Legion (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Legion (2010)

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I was desperately trying not to think of Sam Raimi while I was watching Legion. Judging the film on its own merits without invoking the man’s name is an impossible task though.  The scenes of Legion that really work feel like they are the bastard offspring of Evil Dead 2.  Shame that the rest of the movie engages in a theological debate on the existence of God and why he’s sending shark toothed beings to cleanse the Earth.

After some mercifully brief artsy shots of meadows and a voice over discussing the nature of God we are introduced to the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany).  He’s plummeted down to Earth, recently free of his status as an angel (also an iron collar tied around his neck, a nice little detail) and ready to defend the Earth from the second cleansing.

It seems that God has lost faith in us and decided that it’s time to hit the reset button again.  Instead of a flood he’s decided that a virus of demons should start infecting the population, turning them into those sharp toothed, pale beings with quick reflexes and intensely dilated eyes.  Not quite the army that you might have in mind working in the service of the Lord, but I guess if he’s pissed off at us it might as well be grotesque.

Michael’s self-appointed task since turning away from the Heavenly onslaught is to defend a pregnant diner worker in the middle of the desert.  Her offspring is destined to be the next savior of humanity, and the demon/angels primary target.  After an initial attack she and everyone else in the diner doubt that Michael is there to protect them.  There’s also little doubt about Michael’s status as a former angel, as he begins his fight blasting through a wall which forms the shape of a flaming cross.  Not exactly subtle stuff, but it’s pretty entertaining.

Aside from Michael’s entrance there’s an awesome segment featuring a fowl mouthed old lady that has the qualities of Spider Man.  Then there’s an incredibly elongated demon that emerges from an ice cream truck, and an introduction to the locust plague that’s disgusting and effective.  Not every scene is successful and it’s clear that they were working with a short time frame and limited resources.  Some moments are so dark and filled with smoke and fire that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on, and when we finally get a glimpse of Heaven it’s laughably bright and golden.

Many questions are raised as to why God doesn’t just create a giant rock above the waitress and crush her to death, make her explode, or just blink everything out of existence.  These are questions I’m willing to put aside if the film delivers the goods.  But aside from the first twenty minutes or so and those sporadic parts of grotesque invention, Legion is content letting the people sit around and talk about God.  This might have been an unexpected treat should the dialogue reveal any of the people in the diner to be anything more than broadly drawn stereotypes.  But it doesn’t and Legion drones on with this talk for almost fifty minutes of its total run time.

We have a Wasp-y couple upset that they’re broken down in this backwater town and trying to deal with a daughter embracing her sexuality.  They are suspicious of the black man that makes eyes at the daughter, while dealing with his own “traumatic” past.  There’s a cook with a hook for a hand, the pregnant woman carrying the messiah, the man who loves her, and the owner of the restaurant who is as confused as to why a plague of locusts is descending on his town.

They sit around and discuss their hopes, dreams and fears.  Plus God - lots and lots of God talk.  But there’s not a single line of dialogue that couldn’t have been written by a middle schooler rebelling against parents for going to church every week.  The acting is about as serious, aside from Dennis Quaid and Gladys Foster (a demonic old lady), not a single actor seems to realize what kind of movie they are in.  They play each scene as if it’s Oscar night and they need to show the chops instead of having fun with the material.  This is all unfortunate because when Legion finally decides to kick it up a notch and go into an action scene its usually entertaining.

As an interesting failure I’m really looking forward to what the director, Scott Stewart, does next.  The scene’s that work show promise and his reliance on traditional special effects instead of CGI give Legion an edge it wouldn’t have with slick computer graphics.  Still, Legion isn’t really worth anyone’s time.  Too often I was begging for another nightmare granny to take me away from the theological debate, but no luck.

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Legion (2010)

Directed by Scott Stewart.
Written by Scott Stewart and Peter Schink.
Starring Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid and Kate Walsh.

Posted by Andrew

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