Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Legion" Review

You can almost feel the English language bend in trying to convey the ineffable awfulness of a film like "Legion." The girders of syntax simply can't support the weight of the adjectives necessary to condemn such lazy, irrelevant art. To the mercifully uninitiated, "Legion" is a religious action-horror flick in which God being "tired of all the bullshit" suffices for plot exposition, and Bible mythology is simultaneously demeaned and validated. However, it's mostly an unabashed third-rate "Terminator" knock off, which worst of all, is rarely even fun.

And campy fun was all I had hoped for from a film whose poster features the archangel Michael with a dagger in one hand and an automatic weapon in the other. How could you not have a sense of humor releasing an image like that? I imagined a gleefully irreverent action film that would be bad, sure, but nothing if not cheap entertainment. "Legion" instead presents itself with an embarrassing self-seriousness that quickly subsides into numbing boredom.

Still, the beginning of the film is palatable enough, with the expected expository introduction to each of our protagonists--a cliched smattering of patrons and employees caught at the "Paradise Falls" (Har, har) garage and diner--and Michael, who's opted for mortal strife over enacting God's order to eviscerate mankind. Fortunately for us, the best trick God seems to have up His sleeve is "possessing" individuals, which turns them into silly zombie/vampire hybrids with rubber necks, nubby teeth, and the power to walk on ceilings.

The group's first encounter with one of these creatures works if only for the sheer weirdness of the circumstance. The vessel is an elderly woman, and the "Looney Tunes"-esque shotgun sequence that plays out as she scuttles across the ceiling is tonally more comparable to "Drag Me to Hell" than "Legion" on the whole. Regrettably, what follows is wave after tedious wave of the possessed arriving (inexplicably by car), only to emerge as rifle fodder in a shameless co-opting of "Dawn of the Dead."

"Legion" may wear its influences on its sleeve, but never manages to forge the joie de vivre that make the films it's imitating so successful. The better part of the second act is bogged down by interminable character development, during which the cardboard characters bond in the most artificial, writerly way imaginable. Would you believe that a father and son make amends and a rebellious teen with a conservative mother falls for a black guy? It's groundbreaking stuff.

And the most egregious crime of the film is that it doesn't even pitch to its target audience. I don't generally care for schlocky action, but even I concede that the last thing "Legion" needs is relatable characters. I'm okay with the fact that we meet them as movie cliches, but as such I have less interest in how they feel than what they do, and for about half of the film, they do absolutely nothing. The finale then culminates with a knock-down, drag out fight between Michael and fellow-angel Gabriel, but watching them swing a mace at one another for fifteen minutes is exactly as exciting as it sounds.

"Legion" is the first feature from director Scott Stewart, who has an impressive history in effects work, though his talents in that field are conspicuously absent here, as is anything beyond the occasional, incidentally amusing moment or unsolicited laugh. The film fails to commit to its Christian apocalyptic premise and ends up feeling vague, boring, and muddled as a result.

Worst of all, Stewart is unfaithful to audience expectation, and "Legion" falls shy of even "so bad it's good" territory. It's a pointless, worthless January abortion that even has the gall to presume itself a sequel. If I ever see a "Legion 2," I think the English language might just snap.


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