Legion (UK - BD)
Chris takes one for the team with this review of the recent Paul Bettany feature
According to writer/director Scott Stewart, God is pissed at humanity. In fact, he's so pissed that he decides to send a legion of angels to Earth to possess the weak, who will in turn rise up against the strong and do generally unpleasant things to them. Enter Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany), who decides that God is wrong to annihilate humanity and so he defects from Heaven, cuts off his wings, and picks up a machine gun as he heads for the all-but deserted town of Paradise Falls.
What's so special about this hick town I hear you ask? Well it just so happens to be home to Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a heavily pregnant waitress at a remote truck stop owned by Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid) and staffed by one-handed cook Percy (Charles S. Dutton) and Bob's son, Jeep (Lucas Black), who apparently has a thing for women pregnant by other men. God, it seems, really hates babies, because he's sent his legion to Paradise Falls to kill Charlie and her unborn child for reasons that are never clearly explained. Enter the gun-toting Michael to take names and kick possessed human arse, all while a number of minor characters are killed off and viewers struggle in vain to care about any of it.
Honestly, what the hell was this film about? Okay, so I get the premise, which is actually pretty intriguing, but the execution is unfathomably bad. Firstly, why the hell does God need to send angels to destroy Earth? Does he have a flair for the dramatic? Surely the super-being responsible for all of creation could just snap his ethereal fingers and be done with it? Even if you accept the conceit that he needs the angels to do his bidding, why have them possess humans at all? Let me see, immortal, super-powered beings or easy to kill regular people—who would you send to bring about the apocalypse?
Moving on we come to the the protagonist, Charlie, who is such a selfish, self-pitying bitch I can understand why God wants her dead. The rest of the characters aren't quite so abhorrent, but I still wasn't emotionally invested in their survival save for perhaps Percy, mostly because Charles S. Dutton is cool. Dennis Quaid hams it up throughout, with eyes that scream 'just give me the pay-cheque', Tyrese Gibson's character falls foul of the movie law that says all young black men must listen to rap while being morally ambiguous, and the rest of the characters are so thinly drawn I don't really have an opinion about them either way (except maybe Willa Holland, but those are private thoughts best suited for my 'alone time').
However, the biggest problem with Legion is that it's relentlessly serious tone is just, well, boring. Honestly, for a film about the apocalypse in which a heavily tooled-up angel fights hoards of pseudo-zombies it's incredibly drab. It's like everyone apart from Scott Stewart knew that they were making a goofy movie but weren't allowed to show it. If only someone had injected a bit of fun into the proceedings this could have been an enjoyable, if trashy, B-movie. As it stands it's a thoroughly unenjoyable B-movie. If pushed to say something positive it would be that Paul Bettany is always pretty watchable and some of the imagery is suitably disturbing, but neither of these things is enough to rescue Legion from the weight of its pretentious high concept narrative and misplaced sense of entitlement (the ending literally screams sequel, which will most likely never be).
Sony delivers Legion to Blu-ray at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC). As you might expect from such a recent feature the quality of the transfer is of a very high standard, with plenty of fine film grain on show and strong detail throughout. Legion features a stylised colour palette with sun-bleached exteriors, steely interiors, and particularly good skin tones. Night-time sequences are murky, but thankfully blacks are nice and deep and shadow delineation is generally good (although characters occasionally disappear into the darkness). The image is very clean throughout, and if there were any film artefacts I didn't spot them (and the same goes for digital manipulation). I don't really have anything negative to say about this transfer. It's another winner from Sony and a damn sight better than the film itself.
Legion's strong visuals are accompanied by an engaging DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Things get of to a good start with some decent atmospherics as Michael arrives in the city to the sound of rainfall and continue into the desert location, with the howling winds proving particularly effective. Things kick up a notch once the action moves to the diner and the legion starts to attack, as bullets fly everywhere and things explode into huge fireballs. These sequences also feature some great steering, with the creepy little boy scampering around the diner a personal highlight. The LFE channel kicks out some serious bass when called upon (which is pretty often), reinforcing every gunshot, punch and explosion with solid thumps. On the downside I did find the dialogue a little on the quiet side on occasion, and while the score is solid it's ultimately quite forgettable. Even so this is a great audio track that belies the quality of the film itself.
Apart from the Digital Copy Sony’s UK release of Legion appears to offer everything that was found on the US Blu-ray release and a couple of additional featurettes.
Bringing Angels to Earth: Picture-in-Picture: Scott Stewart kicks off the BonusView commentary track, and while he's very thorough and obviously has a lot of passion for his project I found the whole thing a little on the flat side. Along with director's chat the PiP window also includes storyboards, interviews with the cast, behind-the-scenes footage and more.
Creating the Apocalypse (23:43 HD): This is a pretty standard making-of featurette that includes interviews with most of the principal cast and crew (including a lengthy chat with Doug Jones), behind-the-scenes footage, make-up effects, CG work, stunts and more.
Humanity’s Last Line of Defence (11:32 HD): This featurette concentrates on the characters and includes interviews with most of the cast. The director pops up from time to time to gush about how great everyone was, and how surprised he was to have them in his movie. It’s basically EPK fluff.
From Pixel to Picture (10:57 HD): This featurette concentrates on the film’s practical and digital effects. These things are great if you’re into visual effects work, but I never find them particularly interesting (because I know it was all done with computers).
Designing Paradise Falls (16:37 HD): As you might expect, this featurette concentrates on the design and construction of the only major location seen in the film—the diner. I can’t say I was particularly enthralled by the content, but your mileage may vary.
Designed for Action: Blueprint of a Scene (10:21 HD): This short featurette focuses on a stunt requested by Tyrese Gibson when he returned to do a pick-up shot (the stunt where he slides downt he diner's roof). The featurette also expands a little to encompass some of the practical elements of shooting on the diner set.
Trailers: In this section you’ll find trailers for Blu-ray Disc is High-Definition!, Armored, District 9, Zombieland, 2012 and The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.
movieIQ: When you play the film you're given the option to view with accompanying cast and crew information, trivia and more, courtesy of Sony's BD-Live feature.
BD-Live: For once there's actually some content related to the film, but it's just the two featurettes that weren't on the US disc. I'm guessing Sony decided to stick them on the UK release to make up for the lack of a Digital Copy, thus rendering the BD-Live content effectively redundant.
The film might be a load of bollocks, but as usual Sony comes up trumps in the audio-visual departments. I was less impressed with the extras, which are pretty flimsy save for the BonusView commentary (and even that is one of the weaker ones I've seen). If you enjoyed Legion at the cinema—and there must be a few people who did—the Blu-ray will most likely be pleasing, but if you're new to the film it's very difficult to recommend this as anything other than a rental (and even that recommendation is difficult enough).
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 9th August 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio French, DTS-HD Master Audio Italian, Audio Description Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: Arabic, English HoH, French, Hindi, Italian
Extras: Picture-in-Picture, Featurettes, movieIQ, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: Scott Stewart
Cast: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Adrianne Palicki, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Charles S. Dutton, Willa Holland, Kevin Durand, Kate Walsh, Jon Tenney
Genre: Fantasy and Horror
Length: 100 minutes
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