Saturday, May 9, 2020

10 Movies with Christian Allegorical Themes

Warning: Some of these movies are not appropriate for family viewing, some of these movies are rated R and should not be viewed unless prayerfully by the guidance of God.

Warning: This blog contains spoilers for all movies mentioned.

10. Greater (2016) - This movie is currently available on Netflix.  It's obviously a Christian themed film, following the true story of Brandon Burlsworth, the walk on who made it to the NFL.  Featured in the film is the theological struggle of "If God why evil?" If God exists why do bad things happen to good people? This struggle is played out between Brandon's brother Marty, and a mysterious figure carving a figurine of him out of wood.  Quite fascinating, the figure represents Satan I think, attempting to shape Marty's perception of the death of Brandon. Marty struggles throughout the film with the question "Why did Brandon die?" It's a great looking over the shoulder of how we make sense of evil, and death.  

9. The Fountain (2006) - The tragic struggle of a man to prevent the death of his wife, but deeper in the struggle is the idea of achieving victory over death. This story is played out in three worlds: the real world modern day, the spiritual world in space, and the 16th century during the Spanish inquisition. 

This film explores how we all struggle with death, and how there is a deep desire in us to find an escape, to find new life. The conclusion from my perspective is that Tom realizes that "death is the road to awe."  Essentially, he had been trying to find eternal life, without dying, but to find eternal life you must first die.  Everyone dies, but death is the road to awe, to the supernatural, to the spiritual.  The film seems to depict the search for the tree of life, the one which was lost by humanity in the garden so long ago. 

8. Legend (1985) - It's hard to not notice the obvious depictions of biblical theology weaved into the storyline of Legend.  We have the devil figure, seeking to corrupt the world. We have the Adam and Eve figures, innocent in the garden.  We have the beautiful forest, a nod to Eden.  And we have the Eve figure committing a forbidden act, by touching the unicorns. The unicorn is killed, and the world falls into a winter state.  Jack the main character is approached by Gump a god-like creature who offers him a road to redemption. Viewing this film is at times haunting for me as the theological outworkings tend to overwhelm my emotions. Such is the visual awe of films directed by Riddluy Scott. 

7. Into the Wild (2007) - The movie based on the true story of Christopher McCandless truly does display McCandless as the Christ-like figure.  He is depicted helping others, questioning the base line ideologies of society, crossing borders, sharing inspiring tidbits of wisdom, and also refusing to take advantage of women. He dreams of a better world, just like most of us do, but he had the courage to put it into action.  Unfortunately, that same extreme nature led to his death later on.  The story is a reminder to me and I think to all Christians that sometimes we do need to separate ourselves, in a sort of monastic way, much like Jesus did, who often retreating to lonely places to pray. It also reminds me that the way of Christ is one that challenges the baseline assumptions of society. McCandless yearns for a better world, which is something all Christians can relate to. The soundtrack by Eddie Vedder is fantastic as well. 

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship (2001) - Where do I start? This one goes deep. One can explore the dangers of the human fallen nature, in a character like Boromir who wrestles between good and evil. We want to do right, but we so often do wrong.  The Aragorn figure, the Christ-like leader, the returning King, who embraces Boromir, and forgives him at the end.  The suffering servant figure of Frodo reminds us of the burden Christ bore for us, and also the burden we carry, as the ring of power, of selfishness, of lust, of greed attempts to slowly take hold of us. The sacrificial love of Samwise reminds us of what it means to die for our friend, which is the greatest expression of love according to Christ. The Gandalf figure, and his death at the bridge, and his battle with the demonic Balrog creature reminds us of all Christ did for us, to defeat Satan at the cross, declaring "This far, and no further." Or as Gandalf says "You shall not pass." Jesus sets us free.  There is so much here, but I'll stop there.

5. Star Wars A New Hope (1977) - Obi-Wan Kenobi knows he must face down Vader one last time.  But his strategy is strange.  He allows himself to be struck down by Vader, declaring to him that if Vader cut him down he would become more powerful than he could possibly imagine.  The same was true with Jesus Christ on the cross, Satan thought he had defeated God, but instead the cross was the tool by which Christ would redeem the world, and remove sin from us.  Similarly Obi-Wan returns from the dead as a force ghost and continue to guide Luke, just as Jesus guides us after we become Christians.  Sometimes in life it seems so hopeless. It seems like the whole world is overcome by sin and suffering and demonic influence.  But we're reminded throughout the Bible that one person, totally given over to God can change the world.  And I think we all felt that when 12 X-wings and 24 Y-Wing fighters attempted to take on a space station the size of a moon.  Sometimes it seems so hopeless. But Jesus is with us, just as Obi-Wan spoke to Luke throughout the battle, and guided him. And we're also reminded how one friend, Han Solo, can surprise you, and protect you when you're at your weakest.  

4. The Postman (1997) - One of my favorite movies, it's more properly a reflection on the classic political struggle between liberty and tyranny; but I think we also get some theological allegory as well.  You've got a post-apocalyptic world where the scattered tribes of humanity are persecuted by a sort of totalitarian nietzschian army. There's the outsider, the vagabond, entering his heroes journey. He goes through a terrible trial. He becomes the reluctant hero. He starts to share hope in the broken villages, and this inspires a movement of young people who rise up against the establishment.  It's a political saga, but you also see glints of Christ in the hope-giving, and the transformation of character that exists in the main character "Shakespeare." Once we get Christ within, we start to live out the hero within ourselves. We become new, and that new person becomes the hero, if we're doing it right.  And then we can challenge the sort of totalitarianism that exists in our world today, the censorship, the corruption, the media manipulation, the enforced naturalism, the indoctrination to ideology at college campuses, and stand up to it with the light of Christ. 

