When Guy Ritchie directed 2009’s Sherlock Holmes and the 2011 sequel A Game of Shadows, fans could have been forgiven for thinking that this was a franchise that would dominate cinemas. Both movies were well received, scoring 7.5 and 7.6 on IMDb respectively, while Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law’s Dr. John Watson were appreciated by fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original source material.
A ten-year wait
The success of those movies makes it even more remarkable that the next installment is projected to arrive some ten years after A Game of Shadows hit movie theaters. Warner Bros have confirmed a provisional release date of 21 Dec 2021 for Sherlock Holmes 3: this comes as Downey Jr. ended his contractual obligations with Marvel, the franchise that spans over a decade and a whopping 21 films. He and Law are on board to pick up where they left off a decade ago.
Ritchie will not be at the helm, with directing duties handed over to Dexter Fletcher. Fletcher’s recent work has been more musical, having directed the the Elton John story in Rocketman, but there are no indications that we’ll see a singing Sherlock. Fletcher’s ability to explore character nuance makes him the ideal director to tackle a film that is mooted to delve deep into Holmes and Watson’s relationship.
The Moriarty question
The chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law has been a massive contributing factor behind the clamor for a third film. However, there is another relationship that is almost as iconic: Holmes and Professor Moriarty, his nemesis. It is unsurprising that modern interpretations of Holmes have sought to capitalize on that legendary rivalry.
CreativeMaker’s Clash of Minds: Holmes vs Moriarty focuses on that dynamic, with the two-player strategic card game gaining a 7.3 rating from BoardGameGeek. In the world of online entertainment, several games also focuses on Moriarty and his family. For instance, in the adventure game Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter (2016), the story revolves around Moriarty’s daughter Katelyn who was adopted by Sherlock. Players can even find Sherlock themed casino games at online providers like Betway, with a Moriarty figure as one of the symbols on the reels. As for television, Sherlock memorably pitted Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes against Andrew Scott’s Moriarty, with the BBC drama taking a novel approach to the battle between the two.
A Game of Shadows left the fate of Moriarty dangling, but there are no concrete indications yet whether Jared Harris will reprise his role. Rumors have hinted at Harris’ return, with the relationship between Holmes and Moriarty too interesting to contain to one movie. Even if Moriarty isn’t the most immediate threat, it is important that his presence is always looming in the background of Sherlock Holmes’ life.
This is a strategy that worked successfully in the BBC series, and it could pay dividends again in Sherlock Holmes 3. Fletcher and the writers may decide to keep it close to their chests in order to shock audiences once the film arrives in theaters. In terms of writers, Chris Brancato, renowned for his work on the Netflix drama Narcos, is the latest to be attached to the project.
Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) have all been involved at various junctures since the idea of a third movie was mooted, but it is Brancato’s script that is currently shaping plans for the film’s production. While most of those plans are not public knowledge, it has been revealed by Variety that the movie has been granted a conditional $20.8 million tax break to film in California.
This has prompted suggestions that Sherlock Holmes 3 will adopt some of the traits of a Western. It is unclear what factors may potentially drop Holmes and Watson in the States, although it’s unlikely that they’ll be on vacation together. This may affect the return of London-based characters, such as Eddie Marsan’s Inspector Lestrade and Stephen Fry’s Mycroft Holmes.
However, Paul Anderson of Peaky Blinders fame is expected to appear again as Colonel Sebastian Moran, Moriarty’s henchman from A Game of Shadows. Even if Harris himself doesn’t return, fans of the first two films should be content to see Downey Jr. and Law taking to the screen together once more. While we don’t know the title or the full cast list, and we’re months from a trailer, simply knowing that there is a third Sherlock Holmes film is enough for now.