A film review by Craig J. Koban May 18, 2010
2010, R, 100 mins.
2010, R, 100 mins.
Paul Bettany: Michael / Dennis Quaid: Bob / Charles S. Dutton: Percy / Tyrese Gibson: Kyle / Lucas Black: Jeep / Adrianne Palicki: Charlie / Kevin Durand: Gabriel
Directed by Scott Stewart / Written by Stewart and Peter Schink
Okay…let’s pretend for a
second that you’re…uh…God.
Now, you have decided in all
of your omnipotent and all-powerful wisdom that humanity is not worth
keeping alive anymore. You're fed up
with them. Now, eradicating all of mankind should be relatively simple if
you’re…well…God (a global flood, earthquakes, volcanic
eruptions…I dunno…any of those would work swiftly and relatively
instantaneously). Yet, for some really silly reason, you decide to unleash
the apocalypse by…uh…having your angel armies – that are equipped with bullet proof armor and maces – go down to
earth so they can possess
certain unholy people and turn them into mindless zombies. These
zombies, in turn, will hunt down and destroy the world as we know it.
also must kill an unborn baby that is still inside her trailer trash
mother’s womb because the child is destined to be the “chosen one”
that could lead humanity to everlasting prosperity.
Okay. Now the logical questions:
Why would God need to send
an army of highly militant angels to do his bidding?
Wouldn’t unleashing the obligatory fire and brimstone
effectively turn the earth into a BBQ pit within seconds?
Moreover, if God were indeed an all-powerful deity that can
control everyone and everything, then why would He go to inordinately
complex and moronic lengths to turn people into hellish zombies to do His
work for Him? Also,
why would the angel soldiers he sends down to finish the job need
armor…or weapons…for that matter?
Wouldn’t angels be invulnerable to small weapons fire?
And - Jesus H! – if there were a woman that is carrying a
baby that is humanity’s last chance to survive and you were God and you
knew of its existence, couldn’t you just…I dunno…kill her instantly?
All of this sounds
unrelentingly preposterous, but alas, what was just described is the
essential plot to LEGION, a new biblical (I use that term ever-so-loosely)
horror and end-of-the-world thriller that is as disastrously bad and
wrongheaded as it sounds. Now,
there is nothing wrong with an apocalypse action picture that is horribly
overwrought, infectiously campy and frivolously entertaining (see 2012), but
LEGION is such a ponderous, terminally solemn, and ultimately full of itself
amalgam of cheap scares, dull and insipid action, and hackneyed
theological philosophizing that it never once has fun at its own expense.
That, and the film is just really, really dumb.
Make that extraordinarily dumb.
The film is essentially centered
in one very remote diner in the middle of the western U.S. where a
group of people from all walks of life find themselves gathered together
to make one last courageous stand against…uh…God.
It appears that the big man in the sky has had just about enough of
the way humanity has abused the planet and themselves, so He decides that
the world needs to be rebooted. He
hoped that one of His most steadfastly loyal angels in His Army, Michael
(Paul Bettany, looking like he mournfully does not want to be in this film
throughout) would lead the charge and swoop down to earth to unleash an
unholy can of global whoop ass, but Michael has second thoughts.
In a move of absolutely bold rebellion, he essentially flips
the bird to the Lord and decides to descend down to assist the last
bastion of humanity that will protect that woman that will give birth to the
child that will be a new savoir on earth…unless God (cue perfunctory
suspenseful music) can get to her first.
The woman in question is a
waitress at the aforementioned desert diner named Charlie (played in a
thankless performance by Adrianne Palicki), who goes about her life not
knowing, of course, that she just may be carrying another Christ-like
infant in her belly. The diner she works at is surrounded by a group of divergent
misfits that are designed to represent a cross section of cultures, but
feel more like they have emerged from a lazy screenwriter’s mind.
We have the grizzled and semi-crazed diner owner (Dennis Quaid, in
pure, salivating paycheck mode); his son, the diner mechanic (Lucas
Black); the man-of-faith cook (Charles S. Dutton); a stranded tourist (Tyrese Gibson)
and a stranded yuppie couple (Jon Tenney and Kate Walsh) and their jailbait
daughter (Willa Holland) that cannot leave until their BMW
can be fixed.
