Movie Review: Legion (2010)

Paul Bettany in Legion

Photo: Screen Gems

Angels with machine guns. That’s the way co-writer/director Scott Stewart described the film and that’s how I approached Legion, and with that in mind I would say I almost got everything I asked for. However, instead of angels with machine guns I got an angel with a machine gun in a war determining the fate of mankind that was so one-sided it should have been over in a matter of seconds, but somehow managed to last an hour and 40 minutes. I’m beginning to open my eyes to how much fun films with absurd plot premises can be, but filmmakers are going to have to give us more than a tagline and begin delivering on an entire plot if they ever want to make anything more than a trailer out of their feature length movies.

Legion takes place in a middle-of-nowhere diner where the fate of mankind will be played out as God has lost faith in humanity and has sent the Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) to kill the baby that would otherwise save mankind. Michael disobeys and decides to protect the baby declaring he is giving God what he needs rather than what he’s asked for, which causes God to send his entire angel army to do what Michael won’t.

Occupants of the diner include Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Charles S. Dutton, Lucas Black, Kate Walsh, Willa Holland and Adrianne Palicki. It’s not exactly an A-list group of actors, which is why Bettany is getting lead credit even though his decision-making when it comes to film roles recently is at the very least questionable. Stewart directed the film and co-wrote with Peter Schink whose only previous writing credit was co-writing “Gotham Cafe” an adaptation of a Stephen King novella.

Stewart is primarily known in the Hollywood ranks as a visual effects guru. He worked at the effects house The Orphanage, and with them he worked on the effects for Iron Man, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to name a few. As such it’s no surprise his feature directorial debut would be an effects heavy feature that plays more like a video game than a movie, but that isn’t necessarily the problem.

Where Stewart falters is in creating an admittedly fun premise and hands the keys to the future of mankind to a couple country bumpkins represented by Adrianne Palicki in a performance Estella Warren can be proud of and Lucas Black (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) playing a guy named Jeep, which really says just about all you need to know about his character. On top of that, (spoiler warning) how many black people do you need to put in a film in order to make sure at least one of them lives to see the end, or at least beyond a film’s midway point? Apparently two isn’t enough as Charles S. Dutton and Tyrese never even stood a chance, but I guess that’s not important as neither one of them was pregnant with the baby that would save mankind. I’ll tell you one thing though, if I had a choice of appointing Tyrese or Lucas Black to look after the baby that represents the future of mankind I’ll take Tyrese every day of the week and — wink, wink — twice on Sunday.

I originally saw footage from this film at the San Diego Comic Con and my thoughts then assumed Legion would “be somewhere in the C-to-B-level range fantasy/CG effort.” I wasn’t too far off. As much as I can begin respecting absurd films for grasping tightly to their absurd plot-lines they still have to deliver more than just repeat gunfire and stereotypical screaming demons. The killer grandma from the trailer was entertaining, a demonic kid was creepy and the moment where Lucas and Adrianne climb a mountain for no apparent reason was hilarious. Hardly a recipe for even an early year effects feature.

As Legion continued to play I grew increasingly annoyed and just wanted it all to end. On home video it might make for a decent diversion, but it gives little reason to waste your money at the box-office watching something that delivers little more than its trailer did already.


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