The Legendary Truth: I Am Legend

The Legendary Truth: I Am Legend June 14, 2024
Back in the days of Grad school at Franciscan University I composed a series of catechetical  lessons revolving around popular movies I called Truth in the Land of Make Believe. My objective was to take
certain fantasy & science fiction films and use them as a mirror to reflect God’s Truth. I thought they were very good and so I share them here with you now. I have added some more content since their initial creation.

“Religious Content” 

There is a time and place for passive movie watching. But a more satisfying movie experience involves discussion, dissection and delving deeply into the story, the themes and everything that comes with the whole cinematic experience. As a believer of Christ and a member of the Catholic church I also put on my catechetical glasses and look for the fingerprints and footprints of God in the whole endeavor.

The Legendary Truth

I Am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith is based on the book I Am Legend (1954) by Richard Matheson. It was also made into the film The Last Man on Earth (1964) with Vincent Price (which is in the Public Domain) and  The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston. It was also an inspiration for George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) which is also in the Public Domain.
The last place you would expect to find God is in a world overrun by vampires. The year is 2012 and 90% of the world has been wiped out by a lethal virus. 1% survived with immunity to the virus but were hunted down by the 9% that had turned into vampires. The last remaining normal human being is U.S. Army virologist Lieutenant colonel Robert Neville who is accompanied by his faithful dog Sam. He spends his days hunting, exercising, playing, searching for other possible survivors via a radio broadcast, and trying to find a cure for those turned into vampires, he has dubbed Dark Seekers.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139: 7-8

He thinks he is the last man on earth until he meets survivors Anna Montez and a young boy named Ethan. They heard one of Robert’s radio broadcasts and have come from Maryland to New York to find him. She tells a bitter and skeptical Robert that it was God who led her to him. “The world is quieter now. We just have to listen. If we listen, we can hear God’s plan.” Mother Teresa tells us that “We cannot find God in noise and agitation. In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.”

“The people, who were trying to make this world worse… are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness.”-Robert Neville quoting Bob Marley

One testament to the Christian symbolism in the film comes from a letter a person wrote to the guru of movies, Roger Ebert. The fan wrote…

 I just sat through “I Am Legend” and have to say that the final act felt like watching a deflating balloon. While it’s apparent that Christian groups hold no qualms about denouncing movies that may or may not contain anti-Christian messages (and that they may or may not have seen), I am angered by movies that contain strong Christian messages. “I Am Legend” joins the list as the last movie I felt I should have walked out on as soon as the characters began debating “God’s plan.” The end shot of the sanctuary’s doors opening up to reveal church bells ringing over a peaceful community threw the entire movie into “allegory” territory, with the sinful New Yorkers banished to the darkness and the staunch God-fearing survivors triumphing by returning to their religious ways. It’s sad to ask, but what do you think of adding a “religious content” warning to movies, as in “This movie contains profanity, brief nudity, Christianity?” David Young, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ebert replied…

That’ll be the day. More to the point, what does the spiritual status of the survivors and victims have to do with a nondemoninational virus? And can Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and agnostics hope for a cure?
Movie Answer Man (12/20/2007) | Movie Answer Man | Roger Ebert

The last place you would think you could learn about God is in a science fiction horror movie. But God is always found in “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.” (Phil. 4:8) A good story will always reflect God’s truth. Jesus used stories to illustrate certain key points he wanted his listeners to understand because a good story incarnates truth into a knowable form that people can grasp easier than a straight theological lecture.

Peter Kreeft says of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ series, that one of the reasons why we love Middle-Earth so much is because it is more real then our own world. Through the lens of Fantasy we can see the truths in our own world more clearly. The purpose of this small set of essays is to get you to see the truth of the world more clearly through the medium of fiction portrayed in science fiction and fantasy films.

This genre of film is immensely popular with a great many of the worlds movie lovers as shown by the box office receipts it generates. Because of the popular appeal of this genre, it is ripe with opportunities to find traces of God in its storylines and images. You can not escape God’s presence. If you go see the latest Hollywood blockbuster, He can be there. If we look and listen with the eyes of the Holy Spirit we can see an analogy of God’s truth in many of the popular science fiction and fantasy films we love so much. You can joyfully journey with Frodo, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Spiderman and others and can explore God’s truth in the magical worlds of cinema at the same time.

Fiction is the truth inside the lie. -Stephen King


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