dir: Scott Stewart
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Legion is, and this probably is not going to surprise any of you, a deeply stupid goddamn flick. There’s never been a flick with angels in it that has ever worked worth a damn except for two profound exceptions: It’s a Wonderful Life, and Wings of Desire.
But those are dramas, albeit romantic ones, with a bit of darkness in them.
This angel-filled fiasco belongs to the sub-genre of fantasy films whereby angels, either enacting or contradicting the will of God, decide to either eliminate humanity or at least battle it out on our planet’s surface.
If you’re of a certain age, and inclination, like me you might remember such 90s movies as The Prophecy trilogy, which had Christopher Walken trying to kill us all while playing the Archangel Gabriel (I don’t think he knew the cameras were on). If you’re even older, you might be boring enough, like me, to have read Milton’s Paradise Lost, and have heard it badly quoted a million times by pretentious shmucks in movies for the last 100 years.
And if you’ve ever been a godbotherer, or been bothered by godbotherers, you might know that the secret surprise at the end of the Bible is that we’re all going to die only after the torments of the time of tribulation, except for a select few bunch of goodie-two-shoeses.
So the idea of angels raining down fire and destruction upon us is nothing new. What this here film manages to do is render all of that crap in the most incompetent fashion imaginable.
Oh gods is it bad. It’s bad even for a genre known for its overall craptitude. And though the reason is probably the zero budget it must have had, it's just so wrong-headed and badly put together that you feel like sitting down everyone involved, patting them condescendingly on the head, before punching them in the neck.
The Archangel Michael, he of the flaming sword (Paul Bettany, who I’d say was slumming if he hadn’t been in that DaVinci Code monstrosity) plummets to earth arriving just like the characters from the Terminator flicks, after we hear a voiceover intro just like the one from the first Terminator flick, delivered by a pregnant woman.
Broadly speaking, God has decided he’s had enough of humanity’s bullshit, and has chosen to wipe the slate clean by having his angels kill us all. The one thing apparently preventing us all from dying is a pregnant woman called Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), who doesn’t want the baby anyway. Instead of being able to legally procure an abortion in America, which virtually no character has ever done in the history of American cinema (except the Hal Hartley film Trust, that I can recall) without dying or being punished in some horrible way, she’s decided to smoke until the baby gets sick of its environment and just leaves of its own accord. Then, presumably, it’ll find someone to adopt it and raise it away from the hillbillies and such.
She is trapped, as are we, at a diner in the middle of the New Mexico desert. The angel we saw at the beginning is driving here. He’s taking his sweet time about it, which allows us to get to know the fucking awful characters who get stuck in the diner when the rest of the world is destroyed.
Is it destroyed, why is it destroyed, I dunno. It doesn’t really make any sense when the characters, including a gangbanger (Tyrese Gibson, whose presence always lets me know a flick is going to be trash before the opening credits have even finished), an uppity couple with a slutty daughter (their words, not mine), a vet with a claw for a hand (Charles S. Dutton), a moron mechanic (Lucas Black) and a deranged looking hillbilly (Dennis Quaid).
Dennis Quaid. Dennis fucking Quaid. He must be desperate for money. There’s not a line of dialogue he delivers in this flick that isn’t flat out hilarious (if you’ll permit the double negative, and I’m sure you won’t). But I mean hilarious in the way that watching a dog trying to fuck a porcupine is hilarious, or watching a dangerously drunk person trying to drive a crashed car is funny.
It’s not funny if you’re the porcupine, or if you’re in the car.
I was trapped in this car with this awful script for 100 minutes of my life and your life that none of us are going to get back. But there is a desperation to it all that has some odd merit to it.
A sweet old lady turns up at the diner, chats amiably for a while, then starts cursing, climbing the walls and ceiling before being killed. Her eyes go black, her teeth go all sharp and pointy, none of which achieves her aim of killing the baby.
I guess that makes her pro-choice? Or a militant anti-abortionist?
By the time Michael has turned up with a carload of guns, everyone seemingly in the continental United States has become possessed by a plague of angels, who are making their way to this diner.
