I just watched the movie Legion last night, starring various regulars such as Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson and Charles S. Dutton. Interesting to say the least. And what I found most intriguing about it was its commentary on God. What is God like, and who would be best placed to answer such a question? I suppose those closest to Him, such as angels (or God Himself?). The answer we get though is less than orthodox, but it’s very contemporary. God is portrayed in this tale of modern day impending Armageddon as a somewhat capricious, shortsighted administrator of the universe who at times requires His underlings to clean up what would turn out to be a rather big cosmic mess.
The film starts with a man falling out of the sky, landing in the middle of a dark alleyway. He whips out an interesting-looking knife after scurrying into a corner, and with it he proceeds to rid himself of some mysterious looking collar, as well as removing what look like heavy wings. This is an angel; Michael, in fact, and he’s very sympathetically played by Paul Bettany (of the DaVinci code and the upcoming manga adaptation ‘Priest’). It turns out as events unfold that Michael is rebelling against God, and the stage for this is set at a remote diner in the middle of the desert. An unborn child, whose mother works at this diner, is the center of it all- he will decide the fate of humanity, and Michael will work to make that happen. So the story unfolds in typical Hollywood fashion, in a rather predictable way. Some of the visuals are eye-popping, though there’s nothing revolutionary here. I won’t bore you with details.
What I found most fascinating in the film was the commentary that it was making on God, humanity, and the subversion of archetypes that we’re all used to- such as that the angels are the good guys. In scenes very much (I believe) tailored to echo the Exorcist and other movies, we see people being ‘possessed’ by angels, and these people then attacking other humans. It’s bizarre, and at times you catch yourself asking the question- “whose side am I on? Who’s in the right here?” I think that’s the brilliance of the movie. It plays on visual and story stereotypes, subverting these to make the point that good and evil are not so obvious and easily distinguishable. Angels manifest themselves and act like demons, the ethereal and the physical are confused as bullets are fired at angelic beings (who happen to have very cool bullet-proof wings). God, who has lost faith in humanity, doesn’t look at all like the God of the Bible. Sure, references are made to biblical characters and events such as Gabriel, the Genesis flood etc, but God here seems like some sort of inept administrator. He’s angry with man, ‘tired of the BS’ as the film puts it and He’s trying to get rid of humanity.
It gets interesting here because God is apparently not doing what He needs, but what just pleases Him now and He’ll probably regret it in the morning. Really? It takes Michael to see clearly that God needs to be merciful, and the film gives much foundation for saying he’s right in challenging God. His wrath seems ill-advised; humanity is more deserving of love than it is of judgment, even though we do mess up at times. This god is a far cry from the God of the bible, who has ‘no wickedness in Him’, ‘great is the Lord and most worthy of praise’; He judges the world ‘in righteousness and the peoples in his truth’; ‘righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne’. And ‘who has understood the Spirit of the Lord, or instructed Him as His counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way? Who was it that taught Him knowledge or showed Him the path of understanding?” And “no one can hold back His hand or say to Him: ‘What have you done?’”
All of this contrasts quite starkly with the god in Legion, as described to us by Michael and later thwarted by him as well. I suppose we could ask God Himself what He’s like- wouldn’t he know? The humans are also portrayed as well-meaning, whatever their flaws, and surely judgment is an over-reaction by any standard. The angel that brought news of the impending judgment was dismissed out of hand as a ‘Jesus freak’. Intriguing.
There are so many misconceptions, dumbing down our deserved wrath, and basically taking ourselves off the hook, and pointing the finger back at God in this movie. It echoes the 21st century cry whenever one speaks of God judging us: “why would God judge us? What have we ever done to Him?” What indeed…