There Was Never Any Magic

I just saw the recent Sherlock Holmes movie [SPOILER ALERT], and was surprised to find it so full of Hebrew/Aramaic letters. I resisted the temptation to rewind and freeze each time to see if what was shown consistently spelled actual words. Movies take so much longer to watch when you do that. Sometimes there were genuine words (I glimpsed tsedek and shelemuth), and I let myself be content with that.
I really liked the movie’s “scooby-dooishness” (yes, that is indeed a word). There appeared to be genuine black magic at work, and this led to panic and awe before Blackwood’s power. But a closer look showed technology, trickery, and manipulation. Of course, technology can at times rightly inspire fear. But often claims to the supernatural cause a different sort of fear, one that can lead us not to question, not to reason, to simply submit, and leave ourselves open to manipulation by the forces of darkness – that is to say, by humans who know how to utilize fear to their advantage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13599662252662686373 BSM

    Scooby-dooishness! Ha! I never made the connection but you are right!Now, for your martial art moment…Robert Downey Jr. studies Wing Chun Kung Fu. You can see a video of Mr. Downey in action. If you watch Sherlock Holmes one more time, take note of the vertical fist that Downey uses – that's classic Wing Chun!Holmes was proficient in something call Baritsu. It's fun to see that the fight choreographers worked Downey's Wing Chun into many of the fights!Now, back to your regularly scheduled dose of religion!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00637936588223855248 Joshua

    Yes, but the tech used was somewhat ad hoc. The movie was fun overall but I think there should be a law against movies in which the main character uses a scent as a clue that isn't explicitly mentioned to the audience at the time the scent is first detected. That was annoying.Also, some of the technology (especially the death-faking method) fell almost into the category of magic simply because it was so ad hoc and so unexplained. If I shout the word Technology! that doesn't contain any more substantive explanation than Magic! To be fair, however, most of the tricks were explained in coherent ways.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Joshua, that's a point that came up in my Religion and Sci-Fi class this semester. On the one hand, there is the old axiom that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But on the other, much sci-fi simply invokes non-existent and perhaps impossible technology to accomplish what magic would in fantasy: TARDIS vs. time-turner, transporters vs. apparition, and so on.


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