I just read the blog article I Am Legend, Advent, and Light at Epicenter Conversations Blog (spoiler alerts for both my post and the Epicenter Blog post). It is interesting to see his take on the movie and how it relates to God. It is possibly as interesting to think about how the movie compares to the book (I Am Legend by Richard Matheson)and what it says about our American culture. As most of our movies work upon the idea of good versus evil, with a good deal of self sacrifice thrown in and usually a happy ending. In this case the happy ending is Robert Neville's self sacrifice and gift of his blood which the others take to the Vermont outpost of other survivors. Who it would seem may also be immune but that it another subject. The end is the happy Hollywood salvation of mankind even though our hero died. In the voice over at the end the woman who saved Robert from his suicidal rage against the sub-humans gives us the epilogue where Robert is remembered as legend who gave his life for humanity “we are his legacy this is his legend”.
There are in fact few things in common between the book and the movie. In the book the plague is caused by the effects of a war which destroyed large areas and subjected the country around Los Angeles with weekly dust storms. The movie is set in New York and the plague is caused by scientists who were working on a cure for cancer and they thought they found it. It is kind of a fear of science mentality there, similar to those afraid of bioengineered crops. We know little about the infected sub-humans in the movie. They are violent and can’t go in the sunlight and they are pretty unconvincing computer animations. However in the book we learn that the disease does cause them to be vampires, it is a bacteria which also reanimates the dead.
But of all the differences it is the ending that is most different. In the end through some deception he finds that there are people who have learned to live with the disease because the disease has mutated. They form a new society, a by no means peaceful society but none the less a new society. Right before he dies in view of this new society he says “I am Legend”, apparently because he is the last of the pre-plague humanity, but a memory of what humanity was once like, now relegated to the realm of myth and legend.
It is not the satisfying OK we will all survive and go on like we are now that the movie portrays but a look at a changed humanity. Not because humanity wanted to change but because it was forced to change and maybe not for the better.
It is after all just a story and like any stories one can draw comparisons between what one believes about God whether God is mentioned or not. But Christianity is more than just about God it is about people. And people don’t like to change and they don’t change if they can help it, the movies play to that idea. Our churches play to that idea as well. We teach the same things we have for years even when we often have no good reason to teach them let alone believe them. But we have the comfort of having them and that is often enough for people who don’t want to change.