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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Sherlock Holmes

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. star in a scene from the movie "Sherlock Holmes."
The game's afoot once more in "Sherlock Holmes" (Warner Bros.). But, though vigorous, this latest addition to the chronicles of perhaps the world's most iconic sleuth—who first figured in a series of novels and short stories published between 1887 and 1927 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—is also frequently violent.

In fact, as envisioned by director Guy Ritchie, and slyly personified by Robert Downey Jr., this brawny Sherlock slugs his way through several bone-crunching square-offs across Victorian London on the way to solving his latest case.

Accompanied by his perennial sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), Holmes is on the trail of notorious Satan-worshipping aristocrat Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). But the investigation would seem to have reached a satisfactory conclusion within minutes of the opening credits when—after the pair interrupt Blackwood as he's about to perform his latest ritual murder—the errant peer is safely incarcerated and duly sentenced to be hanged.

Inviting Holmes to visit him in jail on the eve of his execution, however, Blackwood predicts that he will rise from the dead, inspiring a wave of public panic that will have global political implications. And it soon appears as though Blackwood has made good on his threat when a graveyard watchman swears he saw the seemingly resurrected nobleman walk out of his tomb.

Though the mystery of Blackwood's return is eventually teased out in typical Holmesian fashion, the initial idea of a black-magic resurrection may not sit well with some adult viewers and—taken together with its purely rationalistic solution—might be confusing for some more youthful ones.

But Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg's collaborative script certainly makes no attempt to compromise Christian claims. And the logical deconstruction of Blackwood's scheme can be read as showing the inability of the powers of darkness—or of those trying to draw on them—to imitate God's supreme miracle.

A further complication for Catholic audiences concerns Blackwood's membership in a Masonic-style secret society dedicated to cultivating occult powers. Some of the members of this conventicle who oppose Blackwood argue that, unlike their misguided associate, they use such dark gifts to achieve good ends—an assertion, needless to say, wholly contrary to church teaching.

Heightening the tension of the central chase are subplots involving Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), the young lady for whom Watson has fallen and for whose sake he plans to abandon his work with Holmes and break up their bachelor household—a goal Holmes does his wily best to sabotage—and femme fatale Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), an adept criminal who plays both sides of the law and who has bested and befuddled Holmes in the past.

The film contains considerable action violence, occult themes, satanic activity, brief irreverence, a sexual situation and a few sexual references and jokes. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

******
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.



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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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