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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Legion

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

"Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord."

This verse from the King James Version's translation of Psalm 34 opens—and is intended to set the tone for—the theologically skewed apocalyptic horror outing "Legion" (Screen Gems). But, as the next hour-and-a-half of screen time makes abundantly clear, director and co-writer (with Peter Schink) Scott Stewart's feature debut portrays the fear of the Lord in a very different manner than either the psalmist or the writers of Scripture in general.

Rather than the reverential submission due to a mighty but benevolent God, the emotion aimed at here seems to be the kind of frenzy which an all-powerful heaven-dwelling terrorist might produce. Thus the script takes for its premise that God has despaired of humanity's future and has unleashed hordes of demonic angels—not to mention pestilential swarms of insects—to destroy civilization and wipe out Earth's entire population.

But the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) rebels against this petulant plan.

Knowing that Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), the lone waitress at a remote roadside cafe in the Mojave Desert, is pregnant (though unmarried) with a child who alone can save humanity, Michael sets out to defend the place against the repeated attacks of his fellow angels—who have, by now, taken possession of crowds of human beings, transforming them into zombielike killing machines—long enough for her to give birth.

And just when is Charlie's due date? Dec. 25, naturally.

Michael enlists the help of the eatery's owners, religious skeptic Bob (Dennis Quaid) and Bible believer Percy (Charles S. Dutton), Bob's gentle son Jeep (Lucas Black)—who humbly nurses a forlorn, all-accepting love for Charlie—and just-passing-through customer Kyle (Tyrese Gibson).

What follows is a long, grim slog that intersperses relentless, though only occasionally gory, violence with metaphysical mush. Despite a brief passage of dialogue about Charlie's experience in an abortion mill that can be read as conveying a pro-life message, the wearisome proceedings overall leave viewers feeling as besieged as the characters in that lonesome greasy spoon.

The film contains convoluted religious themes; constant, though mostly nongraphic, violence; an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; a couple of uses of profanity; much rough language (including at least 25 uses of the F-word); and some crude and crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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