Saturday, June 14, 2008

Faith Themes in Movies

I caught a couple of movies lately and noticed faith themes where they don't necessarily belong.

Warning: Spoilers of I am Legend and Kung Fu Panda ahead.

The plot of I am Legend has nearly nothing to do with religion, but a smug scientist curing cancer shortly followed by a cut to an abandoned, overgrown NYC hints at an anti-scientific point of view, but I didn't think much of it at the time because something has to kill everyone off to make this movie.

But after the movie is done the religious/faith theme is very strong. The main character Robert is shown to be sticking to scientific principles in an effort to cure the bad effects of the engineered virus. But then enters the girl searching for the survivor colony who has faith. There is tension between them due to the faith versus science bases.

I think the film intended to portray a faith conversion and religious self-sacrifice of Robert as he protects the others by suicide bombing the attacking diseased humans. Then the girl goes on to find the survivor colony which of course has a bright shining church in the center of it. Not subtle at all there. But ironically it was the adherence to the scientific method that enabled Robert to find the cure and send it with the girl. And I think Robert's sacrifice is just as valid if it were nonreligious. You don't need faith in a god or religion to sacrifice yourself for others.

I'm really not sure why the film needed to introduce the faith themes and especially why it tried to co-opt science with faith at the end.

Kung Fu Panda was much more subtle with the faith theme but just as self-contradictory. It was shown that the turtle studied and practiced long and hard to be the master, yet later is portrayed as more of a mortal deity.

And again the Panda studied and practiced, uh, short and hard to learn Kung Fu and matched the enemy well. But I think they nodded to faith when the Panda suddenly and inexplicably gained mystic powers during the battle with the bad kitty. I believe the film was trying to indicate a faith conversion yet the only explanation was "I figured it out myself".

The concept of the chosen one and destiny are also faith-based I think.

It's quite possible I'm over-analyzing, and some mystic devices are often needed to create or move a plot, but I think especially with I am Legend they tried a bit too hard to shoehorn faith into the theme gratuitously.

1 comment:

Faithinate said...

I think the faith thing was definitely there for I am Legend, but I think you're trying to jimmy it into Kung Fu Panda. There wasn't the necessary giving up to a higher power; it was more of a believe in yourself message.

Interestingly enough, I just saw Happy Feet again (about 4 times), and it's definitely a religion vs rationalism story (and a bit of eco preachiness in there), with rationalism definitely coming out on top. S'nice.