The fact that they’re possessed by angels is immaterial: the movie essentially becomes, for most of its running length, an under siege/cowboys and injuns/zombie type flick. In this circumstance it doesn’t matter if the antagonists are Seraphim, zombies, vampires, dolphins, cars or demons. They march pointlessly towards the diner in order to be killed, again pointlessly.
Michael pep talks everyone into thinking that the reason why he’s going to stand and fight for them, and that they might survive, is because they are so wonderful that he can’t help but love them. It makes for an awkward scene with the appallingly named Lucas Black character, Jeep, who has this look on his face like, “Dude, that’s so gay.”
Lucas Black is one of those people who got a lot of work as a kid, most memorably in stuff like Sling Blade and the tv series American Gothic. Now, as a big galoot of a man, he just can’t get any decent roles, not since Friday Night Lights.
He is compelled, by his frame, and probably his accent, to accept dire roles in dire flicks like this and that there Fast and Furious sequel, with nothing to show for it, if you ignore the money he’s earned thus far. His worst payday is probably what it would take me twenty years to earn, so, really, who’s career prospects am I lamenting?
He’s terrible, but it’s not his fault. His character has literally nothing to do apart from act all moony around a pregnant woman pregnant with some other loser’s baby. If that's the standard of our species' worth, then maybe we are better off dead.
If only they’d called his character Joseph, and called her Mary instead, and then it would have all fallen into place.
These angels; thems not very bright, ya hear? At one point they grab one of the people in the diner, drag him outside. It’s night time. They strap him upside-down on a cross. He starts calling out to his harridan wife inside. She opens the door and runs to him. It is now daytime. He has pustules all over his body. They explode, showering another character who tries to protect the harridan wife, with acid. He dies. She lives.
What? It’s spontaneously night-time again. Huh?
This sounds like something out of one of the Hellraiser flicks, but it’s just… it’s just so badly put together. It smacks of the distance between ambition and ability, specifically on the part of the makers, not the actors, who are just doing whatever shit they’re told to do. The effects are unspeakably cheap, and continuously show up the mechanics of it all in places where something in the script or the shooting schedule had to clearly be aborted or abandoned because they had no money left:
Director: So, right, so here’s the bit where we have a battle where Michael and the others fight the hordes. It’ll look sweet. Apocalyptic even.
Money man: Can’t afford it. Think of something else.
Director: Okay, uh, we’ll just show someone shooting a gun, and imply that all the angel zombie punks are now dead, off-screen.
Money Man: Almost there, think of something cheaper.
Director: Uh, what if Dennis Quaid just looks unwashed for a while, and the audience assumes that his dishevelment won the battle, that we won’t even refer to, ever?
Money Man: Perfect. I love you, Hack Director.
Director: I love you, Sugar Daddy
(they start kissing noisily, fade to black).
Imagine Peter Jackson making The Two Towers, and covering The Battle of Helms Deep by leading up to it with people having lots of dispiriting conversations, and then having a title on the screen saying “Good guys won, nothing to see here, moving right along…” This flick is all set up, and bad set up at that, with no pay off.
Except… except there are a few minutes of it that I liked. Michael and his archangel brother Gabriel (Kevin Durand) get to throw down old school, as in literally old school, Old Testament-style. Whatever money and time wasn’t spent trying to keep Dennis Quaid away from the annoying teenage girl, was spent on these fights between Michael and Gabriel. It’s ludicrously over the top, but it needed to be, and its presence in the late stages of the flick only emphasises how lacklustre the earlier hour and a half have been.
If it looks like a flick improved by booze: don’t be fooled. Alcohol, as if consumed while reminiscing about a messy breakup, only makes this one more painful.
Avoid at all costs, unless you have a weird fetish for biblical fantasy, which, let’s face it, should be everybody.
3 times Jennifer Connelly probably forces Paul Bettany to work in crap like this because she thinks he’s not pulling his weight out of 10
“You’re an angel? Yeah, and yesterday I was fucking Santa Claus.” – I hope you got the money upfront, Legion.