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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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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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