3. Donnie Darko (2001) - This is one of those really crazy movies that has layers upon layers, and spiritually it's a bit of a mixed bag. I'll cut you into the underlying philosophy: God guided time travel. And there's a book that describes the elements involved, called "The Philosophy of Time Travel."  It actually describes the symbols and underpinnings of the film. And it makes an appearance in the film. Essentially, you have a primary universe, and an artifact is created, by God, in this case a jet engine that falls from the sky.  It's arrival upsets history and creates a "tangent universe." The tangent universe is unstable, and will destroy itself in 28 days. Donnie is the agent who now has 28 days to save the world. The film seems to cover Donnie's search for God. And explores themes like destiny, predestination, faith, time travel, and sacrifice. I say it's a mixed bag because Donnie is guided by this dark figure in a bunny suit, which almost makes it feel demonic. Yet we see other factors at work. Its interesting how the world around Donnie splits between those who help him and those who appose him.  It certainly feels like a Christ-like scenario. But Donnie is actually being manipulated into a scenario where he will use his supernatural powers to return the jet engine to the primary universe which will restore the primary universe. The catch is that he has to sacrifice his life, another Christ-like nod.  In any case, it's demented and dark at times, yet also holds this strain of hope, self-sacrifice, searching for God, and finding the courage to die for something you believe in. 

2. After Earth (2013) - Humanity is at war with terrible monsters on many worlds. But one hero arises, named Cypher. In the relationship between Cypher and his son Kitai, we see the struggle between father and son. Cypher is the perfect hero. He's the Christ figure.  Then you got Kitai who is you and me, the new confused Christian who is afraid and not making the best decisions. After their starship crashes on the Earth, this fallen Earth that every animal and plant is dangerous, you see a picture of the fall.

Cypher is at the ship, guiding Kitai through the dangerous world, to be able to get somewhere high enough to get a signal out.  So this reminds me of how Jesus is in heaven, guiding us on Earth.  He helps us, but we have to make the decisions, sometimes we make right ones, then sometimes we make wrong ones.  Kitai gets all flustered, he's super afraid, and he falls short time and again. How often is that true of us?  And what does Cypher do to calm him down?  "Take a knee Kitai."  Just like when we're lost, crazy, demented, afraid, we go to our knees and cry out to God.  

So you've also got this creature called the Ursa stalking Kitai.  And Kitai's ultimate victory is when he finally learns from Cypher, to take a stand, and overcome the creature. But more-so he overcomes himself. Just as the Proverb says "Greater is he who conquers himself, than he who conquers a city."  In the same way we as Christians learn from Christ, live like Christ, follow Christ, and eventually we learn to overcome the world, to overcome sin, to overcome fear, and live by faith, and live in holiness.  

1. Pandorum (2009) - This is a rated R horror film with a great deal of gore. But it's interesting when you consider the deeper themes within the film. The premise is of a giant spaceship leaving an Earth that is falling apart and can't sustain human life. We follow the journey of Corporal Bower as he wakes up in a sleeping tube to the ship broken down and bizarre creatures hunting people on the ship.  

Bower is guided by another man who wakes up, Lt. Payton, who turns out to basically be the devil, the guy who caused this whole nightmare.  Bower unites several survivors to try to restart the engine of the ship. He fights his way there, and back again, to discover Lt. Payton was the architect of the disaster. Payton who is actually Gallo, went crazy, and decided to turn the ship into a "survival of the fittest" experiment, turning the passengers into monsters. It's similar to our faith in that we're born into the world system, not realizing as we grow up and learn that we're under the authority of Satan.  We're raised up into the viewpoints of the world, the philosophy of the world, and just general materialism and selfishness. And we don't know even know.  We're surrounded by death, and danger, and we're trying to find the answers.  

Gallo, just a lowly corporal of the original crew reminds me of Satan, who had once simply been an angel, a servant being, who decided to try to supplant God and create a world where everything would be redefined to deify humanity. 

Now the ending is where it all really comes together.  The ship was actually crashed on Tanis, this new planet, and Earth had been destroyed, which is what drove the original crew crazy.  They manage to escape the ship in a life pod, and come to the surface of Tanis, along with about one thousand others who were still in their pods.  This is similar to being born again, you go through the waters, you're washed clean, and you wake up in a new world, and ultimately, after we die, we wake up in a new world.  Paradise.  That's the whole goal.  

There are all sorts of biblical references in the film: "I'm offering you the kingdom!" "This is truly Noah's ark."  "Were you thinking of the Eden mission?" The Eden mission sees the genesis of "pandorum" this madness that comes over people during long space travel.  This is similar to the fallen nature that we have as humans on Earth.  It drives us crazy, drives us to live selfishly.  The ship carried DNA for all the animals and plants on Earth, similar to Noah's Ark, which carried all the kinds of animals. 

I've had a very challenging life, no doubt due to my own poor decisions. But a lot of trauma, addiction, suicide attempts, rehabs, and isolation.  For that reason I really appreciate the great struggle that the character Bower goes through. It makes me feel some peace that it all had a purpose, and it reminds me of just how bad the fall can be.  It's bad.  

The ending is love, hope, and paradise.  But you have to go through hell to get there. And that's the story of life as a Christian.  You've got paradise ahead of you, but you've got a hell-struggle for this life.  (If you watch this film keep your hand on the remote to fast forward past the gore, God is good, amen.)