It's amazing how much you can tell from a film's opening five minutes. Legion kicks things off with a man falling from the sky; except the audience doesn't actually see him fall. He rises unfazed by the atmospheric drop and then takes off his jacket to reveal a set of elegant wings; except the audience doesn't actually see the wings. A large knife is unsheathed and the silhouetted wings are sliced off; except the audience doesn't actually see this blasphemous act, either. He then breaks way into an undisclosed, barely guarded armory housing enough weaponry to outfit an army battalion and proceeds to blow up a wall in the shape of a cross to make his unnecessary exit.

Everything you need to know about ex-effects man Scott Stewart's directorial debut is in this scene. It's not a matter of hinting without showing. There's no mystery as to who or what the fallen is, so you might as well show the audience. The movie has an R rating, so there's no reason to pussyfoot around the wing dismemberment. And there's no reason for the man to blow up a wall to get out of a room he walked into. Yet such is Legion. There is a want for ideas, for concepts, for cool "oh, the audience will love this" moments, but there's no mind behind the typewriter to motivate it nor is there talent behind the camera to bring it to life.
Here's the trailer pitch of the Legion premise: God has lost faith in mankind and has sent a swarm of warrior angels to blot his creation out. A sole angel, Michael, throws off his heavenly shackles to do what he thinks is best and save the life of a particular unborn baby, a baby who is somehow key to the salvation of the human race. The battle for this baby's life involves automatic weapons and an isolated, desert diner to serve as shelter versus a legion (get it?) of possessed freaks and club-wielding angels. That's it.

Now I wish I could give you a longer pitch of what's in the actual 100 minute movie, but seeing as the trailer is the entire movie, I cannot. If there was anything in the marketing materials that you thought you'd like to see more of, such as the wall-climbing Grandma or the spindly-limbed Ice Cream Man, hold on to your $10; you've already seen the extent of this material. These moments are fleeting in the film and they're sandwiched between A) action sequences that feature little more than actors yelling and holding down the trigger on a prop gun while aiming at unseen 'people' off screen, B) piss-poor dialogue filled with failed attempts at humor, C) melodrama to the max, and D) quite possibly the worst voice-over narration since the theatrical cut of Blade Runner.

Normally these mismatched ingredients would be perfectly acceptable (if not even welcome) in a B-movie. The problem with Legion, however, is despite most of the cast fitting the B-movie mold, every other aspect of the movie barely scrapes by on a D+ level. A few jokes make it through the laughter barrier, but the script isn't nearly witty enough to maintain the fun-spirited free flow of profanity and shocked reactions one should expect from a film like this. The action sequences are the worst part of the production. More often than not, these are comprised of incomprehensible jumble edits of actors whose sole direction on set must have been "Yell louder! Shoot harder! Don't worry, we'll film whatever you're shooting at later and cut 'em both together."

The least shabby aspect is the cast, but even then Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Paul Bettany, Adrianne Palicki, Charles S. Dutton and Dennis Quaid are given so little to work with that their inability to save the film is excused out of sympathy. The only standout performance is Kevin Durand as Gabriel, the angel God sends to Earth to kill the baby Bettany's Michael is trying to save (for whatever reason). Durand has been fine tuning himself as a great character actor these last few years and his delivery of the wounded, can-barely-stomach-his-existence angel is some of his most memorable work to date. It is a shame, then, that the wall-climbing Grandma gets more screen time than he.

On the religion front, it's safe to say there is little-to-none to be found in the script written by Stewart and his co-writer Peter Schink. It purports to draw its imagery and mythos from Christianity, but that is an obvious guise to make/sell a movie where angels carry sub-machine guns. Think of it this way: Legion is to the Bible as The Core is to a geology text book.

The trailers may have you thinking that Legion looks silly and stupid but in a good way; a kind of cinematic junk food. It is not. It's worse than that. Legion is the cinematic equivalent of a Styrofoam cup. It's an empty container as easily disposed of as it is manufactured and just begging to be tossed in a junk yard. The only people who can gain anything from it are the unscrupulous cinematic scroungers who have the time and the (lack of) will to watch whatever trash comes their way. Even if you think you normally fall into that category (I know I often do), skip this one. There are no hidden, junk yard treasures here; just junk.
categories Reviews, Cinematical