Friday, April 04, 2008

I Am Legend

I've been waiting for this movie to come out on video for some time now. I don't see movies as much as I used to, but this is one I've been waiting for. Fortunately I got to see it on a home theater system. This film is definitely enhanced by larger viewing real estate and surround sound. If you aren't familiar with it, a genetically engineered virus has mutated humanity into vampire/zombie types. Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is one of the last living humans, and he is working on the cure. It's based on the novel with the same title by Ricard Mathison. There are a few things of interest from the film theologically. Actually there are a ton. The relevance of human contact, concepts of God, the position of hope in human suffering, the expectation of sacrifice upon those who feel compelled to challenge the root causes of suffering, and the significance of community are just a few.

Without spoiling the film, I'll just say a thing or two about God's portrayal. Early on a tattered banner in the midst of a devastated NY City reads, "God still loves you. Do you still love God?" In reflection on the tragedy, Dr. Neville says at one point, "God didn't do this, we did." and at another, "There is no God." Yet before the film is over he is challenged to listen to God, and in so doing finds his answers. Obviously, his reflections highlight our anxiety in the midst of suffering. We want to know that someone is in the driver's seat as we hurl recklessly through space in paths unknown. When our loved ones die and our friends betray (or we betray them), when politicians manipulate through fear, when real violence threatens, sometimes we wake up and look in the mirror and think, "Is this all there is?" In times like these we want to know we are not alone and that we are part of something bigger and more beautiful than what we see. We want to know that God has a plan.

Even so, I'm not big on the idea of a divine puppet master. Believing that everything happens for a reason leaves me with the sense that God is either petty or just mean. Instead I prefer to think of God as both influential and active. God does have a design for the universe and an intention for our lives as parts of the whole, but God doesn't give babies cancer or fly planes into buildings just to teach people lessons. God does, however, take our best and worst and make order out of chaos. If we listen and attend to God's greater purposes of justice (right treatment of the impoverished) and righteousness (actions exampling God's will, not imposing our own), then we can see our role in cleaning up the mess of this world. That's the bigger, more beautiful thing, and it does require us to sacrifice our needs and expectations.

All that being said, I highly recommend checking out the alternate ending on the DVD or on line. Don't spoil it for yourself, but if you need to find it go here. I honestly can't say which one I like best. Either way, just remember that you are not alone. God loves you. And so do I.
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