I Am Omega Man: Religious Repositioning of the Secular Apocalypse Film in I Am Legend

Tony Degouveia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter compares two films based on the same book, IAm Legend (Francis Lawrence 2007) and The Ωmega Man (Boris Sagal 1971), with both films examined in close conjunction with Richard Matheson’s seminal novel, I Am Legend (1954). However, each film operates to constitute wholly disparate ideas from the original book, having both lost the vampire theme that was central to the original text. Hence, this article partly explores the reasons for the disappearance of the vampires from the story, and looks at how both narratives have evolved this element to suit each film’s strongly ideological functions. Consequently, this study traces the transposition from the traditional vampire figure, (de)evolving to the more abject figure of the zombie and beyond. This involves an exploration into corresponding representations of the (Meta) physical human condition within horror/science fiction in both their generic and ideological configurations. More intrinsically, comparing these films demarcates a homologous shift from an expressly secular cycle of twentieth century apocalypse films to an explicitly religious reformulation of apocalyptic science fiction in the twenty-first century. Although The Ωmega Man, like many science fiction narratives, proffers a messiah/redeemer figure: a sacrificial saviour of humanity, it nonetheless operates within an expressly secular framework; a defining characteristic of 20th century apocalypse films. Similarly, not only is Matheson’s original book acutely secular and scientific in tone, but also ultimately incorporates a denigration of religious belief altogether – something that is emulated in The Ωmega Man’s fervid vilification of religious absolutism. Conversely, the imbedded religious expositions within the film, I Am Legend, culminate to question the protagonist's unwavering faith in science, which is ultimately responsible for humanity’s downfall. Subsequently, by the end of Lawrence’s film, science has been effectively replaced with the redemptive power of Christian faith (not to mention the supernatural power of God). Essentially, the question that needs to be considered is how can a film based on the same secularly rooted story engender such an inverted doctrinal displacement? And what might the contributing socio-cultural factors be for such an ideological transfiguration. This study is part of wider investigation into the linear progression of the apocalypse film and the idea that this has transformed, in part, from a prevailingly secular genre to an apocalyptic reconnoitre of religion and popular ‘endtime’ prophecy belief.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition
EditorsChristian Baron, Peter Nicolai Halvorsen, Christine Cornea
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-56577-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-56575-0
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2017

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