary from the train to the protection of his older brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry). Holmes and Watson then go to Paris to find Madame Simka Heron (Noomi Rapace), a gypsy whose brother Rene may be involved in helping Moriarty to instigate a world war. And so the game begins.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a stand-alone sequel to Sherlock Holmes (2009). The character of Sherlock Holmes was created in 1887 by Scottish writer/physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) in the novel A Study in Scarlet and went on to appear in three more novels and 56 short stories. However, A Game of Shadows is not based on any of Doyle's books/stories but on a screenplay by American screenwriters Kieran and Michele Mulroney. Sherlock Holmes 3 has been announced but no release date has been set.

Professor James Moriarty is a criminal mastermind, described by Holmes as the "Napoleon of Crime". Doyle lifted the phrase from a real Scotland Yard inspector who was referring to Adam Worth (1844-1902), a thief whose criminal career spanned over two decades. Other real world models for Moriarty were Sir Basil Zaharoff (1849-1936), a Greek arms dealer whose unscrupulous business practices earned him the nickname "the Merchant of Death," and Simon Newcomb (1835-1909) a renowned mathemetician who tried to ruin the reputations of rival scientists. By combining Worth's criminal savvy, Newcomb's mathematical genius, and Zaharoff's Machiavellian ruthlessness, Doyle created what is widely considered to be the first true example of a supervillain. Because he is depicted as Holmes' greatest enemy, Moriarty is considered to be the primary antagonist of the entire series, despite only making one physical appearance, in the story "The Final Problem" (he is mentioned reminiscently in five other stories set after the events of "The Final Problem", and operates behind-the-scenes in "The Valley of Fear" which was published after "The Final Problem" but set before it). Other writers used him more frequently, cementing his reputation as Holmes' arch-enemy. The film's depiction of Moriarty physically resembles Worth, but overall bears the strongest similarities to Zaharoff, as he is attempting to provoke a war using advanced weaponry that he has developed. Zaharoff was privy to the latest developments in weapon technology (including the Maxim Gun which provided the real world inspiration for the film's "Little Hansel"), and during the Second Boer War, the Russo Japanese War, and World War I, he sold weapons to both sides in order to exacerbate the conflict and maximize profits.

Mycroft Holmes is Sherlock Holmes' elder brother (by seven years). Possessing deductive powers exceeding even those of his younger brother, Mycroft is nonetheless incapable of performing detective work similar to that of Sherlock since he is unwilling to put in the physical effort necessary to bring cases to their conclusions. Nonetheless, if given all the facts and by the use of his superior deductive powers, he is able deduce the solution to any problem or case from the comfort of an armchair. This has led the British and other European governments as well as royalty to frequently consult Mycroft's analytical mind on a number of key political decisions and strategies.

After the soldiers fire "Little Hansel" (an artillery cannon that apparently fires individual shots that can rip apart trees), Holmes, Watson, and Simza are knocked to the ground by the shockwave of the blast. Holmes and Watson get up seeing the soldiers approaching. Though a little confusing because the fight happens in a matter of seconds, this is what is seen: (1) Watson grabs one soldier's rifle and twists it, throwing its owner over, (2) Holmes trades punches with another soldier using his good hand, (3) Simza knocks aside another soldier, (4) a fourth soldier swings his rifle at Holmes, who kicks him in the chest, (5) a soldier brains Simza with the butt of his rifle, knocking her down; as he aims his rifle, Watson shoots and kills him with a pistol, (6) Holmes knocks out another soldier as another cannonball hits nearby, forcing him to grab onto a nearby tree, (7) another soldier advances on Holmes, who successfully dodges a shot fired at point-blank range (missing and hitting the tree instead); Holmes grabs the soldier's rifle, ejects the round, and knocks him out then chambers a new round in a matter of seconds, passes the rifle to Watson, who shoots and wounds Moran as Moran crests a rise, and (8) as the party escapes on the train, Moran comes to his senses, steadies his breathing, aims his rifle, and picks off the unlucky gypsy bringing up the back of the escapees.

Watson walks out on the terrace just in time to see both Holmes and Moriarity go over the railing together and tumble into the icy waters of Reichenbach Falls. Following Holmes' funeral, John and Mary prepare to leave on their belated honeymoon, and Watson finishes writing the story of his last case with Holmes. He types 'The End' just as Mary brings in a parcel delivered in the post. Opening it, Watson finds Mycroft's breathing apparatus and begins to question its meaning. In the final scene, as John runs after Mary to find the delivery man, Holmes reveals himself as cleverly concealed on a lounge chair. He sits at Watson's typewriter and adds a question mark after 'The End.'

Early in the film, Mycroft mentions, in a quiet tone, something along the lines of 'hoping this business gets done before the peace summit up in Reichenbach,' more than likely so as to be subtle enough that people familiar with Sherlock Holmes' novels would catch it. When Conan Doyle grew tired of writing about Sherlock, he had him fall, with Professor Moriarty, at Reichenbach. In this film, the party is going to Reichenbach, and the two fall once more. Public demand for more stories forced the good doctor to write (as Dr. Watson) again, explaining how Holmes had not died but returned to life. In "The Adventure of the Empty House," the Conan Doyle story where Holmes returns "from the dead" (after THREE years away without telling Watson where he was), Holmes explains that he actually did NOT go over the falls with Moriarty - he pushed Moriarty over but did not fall himself. Instead, he clung to a ledge while someone (revealed to be Col. Sebastian Moran) heaved rocks at him, and then he escaped -- whereupon he goes on his famous travels to Asia, France, etc. The movie alters this story, as clearly both Holmes and Moriarty go off the balcony and fall down the frightening Reichenbach falls.

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