Legion is, as one might expect, every bit a genre film, a familiar litany of pop-culture science fiction-fantasy and end of the world apocalypse. There isn’t much new here unless you’re a zombie aficionado or have a penchant for biblical lore, yet even the zombies seem uncertain and hesitant. These zombies, unlike Romero‘s stiff-legged scavengers, are sure-footed converts of the damned tasked solider for the angels with bad posture and razor-sharp teeth. However these zombies are only slightly more astute at the obvious, the obligatory grandmother character threatening hell-fire spends a little too long on the proverbial soap box before granny gets vanquished ala shot-gun. Who would have known that zombies con la boca grande of the apocalypse could be brought down so easily? Take that all you anti-gun types – see, Chuck was right – when the end of the world is near, you had better reach for a rifle because, well, everyone knows the undead have cold, dead hands. I liked these zombies, if you can ever really like the walking dead, for the same reason I liked the vampires in 30 Days of Night – familiar but distant like the first time you watched Keanu Reeves in the Matrix or Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley and hoped you’d see them again; followed simultaneously with elation and disappointment as the franchise stretched, grew, and died a slow and painful death. Yet the concept of angels, sent by God to bring on the apocalypse, who make a final assault on an out-of-the-way diner where Archangel Michael has held up with an unlikely group of the “chosen few” seems all too, implausible? Maybe it’s just a familiar premise, like say the Christopher Walken film Prophecy? I mean not exactly but when you have Mr. Walken as Archangel Gabriel it’s kinda hard to make another angel movie without drawing comparisons. Sure, you have to swap a diner for a school and then there’s all the Native American mysticism, not to mention Elias Koteas, Eric Stolz, and Amanda Plummer, but in the wake of the end of everything as we know it where hipster angels return to do God’s bidding, I’ll visit the mid 90’s first and 2000-whatever second. Call me cooky that way.
Legion suffers from a common condition among genre films, namely the high-concept to low-story ratio where plot supplants character and one-liners convey just enough to propel the story toward the next special FX. Populated with less than believable cardboard-thin archetypes with shoes filled by notable character actors from near and far, the formula gets pretty thin between appearances by notable zombies and bullet ballets. Yet time and time again, who do we blame? Them, right? The filmmakers? The producers? Hollywood? It’s not them, it’s us. See, we pay the price for ambivalence every time we chunk down our cash in exchange for 90 minutes of escapism. If we escape, the money seems well spent. If we addle around in the aisle while watching our popcorn soak into the carpet, we feel cheated. If we stop paying to see films we don’t want to see, well, never mind.
I was happy to see Charles S. Dutton here, and R&B singer turned actor Tyrese Gibson wasn’t bad, though Paul Bettany was hardly as convincing as I had hoped. Bettany might be best known as rogue priest and devout Catholic Salis in The Da Vinci Code (2006). I’ve been a big fan of Mr. Dutton since his early days, post garbage-man with a show of his own. He was maybe the only thing that saved David Fincher‘s massacre of the Alien franchise, Alien 3, where he delivered as Dillon, the resolute space prisoner with generous amounts of poet and Baptist preacher mixed in. Lucas Black was interesting as the soulful sidekick to Billy Bob Thornton’s idiot savant in Slingblade, but his youthful angst didn’t translate to man-childhood as Jeep Hanson. I’ve already expressed my dislike for Quad as the crotchety diner owner who delivered more one-liners than an afternoon of Schwarzenegger films. As an American apocalyptic fantasy-horror film, directed by Scott Stewart, written by Peter Schink and rewritten by Stewart, you might be able to forgive the short comings, or like me, chalk this one up as a necessary short ride through the countryside of a special FX, high-concept film that delivers ever so slightly a chance encounter with apocalypse. If you haven’t seen Prophecy, by all means add it to your list. Legion dims in comparison but it isn’t the worst genre film of this nature and given that it actually made a profit, you can bet the filmmakers will be given the keys to movie-maker heaven at least once more.
If you’re still watching after the ice cream man from hell and the geriatric with razor-sharp dentures, or Dennis Quad who looks like his face was permanently frozen pissed off, it’s all down hill from there.