When the overriding thought while watching a film is not – in the modern tradition – OMG or even LOL, but rather, WTF?, it seems unlikely the film is going to succeed. Legion inspires a truly vast number of moments in which members of the audience will be left scratching their heads in bewilderment: what is Paul Bettany doing in this? isn’t this a zombie film? what about the other nine plagues? doesn’t God know what’s going to happen? how long until this ends? where did I leave my car??
Perhaps the most bewildering part of the whole experience is that despite the truly abominable plot and mostly horrible dialogue, the film is made competently and the effects aren’t as bad as they conceivably could have been. Writer/director Scott Stewart came up in visual effects, and, although there is an element of cheese, the effects here are at least adequate – perhaps the most generous thing that can be said about the entire film.
When archangel Michael (Bettany) lands on Earth, promptly cuts off his wings and then kills a beat-cop possessed by another angel, you just know some apocalyptic shit is going down. His blasphemous mission is to find and protect a very pregnant waitress at the edge of the Mojave desert, as it turns out her child-to-be will save the world from God’s wrath if she can survive to its birth. Apparently God has grown tired of our shenanigans, and at this moment wants nothing more than Hell on Earth, or something.
This really is a zombie or vampire flick in disguise – so many films have been set in a diner or similar meeting place for a bunch of misfits who must band together to get out alive, it is impossible to list them all. The only aspect that is slightly more interesting in fact becomes the most disappointing part of watching Legion: the film never asks ‘when humanity is turned upon by God and his angels, what happens to faith and morality?’ Not even the slightest attempt at unravelling this conundrum is made, even after hinting at the role faith plays in empowering some of us in a crisis. Charles S. Dutton’s character Percy even mentions that he is going to find a bible and start praying, but what is the point if God has truly decided His greatest creation is past its best-before date?
Occasional good ideas are scattered within the script, but none gains the traction it deserves given the weight of the embarassing that surrounds them. Dialogue is of the minimal variety, leaving many to wonder what is actually happening and why? While this can be a useful technique for screenwriters, in Legion the drip-feeding approach fails to intrigue and, frankly, mostly annoys. Characters are archetypal and none manages to provoke the slightest interest – outcomes are obvious from the outset, and not one of them surprises. The fighting scenes, meanwhile, are a mess of action with never a clear shot to establish the characters or their setting.
While it is certainly okay for a bit-player like Kevin Durand (Gabriel) to feature in a film like this, it is somewhat disappointing that Bettany’s promising career has taken him to this unfortunate mishmash of ideas and images, even in the ‘whoa dude, angels killing angels!’ sense. While it perhaps isn’t absolutely unwatchable, there are so many more accomplished and entertaining genre films that should be considered ahead of Legion.Rating: