Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Movie Review: Legion a Theological Mess

Only in a country that has only a vague knowledge of scripture and even less knowledge of theology could a movie like Legion have been made.  It is a theological dump riddled with theological errors and half truths.  Contrary to many apocalyptic thrillers that puts good against evil, Legion sets good against good.  That is, God is set against the misguided sinful, though good, people of earth. 

The premises and pattern of the movie are simple that something from scripture that the audience will have a vague idea about, and then twist it to suit what you will.  This results in a sophomoric theological interpretations and imagery that make the story seem ridiculous to those who actually have studied scripture and theology.  For instance, the movie begins with the eleventh (or twelfth depending on your translation of the bible) verse from the thirty-fourth psalm flashed on the screen: Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.  When taken out of context this verse might be fearful in itself.  However, when placed back into its proper context, one quickly learns that the speaker of the psalm is giving thanksgiving to the Lord for having been rescued.  The verse that the director plastered across the screen is one in which the speaker offers to teach his students (children) the fear of the Lord.  For the Jewish psalmist the phrase "fear of the Lord" is not about humanity being afraid of God, it is not about heading for the hills when God decides to smite the world, nor is it about ducking and covering from the falling fire and brimstone falling from the heavens.  The phrase simply means "love."  The fear of the Lord is a Jewish idiom that basically means "a fear of offending the Lord because you love Him."  The psalmist might as well have written, Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you how to love the Lord and not offend Him.

The movie is set in the small desert truck stop in the middle of nowhere called Paradise Falls, so in case you didn't know what was going to happen, the director spells it out for you.  At this truck stop can be found a Marian figured name Charlie who is 8 months pregnant by an unknown father.  There is a young man named Jeep who has dreams about the future, defends Charlie's honor against those who seek to disgrace her, and is seen doing carpentry in several sense of the movie.  In short he is the Joseph lie character.  This is perhaps even most visible when the movie ends with Jeep, Charlie and the baby (oh did I forget to mention that the baby is the hope of humanity?) driving off into the sunset in order to protect the baby with Charlie clothed in blue and white -- sounds strangely familiar to the Holy family's flight to Egypt, right?  Well the similarities start to pile up in a perverted mess of theological errors. 

Jeep drives off into the sun set hoping to save the child, the new hope for humanity, from its enemies except this go around the baby killer isn't Herod.  It is God Himself.  That is right.  God wants the baby killed.  In the movie, God has lost faith in humanity.  Something that has echoes of the flood story, but God only sought to cleans the world of sin in the flood.  In Legion, God seeks to exterminate mankind because as the Marian figure says at both the beginning and close of the movie, "God was just tired of the BS."  Fortunately, the only way that the all good and all loving God can possibly do this is if He kills Charlie's baby.

Luckily, there is a character that helps change God's mind.  It happens to be St. Michael, or just Michael as in the movie he is fallen.  The question is why would Michael, the one who is most like God, decide to go against God?  Simple, he thinks he is more right about man than the One Who made mankind.  Michael seems himself as more faithful that God Himself.  To put it another way, pride is what causes Michael to fall.  The parallel to another fallen angel due to pride begs the question in the whole movie.  Michael's goal is to protect the baby in an attempt to save humanity by means of disobey God's Will.  It is Michael's love for mankind over his love of God, his love of creation over the creator,  that results in his fall.

Staying true with the American mindset that obedience is the ultimate vice of the unenlightened and rebellion the virtue of the enlightened, Michael's rebellion and disobedience as well as the mercy shown to humanity is what ushers him back into God's heavenly court.  Mercy is key in the climax of the movie, as the audience learns that it is more important to be merciful than it is to follow God's will, than it is to Love, than it is to be just.  As long as you are merciful it matters not what you do.  Mercy will restore a person to God's grace.

However the opposite is true with Gabriel.  It is Gabriel's obedience to God's Will and Justice that ultimate leads to the angel's defeat. 

Fortunately, Michael is able to convince God that the chosen child is born and that there is hope for humanity, so God changes His mind and decides to let humanity live.  That was a close call, good thing Hollywood is there to clear things up for us.

All in all, the movie is a theological mess.  It is as if the director and writers wrote the movie by playing biblical roulette.  Perhaps they didn't realize that the house if often the winner in the circular game of chance.  The only theologically redeeming aspect of the movie is how the angles were portrayed.  For once Hollywood gets something correct.  Angels are presented as mighty warriors and not fat, chubby, winged naked babies.

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