There are many reasons a film might make me cross. Rubbish acting, bad accents, clunky dialogue, terrible effects… the list is almost limitless, but that’s because I’m grumpy. All this, though, fades into nothing compared to the level of irritation generated by the Wasted Premise.
“Legion” is a classic case of the interesting idea thrown away and, boy, did that annoy me. It shouldn’t have.
It’s not giving too much away to say that it’s an apocalypse movie: God has grown tired of humanity and has sent his massed angels to – basically – clean house. And so they come… all except one: Michael – the tattooed, gun-toting archangel played by Paul Bettany. Michael has decided that he doesn’t much like the idea of pandering to Big Daddy’s whim, particularly when he’ll change his mind sooner or later. So instead of joining the dogs of Heaven (as they’re referred to in the film), he goes renegade and heads for the middle of nowhere: specifically, Paradise Falls diner.
In the meantime… well, all hell breaks loose. There’s a little old lady spewing obscenities and crawling on the ceiling. There’s a plague of flies. There’s an ice-cream vendor whose extremities are – frankly – disturbing. And there’s shooting. Lots and lots of shooting. And some exploding trucks. And did I mention the shooting?
There’s also a zombie army of the possessed – except, of course, they’re not your traditional evil zombie army from hell. This is an evil zombie army, sure, but they’re fighting for the other team. They’re legion, alright: they’re just not that legion.
This is full-on, old school, Old Testament wrath of the Almighty, and the only thing standing between humanity and extinction is Michael. Oh, and the guy who used to be Caleb in American Gothic (the irony of which isn’t lost on me, old-school AG fan that I am). Anyway, yes. More shooting and a slightly unpleasant explodey-person scene.
The really interesting thing about this film is the angels. We meet two of them directly in Michael and in Gabriel, who may not be the movie’s Biggest Bad, but he’s as big as we’re going to get – and he’s Kevin Durand, so that’s fine. Kevin Durand with wings. Kevin Durand with wings and a morning star*. Picture it. Now picture it again – only more badass. See? You’re getting it.
That’s where I got cross. This whole nifty conceit? Passed over in favour of a couple of shotguns, a handful of monsters and a sweet old lady who likes to eat rare steak and cuss. OK, you’re not going to convince me that it’s wholly original; after all, Milton covered very similar ground, philosophically speaking, three and a half centuries ago, but come on. Angels as the bad guys? And you’re giving me exploding trucks? I can get that from Die Hard. Or Die Hard 2. Or 3. Or (god help me) 4.
If you’re going to sell me angels-as-the-bad-guys, I’m kind of going to expect a decent level of, umm, angelage for my money. You know, with the wings, and the flying, and the ass-kickery?
Actual angels aside, I would have liked more from “Legion” than it was prepared to give. And that’s OK: there’s a million reasons for films to come out the way they do. It’s not the greatest film I’ve ever seen and yes, there’s a lot wrong with it. Above all, I wish it was as clever as I think it wanted to be. It could have been. It should have been.
Despite all this; all the coulds and woulds and shoulds, do I more or less forgive it? Probably.
Mostly because I’m too scared of Gabriel’s bloody morning star not to…