*/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B
starring Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Dennis Quaid
screenplay by Peter Schink and Scott Stewart
directed by Scott Stewart
by Walter Chaw I actually don't mind a portrayal of God that's more in line with Milton's: voyeuristic, sadistic, inscrutable, unmerciful, absent. I prefer it, truth be told. The problem with Legion is that it plunks this high-minded, utterly humanistic idea in the middle of garbage the likes of which the world outside of SyFy original flicks has never known. Bad doesn't begin to describe it--"futile" is closer to the truth, as ex-ILM geek Scott Stewart does his best to make a complete hash of one possible apocalypse, departing from "Revelations" to find an angry God, "sick of all the bullshit," divinely possessing a posse of Los Angelinos so that they may lay zombie siege to a dusty roadside diner populated by a collection of spam-in-a-cabin archetypes. Take grizzled diner owner Bob (Dennis Quaid), for instance, a longtime ex-smoker who still keeps a lighter named "hope" in his breast pocket because, as anyone who's ever seen a movie knows, he's going to have to use it at some point to ignite a propane tank in a moment of selfless sacrifice. It's one of several martyrdoms in a film that's fairly relentless about the great unknowable nature of this Christian God. He's pissed, no question, and no amount of brotherly grace will make Him un-pissed.
I'd like to think of this as theology instead of as lazy scripting, yet the dialogue is so deadening, the characters are so astonishingly cardboard, and the denouement is so sanctimonious that there's no mistaking Legion for anything other than a moronic pile of shit. See, Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) learns of God's aforementioned dumbass plan and decides to head 'em off by dropping down on top of some kind of armoury and cutting off his own wings. Brilliant. Once he arrives at the diner, Bob is bickering with his An Unfinished Life man-friend life-partner Percy (Charles S. Dutton), as old married couples will, about television reception when what should happen but a demonic old lady starts spider-walking on the ceiling. When fourteen-year-old Linda Blair said "cunt" in 1973, it was pretty shocking; when elderly Jeanette Miller does the same in 2010, it's decidedly less so--particularly since it sounds like she's talking into a bucket in an echo chamber. It's a decision a special-effects guy makes: sex up the prestige at the expense of the set-up. Like the moment where greasy city-slicker Howard (Jon Tenney) gets himself crucified on an inverted cross, beset with boils, and then exploded like Paul McCrane post-mutation in RoboCop. Michael's come, it seems, to protect redneck cupcake Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), eight months with the child who will somehow prove to be Man's salvation. And he's armed with a blank stare, lots of guns that Stewart never tires of camera-fucking, and no plan.
Consider that the one vaguely interesting moment in the film has to do with inner-city hood Kyle (Tyrese Gibson) revealing his inner good-guy by trying to save a toddler from a horde of zombie Shakers, then consider that nothing I just said makes any sense at all. Legion is a high-concept error. It has one idea in its head and instead of going somewhere fearful and trembling with it, it stages a cage-match between Michael and brother Gabriel (Kevin Durand), here armed not with horn but with a mechanical mace and bulletproof wings. Eat your heart out, Wim Wenders! Ending with the same portentous voiceover as The Terminator and leaving a single after-image, that of the great Doug Jones--dressed as an ice-cream vendor--turning into a spindly, spidery creature (it, again, makes no sense in whatever lore there is in the film, but what the hell), Legion proves that the biggest crime a movie like this can commit is having the temerity to have potential. It never would have been good, what with its awful acting, writing, and action--but squandering this probably accidental appearance of balls concerning the shortfalls in this 17th-century conception of an idle God only compounds its complete inadequacy with heartbreak.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Sony's 2.40:1, 1080p Blu-ray presentation of the shot-on-film Legion looks so good that the picture's dreadful F/X boast sharp lines delineating them from their surroundings. Detail, in other words, is exceptional, with every single crag of Quaid's jawline dotted with spikes of stubble. Impressive. As the film takes place mostly in the dark, black levels are pitch without a hint of crush, and while there's trace banding now and again, it's not really enough to distract from an otherwise meticulous rendering. A nice transfer is matched by a loud 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. Almost more impressive than the various (tepid) firefights, reproduced with full fidelity across the soundstage, are the quieter moments in which coyotes barking in the distance highlight the natural logic and flow of the mix. Dialogue is, regrettably, never overwhelmed.
Also regrettably, director Stewart and various cast and crew gather for a picture-in-picture film-length supplement that's really pretty nifty from a technological standpoint but is an ordeal to sit through for the wide gulf separating what the creative types think they've produced (and avoided) from the evidence unspooling beneath their proud proclamations. It's cool, let me reiterate, but it decorates an ultimately unworthy product. Stewart talks about the difference between surprise and suspense in the least interesting exposition since Hitchcock closed the book on any discussion of the terms in 1962; the whole time all we're thinking is that Legion looks and acts like a cheap piece of shit that wouldn't know what to do with a budget if it had one. F/X work is gone over in agonizing detail, as if anyone in the digital age is remotely amazed by the trickery employed in the creation of these little fantasies, and there's a lot of praise for the actors as well--indeed, it's full of words despite that there isn't much to say about the picture. Most disappointing is probably the filmmakers' complete lack of insight into the motivations of their God, either because nothing was ever sussed out on that front or because they're all too pussified to say anything. Called "Bringing Angels to Earth: Picture-in-Picture," this special feature also includes storyboards for a car chase/crash sequence that was done infinitely better in the shitty Jeepers Creepers sequel.
"Creating the Apocalypse" (24 mins., HD) is a seemingly redundant making-of that on the bright side gives more screentime to Doug Jones's joy at being, by himself, a goodly portion of the modern fantasy bogey pantheon. I can't help but think it all would've been better had Jones portrayed every angel somehow, but, alas, he's the ice-cream man and that's it. For those curious, by the way, if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the entire duration of his creature's appearance in the film. A good chunk of the piece meanwhile revolves around the stuntwork of the evil old lady, but you know what: who gives a shit? "Humanity's Last Line of Defense" (12 mins., HD) is a hagiography of its pushing-over-the-hill cast while "From Pixels to Picture" (11 mins., HD) is another shrine to the miracle of silicon and processors. Why is this interesting? HD trailers for The Road, Chloe, Wild Things: Foursome, 2012, The Da Vinci Code, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans round out the disc. Originally published: June 7, 2010.