I sat down in the theater and waited for the screening to begin. As I sat there quietly watching the pre-show advertisements, I resigned myself to the fact that I was stuck in front of a row of popcorn-munching kids who did not understand the concept of closing their mouths. Then the trailers rolled. The first trailer was for Iron Man 2, a film I can't wait for, and when the title came up to the strains of Black Sabbath, a tear came to my eye. Then Legion started, and later, as the end credits began to roll, another tear came to my eye, but for a completely different reason.
The base concept is an interesting one. An angel comes to Earth to protect a chosen few (or one) from an oncoming assault of angels working on orders from God. It was done to better effect back in 1995 when Christopher Walken took the name Gabriel and wreaked some havoc of Biblical proportions in The Prophecy. Now we revisit the concept with Legion. The angle is different from the Walken film and we would be better off for it if Legion was half as good as The Prophecy.
Legion opens much the same as the trailer. Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) lands in Los Angeles and promptly cuts off his wings, freeing himself from the collar around his neck (what was the purpose of that again?). After this, he hits up an armory just before things "begin." By "begin," I believe he is referring to the extermination of the human race.
The scene quickly shifts to a dusty diner/service station in the middle of nowhere, run by the trifecta of Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, and Lucas Black. Joining them is Adrianne Palicki as the pregnant waitress they are helping out. The diner has a variety of patrons and they are about to become a ragtag group of would-be survivors when the angel horde strikes.
All right, let's cut to the chase — what happens here? God is disappointed in humanity, but instead of repeating Himself with a flood, he sends his angels to exterminate the infestation. One angel still has hope for humanity and chooses to side with them, not to mention an unborn child destined to save humanity. So, this angel and a random group of people set up shop at a remote diner where they arm themselves to do battle with the oncoming army.
Sure, it sounds like a decent enough tale. I know I'm always up for a little survival-type horror. Unfortunately I don't think anyone actually read the script before they decided to make it. You see, the screenplay is littered with atrocious dialogue. The obvious questions are not asked, the characters are mere sketches, and what the do say is riddled with obvious cliches. It is poorly written all around. Any opportunities to get into the story and add any sort of depth are wasted.
I was dumbfounded by the lack of intelligence exhibited by the characters. I can't say I heard one intelligent line of dialogue from any of the players. There are a number of heartfelt moments but they never rise above the level of greeting card prose.
How is the action? It's alright but nothing spectacular. The biggest thing that I learned during the action is that angel feathers are bulletproof. Much like the screenplay, the action is rather lackluster. It's filled with your standard bullets and a little bit of hand-to-hand, none of it particularly special. I guess it just follows the theme.
Partway through Legion something dawned on me. This movie tells a story very similar to that of Terminator. Legion takes the religious allegory of the Terminator franchise and makes it all more literal. A mysterious guardian sent to protect a woman, an unborn child destined to lead humanity to salvation, and an enemy that will not stop (until the end when everything just sort of stops). Not to mention the speech to Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) that it is up to her to train her child to be a leader. Very Terminator.
This movie just doesn't work — bad dialogue, uninspired action, boring visuals, and lackluster direction are all to blame. The funny thing is, there are a couple of isolated shots that I did find interesting. There's one shot of the siege on the diner that looks to be right out of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond, while another shot looks like it belongs in a George Romero zombie film. It is too bad these bits are so brief. I really think a good film could have been made with this material, but the time was not taken to develop it.
Bottom line. I was alternately bored and dumbfounded by this movie. It should have been a shoo-in to make a good film. The screenplay really stuck me as half-baked. The trailers painted this as an interesting film, the execution revealed it to be a dud. Oh well.