July 25, 2009
Archangels with machine guns at the end of the world
The actor has already played an albino assassin monk in The Da Vinci Code, a priest on the lam who joins a medieval morality-play troupe in The Reckoning, and a famous scientist who wrestles with his doubts in the upcoming biopic Creation, and he will soon star in the comic-book adaptation Priest as a man of the cloth who turns against the church to track down some vampires who have kidnapped his niece.
Right now, however, the religion-themed movie of his that's getting all the attention is Legion, in which Bettany will play the machine-gun-toting archangel Michael; director Scott Stewart appeared with co-stars Bettany, Tyrese Gibson and others at the San Diego Comic-Con to promote the film yesterday, and they unveiled a new poster for the film and a few clips, besides.The premise of this film is more than a little cheesy, not to mention theologically suspect. As Variety put it last year:
Scripted by Stewart and Peter Schink, the thriller casts Bettany as the archangel Michael, the only one standing between mankind and an apocalypse, after God loses faith in humanity. Man's lone hope rests with a group of strangers who must deliver a baby they realize is Christ in his second coming.And whereas the word "Legion" typically brings to mind the many demons who possessed a single man in Jesus' day (Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30), an even earlier story from Variety indicates that this movie is called Legion because "God loses faith in humanity and sends his legion of angels to wipe out the human race for the second time."
And so, FilmoFilia indicates that one of the villains against whom Michael does battle will apparently be the archangel Gabriel, played here by Kevin Durand. (Durand would not be the first actor to play Gabriel as a bad guy; Christopher Walken did it in The Prophecy and its sequels, as did Tilda Swinton in Constantine.)
Personally, I can sort-of handle a movie that imagines what might happen if Gabriel or one of the other "good" angels turns bad. I'm not very keen on the idea, for the same reason I wouldn't be very keen on the idea of movies that depict my friends or family members as bad guys; if we really believe that Gabriel exists and plays a role in our lives, then we can't just treat him as another mythical figure to re-invent as we will. But a part of me appreciates how the shock of seeing Gabriel as a villain can remind us of what it must have been like when Lucifer turned against God.
No, there is something else that bugs me about this movie's premise. Two things, actually.
First, the idea that God would lose faith in humanity and try to wipe us out again. In the other films where Gabriel has turned into a bad guy, he has done so in rebellion against God. But here, it seems that he is working on God's behalf, in which case God himself would seem to be a bad guy, too; at any rate, the heroic Michael, by fighting Gabriel and all the other angels, would ultimately be fighting against God himself.
What makes this movie's premise even more puzzling is the idea that Christ is already here, inside a woman's womb. Why would the God of this film try to wipe out humanity so soon after sending his Son back to Earth?
And that brings me to my second beef with this movie's premise, namely the idea that the Second Coming will be just like the first, with Jesus being born as a baby, etc. Seriously, it never ceases to amaze me how many secular apocalyptic films pursue this line of thought, from Omen III: The Final Conflict to Bless the Child. It completely misses the point of what the Second Coming is all about. It's not going to be a mere reincarnation.What makes this movie even more of a curiosity is that it features at least two actors who have been rather open about their own Christian faith. Dennis Quaid spoke to us a few years ago about his spiritual journey (he discussed it at the time with Beliefnet, too); and Doug Jones has talked about how he almost turned down the part of Abe Sapien in Hellboy until he read the script and realized how it "nurtured and challenged" his faith. I'd be curious to know what appealed to them about this script.
(Well, okay, Jones, at least, did discuss this point at Comic-Con yesterday, as per the video clip to the right; he says the film explores the possibility that mankind might be "in a place today that would bring about another flood, as in the days of Noah." Make of that what you will.)
Finally, Charles S. Dutton is playing a character named Percy Walker. That has to be some kind of strange in-joke.