August 12, 2010
Before I watched this film for the first time I broke my own golden rule and actually read a review first. I try not to do that because I find many reviewers often disagree with me, and even if they do agree with me it’s usually for different reasons. Anyhow, I read a review of Legion (2010) and was concerned at what I’d read. The review said the film was devoid of action, that the trailer was misleading and the dialogue was pointlessly drawn out.
I didn’t hold out much hope, and after watching the trailer (and remembering how the Mission Impossible (1996) trailer fooled everyone) I thought Legion may be another of those films that promises action, but delivers tears of boredom.
The first shock of the film was in its British lead, Paul Bettany. I’m a big fan of Bettany’s, and love to see him in films such as Wimbledon (2004) and A Knight’s Tale (2001) – but as an action star? Surely not? Not only was Bettany a convincing action star, he was a downright frightening one as well. Playing a fallen angel, the Archangel Michael, Bettany crashes to earth before slicing off his own wings and raiding an armoury for a collection of weapons that, I’m pleased to say, he uses… liberally.
Anyway, the plot: The notion behind the film is simple. God has given up on humanity and wants to wipe it from the face of the earth. He does this by sending a plague of angles, who are more like demons than angels, to inhabit the bodies of the weak and attack and kill the strong. There is one chance for humanity, the unborn child of a truck-stop waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki). The worst of the angels descend onto the truck-stop in an attempt to kill Charlie and stop her from giving birth. All that stands in the way of the human race, and total annihilation, is the Archangel Michael and a collection of people who happened to be at the truck-stop at the time (including sci-fi legend Dennis Quaid!).
It’s at this café where much of the action takes place, as wave upon wave of angels, who look very similar to the infected in I Am Legend (2007), assault the café and get gunned down in their thousands. The central characters in the film begin to lose their cool and, as happens in films of this nature, get picked off one by one a series of very stupid acts (Tyrese Gibson gets suckered in by the plight of a small child, who isn’t a small child!).
As the original review that I read correctly pointed out, the dialogue is a little forced and some of the characters revealing their backgrounds comes across with the subtlety of a car crash – but these moments are few and far between. The effects are excellent considering this isn’t a big Hollywood release and it has an air of the aforementioned I Am Legend about it, mixed with a touch of The Evil Dead (1981).
The real paydirt in Legion comes in the form of the archangel SmackDown that we get at the end of the film when Archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) is sent down by god to finish the job his lower angels couldn’t. Here we see that an angel’s wings aren’t just for flying around, they’re also devastating weapons.
Legion is one of the most surprising films I’ve watched this year. It’s entertaining, it’s well paced and it’s very well cast. It’s also great to see someone like Bettany flexing his muscles (both physically and metaphorically) on a range of different acting roles rather than sticking to one genre and becoming typecast.