Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Adrianne Palicki, Kate Walsh, Charles S. Dutton, Tyrese Gibson, Willa Holland, Jon Tenney, Kevin Durand
Directed by Scott Stewart
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
I believe this is my fourth stab at reviewing Legion. Audio notes for a possible review I famously taped with a voice recorder in my car on the way home after just having viewing the movie posted on Dread Central sort of counts as the first attempt. I did another epic rant about the film’s Alone in the Dark level of illogic on a Dinner for Fiends recording that a technical snafu erased. I started to recreate the rant on the re-recording of that DFF, only to get cut off. Now I actually put finger to keyboard to bang out a print version. What can I write? All I can do is describe what I watched. Even now I have a hard time wrapping my head around the Biblical Apocalypse this motion picture presents. They should change the line from the Bible to “I am Legion for I am zany.”
God orders the angel Michael (Paul Bettany, the only acting bright spot) to lead the cleansing of humanity. Michael can’t bring himself to eradicate us because deep down he likes the human race, particularly blinded by his admiration for good-hearted redneck boys named Jeep that display unconditional love for slutty knocked up trailer trash waitresses named Charlie that still won’t give him the time of day and doesn’t even appear to know or care who the father of her baby is. I guess this means that whenever the angel Michael watches Jerry Springer, he can’t fathom why God would want to destroy all this.
So down to Earth Michael falls, breaking his halo and cutting off his wings, stocking up on firearms like there’s no tomorrow. Oh, wait, there is not going to be a tomorrow. No sooner does he finish blasting a cross-shaped hole in the side of an illegal gun store and swipes a cop car – probably should have kept those wings – than all heaven breaks loose.
Yes, heaven, not hell. In the theology of Legion there is no mention of Satan or Hell. Even screwier, Michael is off to protect a pregnant young woman whose unborn baby is the only thing that can save humanity from Armageddon before the angels get to her and abort the fetus. Why exactly are God’s angels trying to stop a baby from being born that presumably is the second coming of Christ? There are times when Dragon Wars makes more sense than this film.
Michael finds pregnant Charlie – not an immaculate conception, she’s just a tramp – waiting tables at the “Paradise Falls” (metaphors don’t get any more subtle than that) gas station, garage, and grill in the middle of the desert where no one working or stranded there at the time has any idea that the end of the world is going on around them.
Now let’s examine exactly how this Armageddon is going to play out and compare with everything you’ve ever learned in Sunday school with their six-part plan. This ain’t your father’s Book of Revelations.
Step 1 – Angels descend from heaven to possess weak-willed people and transform them into zombies that behave like demons.
Step 2 – Flies. Lots and lots of flies. Giant barriers of flies. Pointless use of flies.
Step 3 – An angel-demon-zombie in the form of a little old lady arrives at the diner and orders a steak. The ruse ends after a few minutes when she turns into a ceiling-crawling deadite and attempts to kill the pregnant waitress.
Step 4 – A caravan of cars driven by angel-demon-zombies converges on the gas station and lay siege on the fortified diner like a scene out of every modern zombie flick. After a minute of gunfire, Michael declares the angelic assault over because this part of their plan was just to test what kind of defense they’re up against.
Step 5 – Mind games designed to prey on their wills. A family man is crucified upside down covered in exploding acid boils in hopes of tricking loved ones holed up in the gas station to make the fatal mistake of coming to his rescue. More angel-demon-zombie types looking like cast members of The Warriors arrive in demolition derby cars and 1970’s vans terrorize a fleeing family in a station wagon trying to pump some gas hoping to lure someone out of the gas station to rescue the small child in peril. To quote Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”
Allow me to interrupt for a moment. The angel-demon-zombies’ sole mission has changed from exterminate all of mankind to kill Charlie before she gives birth any moment now. Charlie and company are making a last stand inside a gas station. There are five billion souls walking the planet for the angels to possess; given the disparity in numbers and limited amount of ammo, what would prevent them from just coming and coming and coming until the good guys can no longer hold them off? What is stopping the angels from possessing people that can simply blow up the gas station with tanks, fighter jets, rockets, missiles, nuclear weapons, or just by lighting a match next to a gas pump? Instead they follow a strategy designed to maybe pick-off one person at a time and not even the person they are specifically after. So wimpy and strategically-challenged are God’s army radio reports claim right wing militia groups have been able to successfully blow many of them back to kingdom come.
