Our family just saw I Am Legend and I can't help it ... the worldview implications of the film compel me to comment. It was a tension-filled, entertaining movie no doubt. I enjoyed it. But the messages it sent speak directly to my mission here at TrueHorizon.
Without giving too much away, let me summarize: A British doctor announces that genetic manipulation of the measles virus has turned it into a virus that, instead of wreaking harmful havoc on people, can attack cancer cells. Testing of the genetically manipulated virus has produced a 100% cure rate in cancer patients. “So you have cured cancer,” the interviewer asks. “Yes … yes, we have.”
Three years later we see a barren New York City that we quickly learn has been devastated by the virus’ unintended ability to mutate into a human time bomb. We also see, on the refrigerator door of our hero, Will Smith, a three year-old newspaper article touting his status as a “Savior” who is working to stop the proliferation of the disease. He is a military officer and medical researcher who is tasked with developing a vaccine to fight the killer virus.
And there our cultural assumptions show through. It is science, human ingenuity and power that make the world work. Smith's heroic character is based in all three. The future of the human race rests on his shoulders.
In contrast, there are a few other nuances in the film. Smith’s wife and daughter pray for him and the sick before they are forced to leave him in NYC. Their prayers are quickly found wanting. A cross dangles from the rearview mirror of the Brazilian girl who later rescues him from certain death. But Smith later mocks her and any spiritual reality on which she claims to rely. In each case the religious overtones are soon contradicted by evil and suffering in the real world. Scientific research seems to be the only really reliable savior for the human race.
The irony rests in the seemingly overlooked fact that it was science run amok that caused all the pain and suffering in the first place. In our insatiable desire to construct a utopian answer to pain and suffering we inadvertently make it all worse.
I don't want to make too big a deal of it all because I really did enjoy the movie. I also don't want to suggest that the human effort to eradicate disease are somehow misplaced or futile. It is a noble cause for which God provided us reason, rationality and compassion. I just found the ways in which the movie reflected the human condition to be instructive.
We believe that human suffering is unfair at best, and proof of the non-existence or impotence of God at worst. It never occurs to us that pain and suffering serve a higher purpose than messing up our "right" to a comfortable existence. We never seem to realize that pain and suffering serve to perfect us and show us the frailty of our humanity absent any reliance on the perfection of a loving Creator. We always look for answers within ourselves and are then surprised when we get let down ... and when we make things worse in doing so. We have a hard time accepting that we can't save ourselves -- especially in the only sense that being saved really matters.