Compared to "Legion," every other movie about the apocalypse looks great.

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 26, 2010

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Cherub glock: Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) camps out at a diner before inflicting apocalyptic terror.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

An unexceptional blond is pregnant with the future savior of humanity. Evil forces unknown to her are working to make sure she never brings the destined child to term, attempting to kill off mom before the baby can even be born. Luckily for her, a rogue hero is transported to our dimension, arriving naked in a Los Angeles alley, stocking up on stolen clothes, failing miserably at social interactions and raiding gun shops with the self- sacrificing, single-minded purpose of protecting the ungrateful mother-to-be and her super-fetus from the nefarious architects of Armageddon.

Yeah, you probably think I’m talking about Terminator. But, no, it’s Legion , the latest and by far lamest in the recent glut of big-screen apocalyptic trauma. (If a movie opens in direct competition with The Book of Eli , yet distinguishes itself as an even more hilariously plagiaristic collection of spare cinematic parts … well, that’s something of which to be either proud or deeply ashamed.)

Perhaps pundits can come up with reasons why the end of the world has become so trendy onscreen, but I’m just sick of it. Especially when it’s done on the cheap, as in Legion.

So the only twist on the Terminator formula here is that, instead of angry robots, we’re dealing with a vengeful God. Turns out the big guy has had his fill of humanity and wants to wipe the slate clean. Instead of following through on Revelations, or even bothering to smite us with plagues, the Lord sends his army of angels down to possess people and turn them into foul-mouthed zombies with fake-looking plastic teeth.

For reasons that are never explained, Adrianne Palecki’s trailer-trash waitress is eight months pregnant with the savior of mankind. Working at Paradise Falls Diner, conveniently located in the middle of the desert, she’s attracted the interest of both Lucas Black’s stammering good ol’ boy and the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany).

Moved by her plight, Michael falls from grace and saws off his wings in an alley, performing a grisly bit of home surgery in excruciating close-up. After loading up on machine guns, the badass angel holes up in the diner with a demographically diverse collection of patrons straight out of central casting, disobeying his holy orders and shooting zombie angels in the head until the miracle kid is finally born.

Oh, what a wacky bunch of stereotypes in this diner! There’s a rich guy, a black person and even Dennis Quaid! Keeping to one cruddy-looking location no doubt saved millions of dollars in production expenses. In Legion , the revolution isn’t even televised; folks just listen to it on the radio. Bettany’s Michael shoots zombie-angels in the head, then makes dour pronouncements, arbitrarily deciding that the sanest course of action will be to wait in the diner for a month until the baby is born.

Even after seeing the movie, I have no idea who this child is supposed to be or what he might do to unwind the biblical cataclysm that’s happening outside the diner. I do know that if I was Palecki, and had been informed that my impending progeny was humankind’s last hope, I might try to cut back a little bit on the cigarette smoking.

Legion is a cheap zombie-siege movie gussied up with inconsistent theology. Its good moments (there are two) involve the demonic/angelic possession of an elderly lady and a 7-year-old boy. The movie only starts to kick when the super-powered old hag is screaming the C-word and biting off chunks of people’s necks, or an innocent-looking kid is attempting a home abortion with a kitchen knife. The rest of the film could have been mailed-in clips from crappy ’80s movies in your old VHS collection.

Every archetype (I hesitate to call them characters) at the Paradise Falls Diner has such boringly traditional disaster-flick redemption arcs, the only surprise arrives when director Scott Stewart attempts to visualize heaven. As Bettany’s Michael and Kevin Durand’s Gabriel have a late-movie flashback argument not quite unworthy of Aquinas, Stewart shoots them in close-up and shines a blinding light directly into the lens.

No wonder Michael fell to Earth, he probably just wanted sunglasses. D




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