|Prometheus (2012) - Engineer (Daniel James) dissolving|
Religion is a controversial issue. One of the things science fiction excels at is tackling tough issues. That's why religion has been the subtext of many sci-fi movies. While many believe science and religion contradict each other that hasn't stopped films from using spiritual themes to give them a deeper meaning.
From sacrificial deaths, to Jewish symbols, see how filmmakers have subtly introduced religious themes into eight of your favorite films.
1. Truman Show (1998)
Peter Weir's film about a man living in a TV studio touches on themes of predestination and existentialism. Andrew Niccol's was inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone called "Special Service" about a man who's life is broadcast on television and wrote a spec script that was sold for almost a million dollars. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank who unknowingly grows up living in an huge television studio. The entire thing is broadcast as the ultimate reality show by Christof, played by Ed Harris. Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich and Natascha McElhone round out the cast.
Christof runs Truman's world with almost god-like control and seems to enjoy inflicting pain on Truman to make good television. The conversations between Truman and Christof about his escape to freedom have been compared to those between Moses and the Pharaoh of Egypt. To really sell it, in one scene Truman walks on water and falls on a boat in the position of the cross. Carrey was always known for his subtlety.
2. Man of Steel (2014)
Superman has always had many Christian themes and Zach Snyder's pushes the envelope. When planning to reboot the films Warner Bros. Pictures took pitches from comic book writers, screenwriters and directors. Henry Cavill stars as Superman and follows his life from his birth on the planet Krypton to his arrival at the city of Metropolis where he fights evil Kryptonians led by General Zod.
The film follows the familiar theme of a father sending his only son from heaven to Earth to save Mankind. There's even a scene where Clark disappears for several years similar to Jesus' sabbatical in the wilderness. The studio used religious themes in its marketing and created a Superman-themed sermon for pastors called "Jesus: The Original Superhero."
3. The Matrix (1999)
The Wachowski's action film touches on themes of Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Hinduism, and Judaism. The idea of a prophesied savior and a reincarnated hero are examples of this classic of cinema. He has to clear his mind to perform many of the death defying feats and knows Kung-Fu. Plus, it has bullet time which is beyond cool.
4. Battlefield Earth (2000)
Roger Christian's film is based on the Scientology novel by L. Ron Hubbard. Famed Scientologist John Travolta thought the film would be a huge hit and even planned a sequel. While the film reportedly has no connection to the teachings of the church there are some connections.
The villains are named "Psychlos" which is a play on psychologists which Hubbard hated. The movie was released three days after the 50th anniversary of the publication of Hubbard's book Dianetics. That day is a holiday for Scientologists. The Church of Scientology got a cut of the toy sales which were as popular as the film. Namely, they sucked.
5. Equilibrium (2002)
Director Kurt Wimmer made this film about an order of "clerics" that help to maintain a society devoid of emotions. In this future dystopia everyone takes a carefully regulated regimen of drugs to surpress feelings. Christian Bale stars as John Preston who's a policeman in this future world who accidentally misses a dose and starts having feelings. Wimmer compared the Clerics to the Knights Templar who had taken an aesthetic religious vow and are "Warriors of God." He also compared them to the Japanese samurai and their Bushido code.
6. Prometheus (2012)
Ridley Scott's film was originally named Paradise, after John Milton's poem Paradise Lost. The crew is on a search for God and the origin of life. The symbolism continues as the Engineer sacrifices himself for humanity similar to Jesus' death. Scott referred to the Greek statue-like beings as "Dark Angels." One of the characters has an immaculate conception of an alien. The movie also has references to the Greek mythology of Prometheus who fought the gods to bring fire to mankind.
7. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Anthony Burgess' 1962 novella A Clockwork Orange has many religious messages. Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a juvenile delinquent, is subjected to aversion therapy in a prison with many religious symbols, the prisoners sing hymns and read from "The Big Book." A cleric presides over the group and eventually denounces the removal of free-will.
8. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Directed by Robert Fuest, this horror film starring Vincent Price as a disfigured genius seeking revenge for the death of his wife. He kills the doctors and nurses he holds responsible using methods based on the Ten Plagues against Egypt in the Bible. He even wears amulets with the ten Jewish Hebrew letters that relate to the plagues.
What do you think of these films? Can you think of any other films with subtle religious meanings?
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