Saturday, January 23, 2010

Angels and Demons and Popcorn


The movie Legion, about an angel (Paul Bettany) fighting against God for the survival of humans, opened yesterday. Both my wife and I were captivated by a billboard advertising the movie and I had to look it up because I didn’t know anything about it. My thoughts on the preview? Meh, it looks like the Prophecy, but with roles reversed. Interesting theology though- God is fed up with humans and wants to wipe them out (despite “want[ing] all men to be saved” 1 Tim 2:4) but has to stand against the archangel Michael. The irony is that some Christian denominations believe the archangel Michael referenced in Revelation and Jude is really Jesus. Or rather, that Jesus is really the archangel Michael incarnate and Jesus does, in fact, save us from God’s wrath. Also, “Legion” is the name of the demon(s) Jesus cast out of a man into a herd of pigs (Mark 5:10, Luke 8:31).

Of course Legion isn’t the first movie of its kind, and the eternal struggle between good and evil is a common sci-fi/fantasy/horror theme as noted by a couple of recent online articles. Some movies and literature take more theological liberties than others, so we should be wary in seeking doctrinal relevance in our entertainment. In fact, oftentimes the only real spiritual linkage is a simple acknowledgement of God, Satan, and/or angels. These themes are familiar enough to appease any viewer, despite their theology, so I also wouldn’t attribute the glut of “religious” movies to any inroads the Christian consumer has made as a demographic. I don’t think the makers of Legion, or The Book of Eli, or The Road are banking on the same customers as The Passion of the Christ.
I recommend the Parallel Universe article because it references several movies categorized by spiritual themes. Some of these are classics (The Exorcist, The Omen) while others are less known (Race With the Devil, The Sentinel) and of course some are personal favorites (The Prophecy, The Seventh Sign). One glaring omission, in my humble opinion, is Denzel Washington's Fallen. (That should keep your Netflix busy for a while)

As for comics, which aren’t as well known here's my recommended reading list:
Deathblow (Image): A former special-ops soldier is hired by a clandestine religious order to protect a seal between Hell and Earth from being broken. The location for all you Bible scholars? The plains of Megiddo.

Hellshock (Image): About a fallen angel recruiting a young woman into his battle against evil. But is he who he says he is? (If the story doesn't grab you, it's worth checking out for some of the best artwork by Jae Lee ever seen)
Lucifer (DC/Vertigo): About you know who, who is tired of his role in the eternal struggle of good versus evil and leaves Hell in search of a "higher" calling.

Hellstorm (Marvel): A once campy character, was revitalized in a 1993 series written by Warren Ellis (among others). That series alone is worth checking out following a similar theme to Vertigo's Lucifer, but in this case it is Satan's son who is rebelling against his father.

Ghost Rider (Marvel): This character has a long history (and no, I have not seen the movie), but was recently retconned (meaning, his history was changed for the sake of story) to no longer being possessed by a demon, but by an angel. I haven't yet checked out this storyline which started a year ago, but sounds intriguing as the Ghost Rider goes to fight against heaven, angry for being used for so long as a pawn.

Spawn (Image): A soldier dies and makes a deal with the devil to see his wife one last time. The deal? Be a soldier in Satan's army (that for some reason fights clowns). I only followed this series for the first few years in the 90s, but it has remained popular enough that it's still published, has had several spinoffs, and of course a visually stunning movie. (The cartoon ain't bad either)

Of course there are others (I spent the last hour trying to find a comic that I could've sworn the movie Legion was based off of when I saw the font of the title in the billboard) so please share favorites. Include movies too! My Netflix queue is only 200 movies long, I could add a couple more!

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