At this point weird things
begin to happen…and I mean weird. The
TV stops working. The phones
die. The lights go out. But…wait…before
that happens a kind elderly lady in a walker comes into the diner and
begins to hurl c-bomb riddled insults to the incredulous patrons before she starts
climb the walls, up to the ceilings, and attempts to eat them.
This is really odd, but the frightened and confused people get a
wake up call from Michael, the former angel, who has come to the diner to
inform the waitress that her baby must live and that the rest of them will
have to fend off the diner from God created zombies.
Of course, Quaid's diner own can't believe it, despite all obvious
evidence to the contrary. Yet, things go south really fast and,
thankfully, Michael came at the right time with an arsenal that would
rival Fort Knox.
If your think that the overall
premise to the film has a fleeting resemblance to THE
TERMINATOR (a nobody woman is to
give birth to a future messiah) and the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (people
secluded in one location must fight off the undead) then you are not
alone. It’s one thing for a
film to be highly derivative, but LEGION is more dull and inspired for how
it takes itself so seriously, has dialogue that teeters towards wretched
and laughable, and has action and would be “boo!” moments that never
once generates legitimate chills. The dialogue itself inspires groans and knee-slapping laughter at
times: my personal favourite one-liner involves Michael pleading with the
future can be unwritten!” There is another personal exchange
that had me in stitches: Quaid’s
diner owner: “You know, I don’t believe in God.”
Michael: “That’s okay…he does not believe you either.”
Lines like that are lethally bad, but made even more pain-inducing
because great actors like Paul Bettany utter them with a ham-infested, Clint
Eastwoodian inflection. Apocalyptic, indeed.
The film is riddled with so
many ludicrously grotesque moments. There was, as mentioned, the granny
with the mouth of Hit-Girl and the bite of a crocodile early on, as
well as an early altercation with the newly mortal Michael coming to earth
that shows him squaring off against two cops, which builds to a head-shakingly
moment when he blows a hole in a building that forms - no, seriously
a hole that has the perfect outline of a crucifix.
Speaking of crucifixes, there is a slimy moment where one poor diner
victim is staked to a cross upside down and then explodes into puss-like
goo all over anther hapless victim that reduces his back to a charbroiled
mess. And…don’t get me started about one demon that
arrives at the diner
disguised as...an ice cream man.
Did I say this movie was dumb,
dumb, dumb? I
mean, c’mon, if God needs this waitress and her unborn baby dead, why
does He send hordes of possessed people her way that can be easily
decimated with hundreds of rounds of machine gun bullets?
God should be the mother of all supreme generals and war
tacticians, but His plan here makes General Custer look like freakin’ Alexander
the Great. Also, I am not
sure why God is the defacto “bad guy” here with a vile temperament.
If He does, indeed, think humanity is not worthy keeping alive,
then why is He incapable of seeing the courage of the heroes at the diner
with their struggles to save the baby?
Beat’s me. There’s
a scene in the middle of the chaos that also made me say “WTF” at the
screen: a man shows up at the diner with a lost child that he has saved
and is looking to fuel up his vehicle. The
zombies kill the man and when one of the heroes from the dinner tries to
save the boy the child is revealed to be a – gasp! – zombie too!!!
Now, the man was decent enough to save a random child, but
nonetheless, God is the ultimate prick and decides that he must die and he
uses the Child against him. I
cry foul.God should not kick mankind in the balls when they're not looking.
I should not care so much
about describing LEGION any further.
Calling the film an offence to Christian faith would be hyperbolic:
I think that Christians would be able to acknowledge this film as having
little – if anything – to do with the words in the New Testament. It’s
easy I guess to be insulted by LEGION’s portrayal of God as one that
pisses on humanity and wants their utter destruction, via any means
necessary. Yet, I think that
the more sensible reaction to the film would be to just laugh
uncontrollably at it for the frivolous, inane, tired, superhumanly hooky
film it really is. My only
real compliment I will pay it is that a few of the actors (Charles S. Dutton and
Adrianne Palicki, to name a few) estimably play their roles relatively
straight, which modestly fends off the assault of absolute absurdity here
(granted, Bettany does look hopelessly lost here).
As far as the God-wreaking-the-apocalypse genre goes, LEGION is
neither spiritual, intense, involving, suspenseful, or endurable.
And it’s dumb. Dumb,