The angels aren’t the only ones that behave nonsensically. Television, radio, and the phones all go dead shortly after an emergency broadcast pattern appears on the TV screen. Everyone in the diner is in a panic that perhaps there has been a catastrophic natural disaster or a terrorist weapon of mass destruction attack. They ask the old lady angel-demon-zombie that just drove up what she knows and she cryptically replies, “It’ll be over soon.” An odd response, but do they ask her to elaborate as to what will be over soon – of course not. Then they wait until after a stranger in a stolen police car issues them stolen machine guns and informs them everything hinges on keeping the pregnant waitress safe from others like the old lady that sprouted fangs and climbed the walls, witness an ice cream man elongate his limbs and menacingly spider-walk towards them, and gun down a horde of zombies before someone finally looks at Michael and demands to know what the hell is going on. I think there was plenty of time on that roof waiting for something to happen to ask Michael numerous pertinent questions about their predicament. The greatest horror element of Legion is the implication that humanity hinges on these actions of these dullards in the diner.
Step 6 – Michael repeatedly warns that everything thus far was just a warm-up and something truly awful was coming. I never would have guessed after all those ominous warnings that the worst thing imaginable would be the archangel Gabriel adorned in body armor with razor-sharp steel wings wielding a huge mace capable of whirling spikes like a chop-o-matic, pretty much looking like what I would expect He-Man to be like in a Trinity Broadcasting version of Masters of the Universe. Absolutely ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is watching Gabriel and Michael duke it out like Hawkman Highlanders.
The angel Gabriel is known for blowing a trumpet, not for being Conan the Bibleman. I don’t recall ever learning in Sunday school any verses about angels “Laying the smacketh downeth upon thy headeth with a hammereth”. But then how many visions of the Apocalypse culminate with people in a station wagon speeding down a deserted desert road with the angel Gabriel hanging off the back growling and clawing at them like the Jeepers Creepers monster?
Michael confusingly implies at the end that God never wanted to destroy mankind at all; the order was given to test the angels, meaning that countless millions are now dead just so God could determine if his angels would follow any order regardless of how evil it was. Between that and all of Michael and Gabriel’s back-and-forth about giving God what he wants rather than what he needs you’d think the prevailing message of the movie is that God is a douchebag. What kind of message is that?
I fear I’ve now made Legion sound far more entertainingly bad than it actually is. Chop the highlights down to about 20 minutes or so and you’d have a stupidly entertaining short film. Problem is Legion is 100 minutes long and the other 80 are absolute dead weight likely to bore you into a stupor. All of the holdouts in the diner have deep personal foibles and we have to keep listening to them talk and talk about all their snooze-inducing wants, needs, mistakes, regrets, etc. There is no reason to care about Jeep and Charlie’s romance or Tyrese Gibson’s child custody battle or Charles S. Dutton’s Vietnam sins or Kate Walsh’s family squabbles or Dennis Quaid’s constant complaining about his poor life choices all the while making scowling facial expressions that might have you wonder if his entire performance was patterned after Jeff Dunham’s cranky old man Walter dummy. It speaks volumes that Legion sorely tested my belief that any movie where a cast member of “Private Practice” gets shotgunned to hell cannot be all bad.
The final scene has Jeep and Charlie and the baby driving off in a station wagon loaded with enough firepower to make Rambo say “amen” with the indication that it now up to them to keep the newborn John Connor of Nazareth safe from forces trying to kill him even though just moments before Michael sure sounded like he was declaring the war over. Things comes full circle as we end on a repeat of the film’s opening voiceover that surmised the reason for the end of the world will be because “God is just tired of all the bullshit.”
All the bullshit, eh? God help us if God ever watches Legion.
Speaking of watching, if you’re feeling that urge to atone for your earthly sins by way of extracurricular punishment, there are several bonus features on the DVD to explore. Three of them to be exact, which range from about ten to twenty-five minutes in terms of length. It’s all real cookie-cutter material, and much like the movie itself they feel like one big missed opportunity. You get your standard cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff along with a heaping help of back-patting. For you Blu-ray people there are some picture-in-picture shenanigans and the usual BD Live enabled functions. Oh, and a digital copy. Might we suggest leaving that on the offering plate on your next trip to church?
1 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5