A film review by Craig J. Koban May 18, 2010



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. 


Oh…these angelic-zombies 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 humans: “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 funny 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, dumb, dumb. 


Lastly…note to God: if You are out there then You may need to rethink Your apocalyptic playbook a bit.  Angels with uzzies and people possessed by demonic spirits seems like a waste of Your energy.  Maybe try a flood next time.  It seemed to work before. 

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