Going into Legion, I was hoping for Paul Bettany-centric, faith-laced badassery. I got what I wanted. I guess what I should have specified is that I was also hoping that it would be good, ’cause apparently the folks behind the movie forgot that part.
Legion sort of tells the story of some hicks living in the middle of nowhere, who are confronted by an angel, Michael, who insists that God has “gotten tired of the bullshit,” and plans to exterminate the human race. Instead of doing it Genesis-style, God inexplicably decides to go about it by having angels possess the more weak-minded individuals of the world and kill the rest of humanity by biting their necks. Apparently, when the angels take over people’s bodies, their teeth get pointy, and they develop the ability to stretch their bodies out of proportion. They also like to swear. I guess when angels get to try out the whole human body thing, they use it as a chance to really go slumming. I don’t really get why God wouldn’t just send another flood, or some other more consistently destructive force, but hey, who am I to question the half-assed efforts of a deity (or a poor storywriter).
The hicks I mentioned before are the objects of Michael’s attentions because 1) waitress Charlie is carrying a child that is of some kind of importance (they don’t actually say he’s the second coming of Christ, but who else could he be?… it’s also December 23rd) and 2) because Charlie’s non-boyfriend-although-he-wants-to-be-and-dotes-on-her-as-though-he-was, Jeep, is a perfect example to Michael of what humanity is capable of and why it should be preserved. If we take the lessons of this movie seriously, the best attributes of humanity involve destructive self-denial and unreciprocated devotion. I can sort of see the beauty of this kind of mindless affection, but it’s shown to us in a way that suggests that Jeep is just too stupid to know any better. Given the choice, I’m happier being me, and I’ll just take the wrath.
Side note: I don’t know if it was intentional, but Jeep’s last name is Hanson, which means that his name is an anagram for “Joseph Anne,” Anne being the grandmother, and Joseph being the step-daddy of Jesus Christ. Either that, or it just seemed like a good idea to name him Jeep because he’s a mechanic.
Oh, and even though they’re angels, since they’re in human bodies, the possessed people are easy to dispatch with a few bullets. Michael anticipates this and loads up his car with an armoury of weapons. It continues to boggle the mind that one angel is able to nearly single-handedly defend the gas station/rest stop where our protagonists hole up, against what is essentially the entire state of New Mexico. I guess we’re supposed to assume that no other angel thought to, I dunno, grab a tank, or maybe a gun, or maybe even a rock to throw. Instead, the gunfights in Legion are more like playing the last level of a Left 4 Dead campaign, where everyone lets loose a barrage of bullets on countless, unarmed hordes.
Eventually, the angel Gabriel shows up to finish things. His plan is to take out Charlie so that the Christ-in-status baby won’t be born and grow up to save the world. Here’s a thought: if God didn’t want this kid to be so special, why did he go and cause the knocking up of Charlie in the first place? I guess God’s just gotten tempermental and changed his mind about wanting the salvation of the human race, eight months after causing her immaculate conception. Maybe he just thought she was cute.
Oh, and I haven’t really gotten to my (least) favourite part. Hopefully, you won’t go see this movie, so this next paragraph won’t actually spoil anything for you. The whole reason that Michael is defending humanity is because he thinks that God’s just having a tantrum and will change his mind if he can be reminded of why he was so high on people in the first place. Even though none of the humans do anything really extraordinary, except for Jeep being willing to put his life on the line to save the baby, God does a 180 and welcomes Michael back into the fold. The God of this movie is pissed off enough to ignore humanitarian work all over the world, and shake away people like an Etch-a-sketch, but the second a mentally-stunted mechanic decides it ain’t right to kill an infant, God steps back and goes “Well screw me! Was I way off base! Did you guys just see what that dude just did? My bad for the whole apocalypse thing.” Legion‘s God is a douche, and I don’t want anything to do with him.
Plot holes and stupid, stupid story aside, there’s still plenty of terrible to go around. The action, particularly the fight scenes involving Paul Bettany, are acceptably entertaining. There’s a bit of humour (like seeing a frying pan thrown at a possessed old lady’s head) to help break up the “intensity,” but the movie as a whole can’t decide whether it’s intentionally bad or actually bad. At times it takes itself fiercely seriously, while at others, it falls into so many clichés, that it can’t be by accident… it just can’t.
I also didn’t particularly care for any of the characters. Michael is only cool because of the actor who plays him. Paul Bettany’s credibility is all that’s carrying the warrior angel as a watchable character. Charlie is insufferable, and has absolutely no desire to be part of the situation she finds herself in. Imagine Sarah Connor from The Terminator mixed with Linda Fiorentino’s character from Dogma, but with only a fraction of the substance. Jeep is dumb, and unrelatable. Jeep’s dad is Dennis Quaid playing Dennis Quaid. Kate Walsh takes step down from Private Practice and acts like she’s in a soap opera. Willa Holland plays another incarnation of her character on The O.C.. Everyone else (and most of the ones I’ve already mentioned) play horror type-characters, like the misunderstood gangster, or the grizzled, but spiritually-inclined chef.
I had this movie listed as my 7th most ancitipated movie of the year and am starting to question my own judgment. Back then, I wrote, “Assuming that the action stays a-rockin’ and the the plot doesn’t take any preachy turns, I expect to enjoy, but not love sitting through this.” Turns out the action did stay a-rockin’, and although the plot didn’t quite hit preachy, it did do a lot of self-cancelling spiritual meditation. And by that, I mean it was dumb. Here endeth the lesson.