Perhaps you’ve seen snippets from the new film Legion and wondered to yourself what it’s all about. You’ve seen the biblical imagery and the special effects sequences featuring the multitude of soaring angels. All very intriguing. But when the trailer for a “religious” movie also shows an old lady snarling and crawling up the wall like a demonized creature, you know something’s not quite right. Believe it or not, that little old lady is possessed by an angel. That’s right — an angel sent by God.
Welcome to the apocalyptic world of writer/director Scott Charles Stewart, where a hodge-podge of distorted biblical elements and twisted truths is the order of the day. Legion is definitely not your father’s biblical epic.
The basic premise of the entire movie is summed up in one eloquent phrase: “God is tired of all the BS.” Stewart found this statement to be so profound that it was mentioned not once, but twice. Because God is giving up on the human race, everyone must go. Nobody is worth saving this time around.
In order to carry out the extermination, God sends His angels to do His bidding, much like the Wicked Witch of the West uses her flying monkeys. These “dogs of heaven,” as they are called (yes, they wear collars), are able to possess people like demons and terrorize others. One would think God could find a more efficient method of world destruction, but I guess this film confuses His mysterious ways for silly ones.
Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) disagrees with God’s orders because he still loves and believes in the human race. He claims that he loves the humans just as much as God does. Therefore, Michael rebels, cuts off his wings, and decides to take on God and His angelic army.
Unlike Michael, his former comrade and rival, Archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand), is loyal to God and plans to carry out His orders. As Michael puts it, he knows and gives what God needs, unlike Gabriel, who only gives God what He wants. These “revelations” are discussed between the two in private conversations, as if God is unaware and can’t hear them. Wouldn’t angels, more than almost anyone else, be mindful of their Creator’s omnipresence?
For some unexplained reason, the hope for humanity is found in a random unborn child, which leads to the Nativity story parallels. The role of Mary is played by a pregnant, unwed waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), who smokes during her pregnancy. She confesses that she almost aborted her baby early on, but something inside of her told her not to go through with it. Jesus is, of course, played by her unborn child. Joseph is cast as a simple-minded, sweet-hearted mechanic named Jeep (Lucas Black), who is not the baby’s daddy but has a mega-crush on the baby’s mother. God fills the role of King Herod in that He wants the baby killed. It’s Christmastime when Michael arrives at Paradise Falls Diner, where Charlie and Jeep work, and he tells them the significance of the baby and of the impending danger. The idea is that this little baby will be raised by his mother to be a good person, thus saving the world from darkness and destruction. So simple and logical!
Supposedly, the film’s writer/director wanted to focus on just the Old Testament version of God (Is there a difference?) and act as if the New Testament never happened. This would make sense except that the film’s events take place at Christmastime, one character is referred to as a Jesus Freak, and symbolic crosses periodically pop up. Hmmm. Is anyone else confused?
If you haven’t been able to tell already, this movie didn’t make a lick of sense. Why do angels act like raging zombies? Just because. Where did the random plague of flies come from? Dunno. Is Michael now a demon since he has rebelled from God? Hard to say. Why does the fate of the human race rest with this one particular baby? No clue. Why do Christians always die in these scenarios? Uh, it’s tradition. Why did anyone think this was a good idea for a movie? Not sure, but drugs might be to blame.
Unfortunately, the film misses the mark on several key issues (as well as countless minor ones). First of all, God does not lose faith in humankind; it is humankind that has lost faith in God (Hosea 4:1). Secondly, God does not reward rebellion; He rewards loyalty and faithfulness to His Word (1 Samuel 26:23; Psalm 119). Thirdly, God’s love is greater than any other kind of love. It is unequaled, as is God’s power, wisdom, and authority (John 3:16; Psalm 100:5). Finally, God’s Word is truth (John 14:6).
For Christians, it’ll be hard to take a film seriously that features God as the villain, but it does bring up an important point: the fear of the Lord. At the very beginning of the film, Psalm 34:11 (in the King James Version) appears on the dark screen: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” It’s easy to focus on God as the loving Father and forget that He is to be feared and respected.
With several apocalyptic and religious films coming out, several important questions have been raised: What do these secular re-interpretations of God and Christianity say about our culture’s impressions of religion and the church? When is it acceptable, if ever, to rewrite theology and the Bible in the name of fiction? What is the value, if any, in distorting truth for entertainment and artistic purposes? Does pop culture go too far when it comes to using and abusing the Bible?
Obviously, we shouldn’t be surprised that Hollywood often gets it wrong when it comes to God and His Word, but it is still important to be aware of what is being presented in our society about our beliefs. Even if someone had no prior knowledge of the Bible, Legion still wouldn’t make any sense. Can you imagine what it would be like if God were our enemy and He gave up on us? That would be a scary world indeed. Let’s hope that unbelievers do not mistake Legion‘s fiction for fact and miss out on the real Good News of the Gospel.
Running time: 1hr. 44 min.
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and language.
Distributors: Sony Pictures Releasing
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Cast: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Adrianne Palicki, Charles S. Dutton