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Legion: Super Ninja-Fightin’ Robot Angels Go!

2010/05/29

I’m not going to lie to you here, I had really high hopes for Legion when I plucked it out of the Redbox last night, and for a little while there, it seemed my dreams of the perfect apocalypse adventure were going to come true.  But then it hit minute twenty or so.     

All the right elements are here in Legion;  a Death Roulette set-up of various character types trapped in a desert diner ostensibly waiting to die; a pre-apocalyptic AND mid-apocalyptic story train; a former child star still trying to make a go of it; angels that know martial arts;  Dennis Quaid playing a craggy guy.  So let this be a lesson to us all, you can’t just throw a bunch of things you think are delicious into a pot and expect delicious soup.  You actually have to plan.     

Let’s start at the beginning, which is a wonderful place to start.  Archangel Michael – you know, from the bible and such – played by the lanky Paul Bettany, falls to Earth from heaven, I suppose, and promptly cuts off his own wings.  Awesome so far, right?  He then, with much expedience, starts destroying peoples and properties like hell is acomin’.  So he’s more or less the Cyberdine Model 101 of angelic hosts, which is a fun twist.     

Cut to a dingy diner out in the middle of nowhere named ‘Paradise Falls’ (subtle)….here we meet our cast of the presumably doomed.  Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) – the pregnant and smoking waitress with no baby-daddy in sight, nor hope in the world is, of course, preggers with the hope for mankind;  Bob (Quaid), the broke-down diner owner who can’t get past his divorce and other life-failures; his son, ‘Jeep’ (played by American Gothic child start Lucas Black – ‘Hurray’ for ‘still trying’!), whose kind of a personality-devoid schlep in love with Charlie, who will never love him back; Percy (Charles ‘Roc’ Dutton), the never-explained one-armed fry cook; Kyle (Tyrese Gibson) an apparent former gangbanger, I think, who is lost traveling from Vegas to L.A. for a custody hearing, I think; And finally, a nondescript yuppie couple with their rebellious sluttily dressed teenage daughter who are stuck in the diner after their BMW broke down on the way from a movie in 1987.     

Seems like we have a good game of ‘who dies and when’, right?  Not really.  See, the characters and their history are explained in direct proportion to how long their going to last.  We know nothing of yuppie dad.  Guess who’s going first?  We know a lot about Jeep and his dad, so…you see what I’m saying.     

Anywho, the plot is fairly simple – and maybe or maybe not so surprisingly not very overtly religious considering the topic of the tale is God sending his angels to destroy humanity because we’re a bunch of tools.  Angels are coming to kill Charlie’s unborn baby, because if it is born and lives, humanity has a chance.  Michael, the head of the archangels, has decided that ‘we’ as a people deserve another chance, so he’s here to help the meager humans (okay, pretty much just the baby and mother) fend off the oncoming unstoppable onslaught.     

Maybe this is just Terminator.  Or possibly T2...just substitute ‘angel’ and ‘angel-possessed human’ for ‘robot’ and ‘robot disguised as a man’.  I digress.  All in all, derivative or not, this really should have been a lot of fun, but between the stunted character exposition and poor pacing, it just falls short.  In regard to the pacing, this is the closest visual simulation of a roller coaster ride I’ve seen in quite some time: Twenty minutes of awesome, fifteen minutes of dull, ten minutes of awesome, fifteen minutes of dull.  Repeat.     

Dennis Quaid has a dissatisfied customer

 

And my final finger of scrutiny points not so much at the filmmakers themselves, per se, but more on the folks that put together the previews for it.  There are two really phenomenal special effects sequences that by all rights should have scared the hell out of me.  I knew this going in, because both of them appeared in all versions of the trailer.  For shame.  There was enough here to cobble together an interesting teaser without giving all the cool up – but I hold the filmmakers partially responsible because both of those scenes appear in the first act, and nothing that comes afterwards even comes close.  There is a crazy possessed kid at one point, but his haircut just kills the thrill.     

The big showdown between Michael and the angel Gabriel is a fairly good fight scene, once you’ve accepted that an archangel seems to believe automatic weapons are his best option, and if you can ignore that ‘bullets hitting feathers’ do not, in fact, make the same sound as ‘bullets hitting a tin building’.  Kudos to Gabriel for his utilization of the sorely underused mace.     

So all in all, I’m glad I watched Legion, I just wish they hadn’t squandered so many phenomenal opportunities to make something fantastic to instead end up with a piece that’s very blah.  It’s predictable, and the pacing just kills the momentum of this movie far too many times.  Worth a view?  Sure….but don’t expect it to be memorable.  4 out of 7.

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