Legion (US - BD RA)
Heaven help us as new reviewer A.J. Hakari endures another boring B-movie
Legion isn't based on a story so much as it's based on a poster. Some balding exec, chomped cigar and all, envisioned an angel with a machine gun and allotted some starving writers a whole five minutes to whip up a script. Alright, so that's probably not how it all went down, but seeing how little justice Legion's premise has received, I wouldn't doubt it. It's dangling off a precipice as is, with only a few name actors and a bigger budget to stop its plunge into the SyFy Canyon. Had Legion embraced its silliness, we might've had a cult classic on our hands, but the serious attitude it comes to cop ultimately renders the flick a B-grade bore.
You know how God is supposed to be all-knowing, all-loving, and all-forgiving? That God isn't home right now. Instead, we have a Big Guy who's grown discontented with His flock's fighting and plans on starting the world over, a la Etch-a-Sketch. It just so happens that ground zero for the apocalypse turns out to be a hole-in-the-wall diner in the desert town of Paradise Falls (har, har). Here, weary archetypes like the diner's grizzled owner (Dennis Quaid) attempt to hole up as the possessed congregate outside, their sights set on waitress Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) and her unborn child. But hope arrives in the form of Michael (Paul Bettany), an angel who still has faith in humanity and, with some heavy artillery, helps to defend Charlie and the other beseiged from the wrath to end all wraths.
You could say that Legion is a lot like Fireproof. Both obviously incorporate the Almighty into their stories, but it's how He's used in them that irks me equally. Each movie name-drops God whenever they hit a thematic bump in the road, chalking any sudden development to the classic "mysterious ways" dodge. But not only is it storytelling of the laziest order, it never really makes sense. It's no spoiler to say you never learn why Charlie's kid is on a heavenly hit list ("because" is the closest we get), but a future turn of events casts God in an awfully indecisive light. You'd think a movie with angels and their zombiesque minions versus a grab bag of Romero leftovers wouldn't be so complicated, but it is. You're never at a point of wanting to ease up and have a good time, and when you've made the very hammer of God boring, the failure you've achieved is almost admirable.
Part of why Legion comes off as such a downer is because it treats itself like one. Early on, the religious symbolism is so hilariously prominent, I figured the flick was in on the joke. But this is the sort of movie that mistakes badassery for giving the characters twenty minutes of brooding for every one minute of decent action. Legion is a 100-minute mope-a-thon, wherein enjoying one's self is apparently punishable by death (or worse -- a role in Legion II: The Legioning). Of the cast, only Paul Bettany summons the appropriate degree of coolness (which, being Paul Bettany, is pretty easy). Charles S. Dutton classes up the place, and Kevin Durand ( Smokin' Aces) is alright as the archangel Gabriel, but you can bet on seeing a lot of good names having consigned themselves to acting purgatory. Look close enough, and you can see Dennis Quaid's paycheck reflected in his eyes whenever he makes a hammy speech.
For what was a pared-down production by Hollywood standards, Legion looks reasonably snazzy. The filmmakers aimed for a supernatural Western motif and were, more often than not, successful. While the nighttime scenes are slick and ominous, the daytime ones are rough and tumble, and the picture keeps pace quite well. The effects work can look wonky at times, but considering the limited resources, the infamous Spider-Granny could've come across as even worse for the wear.
English and French audio tracks are supplied in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. If the Legion filmmakers know anything, it's how to blow crap up and make it sound good. Plus, if the sound of festering boils won't scare the bejeesus out of 4-H slumber parties everywhere, the omnipresent chorus of doom will be there to bellow them into submission.
I'm convinced that Legion's special features were designed for the sole purpose of making the movie seem better than it is. In lieu of a commentary track, the "Bringing Angels to Earth" option can be flipped on to accompany the main attraction. As much of a bust as the flick is, it's a nice supplement, in which director Scott Stewart takes viewers through the production one aspect at a time. "Creating the Apocalypse" (23:43) is a fairly comprehensive featurette that discusses the movie's special effects work. You mostly hear about the big set pieces, including Doug Jones's cameo as a demonic ice cream man. "From Pixels to Picture" (10:56) elaborates more on visual trickery, though one wonders what Stewart was smoking when he announces at one point that Legion is "not an effects-driven movie." "Humanity's Last Line of Defense" (11:32) is your basic collection of cast interviews, and again, only Bettany seems willing to acknowledge what a big slice of goofy pie the film's premise is. Oh, and there's a digital copy; hoo-frickity-rah.
While Legion does view itself far too seriously, there are some thrills to be experienced. There's some nice angel-on-angel clobbering during the finale, and the filmmakers nailed down the right look for the story they wanted to tell. But all I see in Legion's future is a sea of rolled eyes and complacent sighs, with viewers too stuffed on eye candy to buy into what the story's telling.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by A.J. Hakari
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 11th May 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French
Subtitles: English SDH, French
Extras: Director Commentary, Effects Featurettes, Cast Interviews, Trailers, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Scott Stewart
Cast: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black
Length: 100 minutes
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