We watched I Am Legend the other evening. It’s an intriguing film with wonderful Christian themes. Will Smith is the last person living after New York City is hit with a terrible virus that turns human beings into hairless, vampire-like creatures. He roams the streets of New York hunting for food, always sure to get undercover by nightfall because that’s when the demonic used-to-be human beings come out to feed. When we do get a glimpse of them in their dark holes we realize they feed on one another.
On one level the film is an exciting apocalyptic adventure story. On another level it functions like a grim parable. The vampire zombies are a picture of humanity depraved by sin and selfishness. Filled with fury at the sight of the light, they retreat into the hell of their own making. All semblance of humanity is gone and they have become frightening walking corpses–shells of their former selves, now seemingly infested with demonic terror. Like humans given to their own depravity, they dwell in the darkness, full of rage–their only satisfaction feeding on others.
Will Smith plays a doctor-researcher who is the only one who can find a cure for the terrible viral infection and thus save humanity. He saw his own family killed in the frantic evacuation of New York, and he finally despairs and attempts suicide only to be saved by a woman of faith. (It was my eleven year old who said, “Look Dad, she has a rosary on her mirror!” She is one of the few survivors, and without spoiling the plot, the Will Smith character saves her in an act of self sacrifice so she can get the anti-viral cure to the remaining humans on the planet. The cure is carried in a phial of precious blood.
It is movies like this, which weave classic symbols and themes into modern scenarios that offer hope in our troubled culture and intriguing glimpses of how art can help to baptize the imagination.