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Entries in Legion [2010] (1)

Saturday
Jan232010

Legion, 2010

Good Lord

It seems that not even God has escaped the recession: in Scott Stewart’s new movie, Legion, the Almighty performs the ultimate act of insourcing by sending armored, weapons-wielding angels to wipe out humanity. I know the Bible says that He would never end the world (again) with another Great Flood, but this movie proves that cutting corners only leads to shabby results. Indeed, by the time Legion was over, I felt like I’d drowned in clichés and spent an eternity repenting my decision to buy a matinee ticket.

If you’ve seen the trailer for this picture, then you’ve literally seen everything in the movie, save for the long stretches of only occasionally decent dialogue. A group of strangers converge in a diner called Paradise Falls (GET IT?), where they must confront the horrors of Armageddon together. They are aided by an angel named Michael (Paul Bettany), who didn’t so much fall as quit after finding out that God had finally had enough of his ungrateful experiments (us), and ordered him to head the extermination. His new mission is to prevent the army of angels from killing a pregnant waitress (Adrianne Palicki) whose unborn son is mankind’s only hope in defeating...God.

I’d meant to work up a whole synopsis, but I’m going to pull over now and talk about how relentlessly stupid this movie is. Don’t let the all-star cast or renowned effects-artist-turned-director fool you: Legion is not a smart or entertaining film, though it does its best to fool the audience with lots of CG violence and spent shells tinkling in Surround Sound. The movie has two major problems:

1. The structure of the screenplay is a blatant rip-off of The Terminator. From Michael’s sudden appearance in an urban alley—where he scrounges for clothes and weapons—to the idea of the pregnant waitress/reluctant heroine whose child will lead humanity against a seemingly unstoppable, inhuman threat, to the climax where the big, bad villain (here, the archangel Gabriel, played by Kevin Durand) kills the holy mother’s protector with, ahem, machine-like precision, Legion is one long spot-the-reference drinking game. I thought Avatar was derivative, but this movie is shameless; Stewart and his co-screenwriter Peter Schink are damned lucky that the continents of cash from James Cameron’s latest film are keeping him distracted enough to not sue them for every nickel their great-grandkids will ever make.

2. The reason The Terminator worked so well was that the antagonist—as invincible as it may have seemed—could still be blown up or unplugged. My limited understanding of God is that He is all-knowing and all-powerful, meaning that He a) could have simply made the Michael, the diner, and the mother and baby disappear (or, understanding that this is a popcorn flick, disintegrated it with lots of lightning and explosions), and b) should not be afraid of a baby in the first place. It is never made clear what the child is supposed to be. He’s not the Anti-Christ—in fact, there is no sign of the devil or any demons in Legion, only angels who have possessed people in order to kill other people. The point is, the movie makes the mistake of creating a foe who is omnipotent until he isn’t, and never bothers to explain whatever rules govern this significant shift.

Had the writers worked out these major story kinks, Legion may have carried on the fine tradition of Night of the Living Dead and The Mist. Those were character-driven action films (of varying degree) set at the end of the world, and they placed an emphasis on character and dialogue rather than gross spectacle. The first half-hour of Legion is promising, mostly because of the actors (though Dennis Quaid has spent the last year slumming it in projects like this and G.I. Joe, he’s always a welcome, interesting presence) and also because of the promise of answers that the story never delivers (i.e. the ultimate role of the baby). As the film progresses, the faults become more noticeable (for every Charles S. Dutton, there’s a Lucas Black—the Paul Walker stand-in from The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift), and the soundtrack keeps rising, ostensibly to keep audience members’ thinking to a minimum.

In the end, Legion is just another “bad-ass” movie; the kind of film teenagers will talk about for maybe a week—and only in terms of the special effects and fight scenes (“His angel wings, like, deflected bullets, yo!”). Adults looking for genuine end-of-the-world thrills might be better off renting The Rapture, or even The Terminator; these are cheaper options, both financially and psychically.