Mark Reviews Movies

LEGION

1  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Scott Stewart

Cast: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Adrianne Palicki, Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, Kevin Durand, Tyrese Gibson, Willa Holland, Kate Walsh, Jon Tenney

MPAA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, and language)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 1/22/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | January 24, 2010

There is a brief glimpse very late in the minimalist apocalyptic thriller Legion where we see what might have been had the movie not taken itself so seriously. The archangel Michael (Paul Bettany), now and for most of the movie a human being, witnesses his old angelic brother Gabriel (Kevin Durand) walk into the diner in the middle of nowhere, where he and other humans have held up to defend themselves against an onslaught of angel-possessed humans. Gabriel appears in steel breastplate and tunic, holding a motorized mace, and extending his feathered (but somehow also razor-sharp and bullet-resistant) wings to full glory.

It's an absolutely ridiculous moment, made all the more so by the self-important tone co-writer/director Scott Stewart imposes upon this silly thing, full of inconsistent mythology and utterly redundant structure.

Instead of going all-out with how preposterous the entire idea of God sending angels from Heaven to possess mankind and kill the rest who haven't been possessed (which isn't at all fair, especially when you consider the angels might as well have the people they take over kill themselves, and doesn't make any sense, especially when Gabriel the invincible arrives and you realize those other angels are wasting their time with the possession gag if angels are that tough in their natural form), Stewart and co-writer Peter Schink think there's something more going on here. Their characters have blatant development moments, Michael and Gabriel argue free will, humanism, and the nature of their deity, and yet no one winks during any of this.

The movie opens with Michael descending to Los Angeles, cutting off his wings, and being released from a collar around his neck. Obviously, this is meant to be a symbolic gesture, because otherwise, he wouldn't be able to decide to fight for humanity against his omniscient boss. However, if it is just symbolic of his defiance, it's a pretty stupid move on his part, because after we see what Gabriel can do with his feathery appendages, those wings would come mightily handy later on.

I hate talking about what might seem nitpicky, but Stewart and Schink set themselves up for it, focusing so much energy and thematic importance upon their mythology that, in the end, it's pretty clear they're just making things up as they go to resolve everything the way they want.

Anyway, Michael arrives at a diner in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where a band of people finds themselves when all Heaven breaks loose. They include Bob (Dennis Quaid), the diner's owner, Percy (Charles S. Dutton), the cook, Howard and Sandra (Jon Tenney and Kate Walsh), a married couple waiting for their car to be fixed, Audrey (Willa Holland), the couple's daughter, and Tyrese Gibson, playing a man who's name happens to be Kyle but you'll have to wait until right before the end of the second act to find that out.

In between a shooting-gallery-styled sequence in which everyone shoots at a bunch of angel-possessed people and when Gabriel finally shows up (which is a lot of time), we get little bits of dialogue between two characters. One of them says some generalized character information, to which the other responds with his or her generalized character trait. It gets tedious pretty quickly.

Also there are the eventual heroes. Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) is pregnant, and Michael says her baby is the hope for humankind. Jeep (Lucas Black) is Bob's son, and Michael says it's people like him that are the reason the maybe-former angel has sided with humanity. Jeep, Michael tells him, is supportive of his dad, loves a woman who's pregnant with another man's child, and thinks nothing of himself. Michael forgot to mention the obvious strength it takes to make it this far in life with the name Jeep. I assume that's just understood by everybody.

Stewart keeps all of this as based in some form of reality as possible, and the movie drags as a result. The few action sequences are repetitive, and the unfurling plan for humanity's annihilation is a holey mess (Why do the angels just stand around the diner when they clearly have a seemingly unlimited supply of forces driving to the diner? Gabriel may not be able to touch Charlie before she has the baby, but why not have him kill everyone else off?)  When Gabriel does finally arrive, it picks up some energy, but it's of the unintentionally hilarious variety.

After all, if you take just an instant to think about it, Legion makes no sense even in its own erratic logic.

Copyright 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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