Legion had a lot going for it: a message about humanity, faith, and mercy amongst an edgy and controversial setting, really embellished special effects, and superb acting. The two biggest weaknesses the film suffers from: a convoluted story plot, and too many hacked action and horror clichés from much more polished and classic movies.
This review is hard to pull off. Since I grew up going to new movies in the theaters, I have a tendency to come away from the movie thinking that they were all masterpieces. Since this is my first review, I didn’t want to sit down and start praising the film without having time to think about it. So that’s why I settled in to gather my thoughts by watching Family Guy’s Blue Harvest and almost devouring my bag of Twizzler Pull N’ Peels to really think about the movie. Simply put, the film was a big swing, followed by an uninspired and disappointing miss.
The plot revolves around the idea that God has lost faith in mankind, and instead of a flood, he would send his angels to exterminate the human race. If you’re anything of religious, that idea might have you cringe initially, but you have to sit the whole movie through to discover that it becomes a film that tries to send a message about repentance and faith; keep in mind the principal word is “tries”. Stewart attempts to get this message through in an innovative way, of using action, horror, and fantasy elements to grab the attention of all audiences.
His background in special effects also is the only other plus in the making of this film. Angels like Michael and Gabriel are depicted as powerful beings of stoic might, have mystical and mysterious weapons that come straight out of paintings of angels from modern and renaissance periods, as well as Catholic imagery, and have wings that are fire and bullet proof. The details on these angels go so far as putting angelic language tattooed on the arms, chest and neck. All other angels are never really seen, but are shown as human possessing beings turning them into demonic wall crawling monsters allowing Stewart to manipulate their usefulness into ripping off films like The Ring, The Grudge, The Mummy, and several George A. Romero films. Not to mention the way the angels are seen in how they possess people is so much like The Matrix, I thought sentinel agents were coming after the heroes initially. The action sequences involving close combat between characters are well played, but let’s not forget the firefights. There are many gun play scenes to testosterone the film up, and they don’t do the film justice, since many of the photographed shots are just stolen from better films like The Matrix. Half way through the shell crazed sequences I kept wondering “how many bullets do they have exactly?”
Paul Bettany is the real star of this picture. His acting is amazing, and he looks fantastic on screen as well. He’s been a veteran of several films in the last decade with a resume that includes both Ron Howard films The Da Vinci Code and A Beautiful Mind. The man has a lot going for him. He is a chameleon of talent and I should expect to see him become a fan favorite in future films. His character is a former angel named Michael, better known in Catholic folklore, mythology, and tradition as the archangel who is General of God’s armies, the Prince of the Church, and a Saint to boot. The revised script by Stewart doesn’t give the character of Michael any justice, as Michael is essentially a glorified Kyle Reese knock-off with all the Terminator trimmings to boot, with Terminator being another one of the storyline’s heavy influences in terms of events. Bettany is also returning as the voice of “Jarvis” in Iron Man 2, and is also set to star in Stewart’s next film Priest, which is in post-production.
Dennis Quaid stars in the film as a poorly inspired character named Bob Hanson, The thing that makes his role forgettable is that he plays a father who initially starts out in explaining to his son Jeep (played by the redeemable Lucas Black) that when he was his age, he did things that he couldn’t explain as well. But quickly goes from being warm and reassuring to being cold, awkward, and lacking of encouragement by telling his son that he’s being stupid and making the same mistakes. Adrianne Palicki plays the non virgin Mary of this piece curiously named “Charlie”, as she doesn’t have any real growth to her character, while serving the story’s purpose of being pregnant with the second coming of Christ. The writing suggests that she wanted to do an abortion at first and really hated the thing growing inside her, that it ruined her life. But I was curious as to why it’s never explained why she decided to keep it when she shows such disinterest in the baby, as the film shows moments of her smoking cigarettes, and being incredibly selfish and pig-headed, that it makes her new interest in the baby when it’s born sudden and unfulfilling. Other characters that are more interesting are not given enough development and go through the film with unsatisfactory finishes.
Tyrese Gibson plays your typical inner-city black guy named Kyle Williams, who stops to make a phone call to a courthouse, and is demanding to speak to his son or something like that, but after a misinterpreted heroism leading to an unfortunate death fighting possessed people, the scene where he calls the courthouse might have been better off being left on the cutting room floor, since it serves no important purpose to the story. Charles S. Dutton plays a good hearted short-order cook named Percy who has a mechanical hook for a hand and although a likeable character, he is killed off halfway through without the film ever explaining why he had the hook in the first place, and it served no real purpose except to set up a frivolous joke before the first firefight against the angels. Other characters serve the purpose of playing selfish, but with enough therapy and help redeemable, representations of the human race, and the way they die easily confuses the audience in how the surprise ending justifies God’s actions in violently killing perfectly good people in horrendous and torturous ways, that serve as bold imagery, but come off unnecessary and uneasy to a movie-goer’s constitution and logical understanding.
Other critics have called the film “boring” and that it took itself “way too seriously”. These are two things I will have to disagree with. The film’s story moves at a decent pace, and the imagery keeps the audience on their toes as to what will happen next. As for taking itself “way too seriously” part, Stewart did pull off timing the moments of humor, as the piece is laced with them during moments when things are calm and quiet. The complaint other critics have issued about it being “dialogue heavy” is not completely without reason, as certain pieces of dialogue slow the film a bit, but a lot of dialogue is usually the sign of lack of content in the script. Maybe the film would have been better off without the director re-writing the draft by Peter Schink.
If you like cheesy dialogue and monster hunting, or like films like The Day After Tomorrow or Constantine, this film might become your guilty pleasure, but if you want a much better presentation of blasphemous story-telling about angels and prophecies against a horror-action background, I’d recommend renting the first three Prophecy films starring Christopher Walken.
Score: 3 out of 5