Monday, February 01, 2010

Legion (2010)

NOTE: This review contains minor SPOILERS. Reader discretion is advised.

God has had enough. Despite thousands of years of civilization, man is still committing atrocities against his fellow man: wars, environmental abuse, murder, and MTV reality shows about people who use the term Guido as a compliment. So God, in his infinite wisdom, calls for the full-fledged annihilation of the human race. A few survivors are eating lunch at the Paradise Falls Diner in East Nowheresville, USA when the apocalypse begins, and God sends his armies there to kill the woman pregnant with a baby who might be Jesus John Connor the future savior of humanity. Our only hope is the one angel and his bevy of high caliber ammunition who has chosen to reject God's orders and protect us. Thankfully, nobody in heaven reminded God that he was God and that if he wanted to he could have prevented the baby from ever being conceived. But whatever. God's a B-movie fan and he wanted to do things this way. Who are we to judge him?

Legion, which follows the group of oddballs and sad sacks through their last stand, is in the great tradition of siege films. We outlined this subgenre on a recent episode of the IFC podcast; basically you have a bunch of people — and, yes, typically they are a bunch of oddballs and sad sacks — who are trapped in an isolated location under attack from a huge number of assailants. They're cut off, nearly helpless, and in deep, deep doo-doo. Think movies like Night of the Living Dead or Assault on Precinct 13. Great siege films force us to place ourselves in the shoes of the outnumbered protagonists. They work best when they make us feel the characters' helplessness and desperation, and consider our own choices if we were stuck in their situation. While the idea of a machine gun toting angel defending the last vestiges of humanity from an angry God's army sounds like a damn solid idea for a B movie, it's not a great premise for a siege film. Its central construction is totally at odds with why we like these movies, watching ordinary people sweat their way out of extraordinary predicaments. But Paul Bettany's Michael never sweats. He never feels anything. So we don't feel anything either.

All the best moments are in the trailer, including the one truly creepy setpiece where an old lady enters the diner, bears her fang-y teeth, and climbs like a spider onto the diner's ceiling. But any nervy energy building inside the Paradise Falls dissipates once Michael arrives. He just stands around, calmly dispensing advice and assault weapons, and his presence is so soothing that people become completely unconcerned with the Lord's hordes bearing down on them and start monologuing about their pre-apocalypse lives. Even though Michael insists they're not safe, that things are very bad, he never acts like he's particularly concerned. I know he's an angel, I know he's probably spent an eternity disconnected from human beings and watching them from a distance, so displaying emotion is something that's new to him. But he's the caring angel. That's his whole character. Shouldn't he show that at least once during the movie?

None of this would matter if the movie had lived up to the promise of its superb trailer. Credit first-time writer/director Scott Stewart with dreaming up a great action movie premise, and fault him for a weak execution. Why so much talking in a movie about gun-totin' angels? And why so few gun-totin' angels, for that matter? We've got Michael, and we've also got his nemesis Gabriel (Kevin Durand), who's still kicking ass for the Lord, and that's it. The army of darkness massing outside the Paradise Falls? Not angels; they're just a bunch of regular people who are "possessed" by angels. Angels like Gabriel have the ability to fly and to deflect bullets or slice people with their razor-sharp wings. The "possessed" people standing outside the diner have the ability to lumber around slowly and fall down and die when they get shot. Why send these stooges when you could send angels? The Lord's supposed to work in mysterious ways, not idiotic ones.

Then again, maybe that's the point of the movie. It doesn't end with God resolving his grudge with humanity, he just gets bored and gives up. Having sat through Legion I can't say I blame him too much. I was bored too. Let's just hope God's too busy helping athletes win the Super Bowl to watch this movie. If he does, it might be all the proof he needs that we're not worthy of our existence.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home