In the film, God has lost faith in the human race and decides that we need to go, and that we need to go now. Instead of all the stuff we’ve read about in the Book of Revelation, the apocalypse comes from a host of angels who can possess human bodies. Humanity’s only hope is a waitress (Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights) and her unborn baby, which will somehow be able to lead mankind back to the light. The archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) is tasked with killing the child before it can be born, but he takes issue with his orders. So, he comes down to Earth, grabs some heavy artillery and holes up with Palicki in the desert-bound diner where she works. The rest of the denizens of the diner, which is run by Dennis Quaid and peopled by the likes of Lucas Black, Charles S. Dutton, Tyrese Gibson and Kate Walsh, are none too pleased to find out they just won front-row seats to the apocalypse. But together, they all try to stay alive and hold off the angels until the baby can be born.
Legion reminds me a lot of Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, another not-so-good apocalyptic movie in which a motley group of people is trapped in a building and besieged by monsters (Legion also borrows liberally from The Terminator, but the fewer comparisons made between those two the better). Legion is as relentlessly silly as Demon Knight, and that is enough to hold our interest for a little while, but unfortunately it’s not nearly as fun. Instead, the movie manages to be both ridiculous and thoroughly grim.
First-time director Scott Stewart manages to inject a little life into the proceedings early on, in moments you have probably already seen in the trailers. First, a seemingly kind old lady sprouts fangs and starts climbing the ceiling of the diner, and then an ice cream man stretches and contorts into a genuinely bizarre-looking monster and starts charging toward the diner.
Unfortunately, the film’s over-the-top scares largely end there. Most of the rest of the film (or maybe it only feels like it) is taken up by a never-ending series of speeches about characters’ feelings and motivations, which eat up a lot of screen time but never manage to flesh the characters out past their broad outlines—Rebellious Teenager, Yuppie Dirtbag, etc.
Instead of providing depth, these scenes seem only to serve as padding between action scenes. And when those scenes come, the characters are dispatched offhandedly and barely remarked on. One character even dies off-screen, and we know this only because the character’s name is muttered sadly by someone else. Ultimately, the characters seem to matter even less to the filmmakers than they do to the audience.
I have been a fan of Paul Bettany ever since his early roles in films such as A Knight’s Tale and A Beautiful Mind. He was such a live wire in those films that it’s a bit of a shame that he’s playing a role in Legion that mainly calls for him to glower and shoot things. Still, he gives the film a bit of gravity that it doesn’t really deserve. He makes the love Michael feels both for God and for mankind come across, and he manages the almost superhuman task of delivering a big speech about the value of preserving humanity in which he has to call another person “Jeep.”
Bettany is backed up by a nice little cast of character actors, all of whom are capable of giving decent performances, but who are utterly stranded by the film’s script. Written by Stewart and Peter Schink, the movie’s script on the whole is shoddily constructed and riddled with huge gaps in logic. To name just a few: Why let angels possess humans if an archangel can do the trick? Why exactly is the child supposed to be some sort of messiah, and why don’t any of the characters in the film ask this question? And if the child is capable of leading mankind back to the light, why would God believe humanity is irredeemable? Does He just not care?
Angels wielding machine guns is a pretty good gimmick, but the filmmakers forget to surround the concept with anything interesting. A thriller mostly devoid of thrills (or logic or believable characters), Legion is a thuddingly obvious series of clichés that wastes a good idea and lead actor.
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