Illustration for article titled The Bettany Blaspheme-Off

Paul Bettany currently stars in two films, Creation and Legion. Both go to work on traditional religion with a blowtorch and shovel, but which one takes the cake, heresy-wise?


Creation got off to the best start, with its trailer focusing on the line, "You've killed god, sir." Perhaps the film was courting controversy, or perhaps the editors had hoped the audience would be distracted from the line by the fact that, in the trailer, Bettany's hairline seems to be performing the dance of the seven veils. Either way, it was a strong showing.

Legion's trailer was bloodier, and arguably more nihilistic. It used every opportunity to hammer home the point that mankind sucks, god hates them, and he wants to kill them all, using every zombie movie trope possible.


In this case, the old saying rings true. The opposite of love isn't hate; it's indifference. Creation's assertion that spirituality is just flat-out beside the point is far more transgressive than a standard deity-mandated extermination.

Supernatural Agents:
Which isn't to say that Creation doesn't have some elements which could be considered supernatural. Darwin's daughter, Annie, who dies early in the film, returns as an apparition and sounding board for her father as he works on his theory of natural selection. There are a lot of interpretations of this, ranging from something as commonplace as Darwin attempting a connection with his lost child to a legitimate connection of the corporeal world and the spiritual one. It could even, if viewed a certain way, be sinister. Anyone who has read a Chick Tract or two can imagine a strip that showed the child, possessed by evil, coming back from the dead to urge her father to loose his wicked theory of evolution on the world. (It wouldn't be any sillier than the tract that claimed Dungeons and Dragons gave its players satanic powers.)

Legion leaps ahead in this category. It uses the standard zombie movie tropes, but finds a novel cause of zombie-ism. The hordes of mindless killers laying siege to the film's plucky band of heroes are not drugged, diseased, or mind-controlled. They're possessed by angels. In itself, that is not the most heretical part. Angels, when not posing for Renaissance paintings or decorative plates, do some pretty badass jobs. There is a reason the title, ‘The Angel of Death,' came into existence. In the Bible, though, angels are given some dignity. They guard the gates of the Garden of Eden. They don't possess an old lady and have her skitter up a wall like a lizard. They also aren't taken down by shotguns or burned in gasoline fights like they're auditioning for Zoolander 2: Cheekbones in the City.

Take-Home Message:
Unless Creation really is a cunningly disguised Chick Tract, the end is uplifting. The central conflict of the movie is Darwin's theory conflicting with his wife's religious beliefs. His continuing work on the theory drives a wedge between them. In the end, Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, with his wife's assent. Their bond is reaffirmed, and while they can't guess at the spiritual consequences of their actions, they both hope for love and forgiveness.


The end of Legion isn't quite as warm and fuzzy. Survivalists who are searching for reasons to keep existing by eating canned peas and any passers by who blunder into their mantraps, will be gratified to know that they may be guarding the new messiah one day. Sadly, they only would be guarding the new messiah once god stopped trying to kill him. Yes, god spends nearly the entire span of the movie trying to kill off the new messiah, first while he is still in utero, and later when he's a newborn. In Legion God and King Herod switch places.

It's clear that Legion is the winner of this Bettany Blaspheme-Off, but the contest is far from over. Mister Bettany seems to be making a career out of sacrilege. With his role of the assassin-monk in The Da Vinci Code, his role as an adulterous priest-turned-actor in The Reckoning, and his upcoming role as a vampire killing renegade priest in Priest, there are many more contests to come.


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