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On the other side of the coin, there's this week's Legion which is telling a fairly standard fantasy/action story of ordinary humans caught up in a war between rival factions of good and evil supernatural beings. How best to overcome the expected "ho-hum" reaction to such a familiar setup? Easy: They aren't just any supernatural beings, they're angels. As in: "Of The Lord." As in: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the."

See how that works? Suddenly, it's not just two magically-powered superhuman beings having it out in a gas station, it's two magically-powered superhuman beings that a huge segment of the audience claims to actually believe in having it out in a gas station. Not only are the backstories and powersets that are much more easily explained ("what's with the wings? Oh, right. They have those."), suddenly this takes on an instantaneous extra level of import: You're being "edgy" and "deconstructive" by re-imagining plundered Apocrypha in a "dark" action context. Evil... I dunno, Atlantean Sky-Elf? "Whatever." Evil angel? "Whoa! That's kinda-sorta blasphemous and stuff! You're blowin my mind!"

You see this all the time. Think of how many made-up monsters are vulnerable to crucifixes (or Stars of David, or prayer scrolls, or holy water for that matter); do you suppose perhaps that's to make them seem more important by association? How often do halos, crosses, angel wings, stained glass, monk robes, and so forth get slathered all over movies, videogames and anime in order to add weight to the proceedings? Why did The Crow spend so much time skulking around churches and graveyards? Are The Boondock Saints wearing artificial profundity (literally) on their sleeves? Think about that oddly out-of-place, monastic chant that keeps cropping up in the background of that one outer-space shooter videogame... what was it called, again? Oh, right: Halo. Hm...

There's nothing wrong with this, technically, though it does tend to lead to lazy storytelling (see: The Book of Eli.) From where I sit, it's more a problem of how it tends to lend heat to stuff that really doesn't deserve it. Look at how much extra scorn seems to get tossed at the (still largely deserving of it) Twilight series for the perceived influence of Stephanie Meyer's conservative Mormonism on the story. Hell, I got into it myself, dubbing the series "Mormon Vampire Abstinence Porn" over a year ago. Speaking only for myself, I don't have a problem with Mormonism in and of itself, I merely find the juxtaposition of a deeply traditionalist faith with what amounts to a softcore romance series for teen girls to be humorously off-kilter. But some similar criticism gets oddly vicious: Yes, I agree, Meyer/Twilight's view of relationships and gen, but why is it worse if this is informed by a specific faith as opposed to her just being nonspecifically nutty?

Playing through Bayonetta recently, I find myself wondering if the details of her being a witch at war with agents of God will make people take the game's batshit silly narrative as some kind of serious commentary on misogyny in patriarchal faiths. Will Darksiders face an outcry that never greeted God of War because its cartoonishly hypermasculine killing machine is drawn from The Book of Revelation rather than Olympian mythology? The answer to both, sadly, is "probably" - especially since Bayonetta is practically begging for it.

There are, of course, instances where this actually works out in the positive: The Exorcist - one of the greatest of all horror films - relies heavily on an audience's immediate familiarity with a generalized Judeo-Christian concept of Satan to give its fantastical story weight. And I'd be remiss not to mention C.S. Lewis, whose fairly explicit Christian allegory helps push his Narnia books (and the various films based on them) beyond being just another longform fairytale (well, except for that last one, but that's another column.)

I guess what's mainly irksome about all of this is how it sours the conversation by injecting undeserved defensiveness (or offensiveness) into discussions of material that doesn't in any way warrant it. The Book of Eli is a junky B-movie; it doesn't deserve to have people defending it with the same fervor that they defend their faith. Ditto for Legion, ditto for anything else on the same lines. That people go and do this anyway is regrettable, and that it might be a planned strategy of the filmmakers is close to unconscionable.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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