Sunday, January 24, 2010

Legion Review

In the beginning God created light and the heavens and the earth and the little fuzzy animals and human beings. On the 8th through the 2,000th days, humans created tax shelters, beer helmets, crack cocaine, Armani dog carrier handbags, the “dirty sanchez” and Showgirls. By the 2,600th day Heidi Montag had turned herself into a blow-up doll with a heartbeat and super blinking action. God had had enough. Having lost faith in the human race, he sends his angels down from heaven to wipe us from the planet. The angel Michael refuses to end his love affair with the hairless monkeys (us), so he speeds down to Earth to head off the attack and attempt to save the human race. Apparently our fate rests in the small, chubby hands of an unborn child. Wait. What??

A young unwed, orange-skinned chain smoker is about to give birth to the savior of humanity. Before the angel arrived, her only protector was a boy named Jeep. I wish I were kidding. Was his momma named Toyota? Oooooo snap. Jeep Hanson (Black), born inexplicably with the only Southern accent in the film, lives with his twitchy, grumbling father Bob (Quaid) at a diner/gas station in the middle of nothing ... the perfect staging ground for THE APOCALYPSE!! How do we know it’s the Apocalypse? They say it on the radio ... and the radio never lies.

At any rate, God sends his “dogs of heaven” to smite the human race, but instead of the host of angels cutting people to ribbons, they posses the weak-minded, which makes their head do that shaky Jacob’s Ladder thing, turns their eyes black and makes their teeth pointy. WHYYYYYYY?! They then drive out to the Paradise Falls Diner, park their cars and attack the building for three minutes. Never has there been a more ineffectual, collective baddie in a film. You’ll get one token angel in Gabriel (naturally), and that’s all she wrote.

Legion proceeds to offend your eyes and ears for the next 100 minutes, making the ordeal feel like three hours, no doubt using angel magic. Half the movie is ridiculously predictable, complete with a gun-packing, rap-blasting Tyrese, British sounding angels and the punk rock possessed. The other half is so wildly unpredictable, and yet badly written, that you’ll either cry for mercy or laugh your head off. As the story drudges on, offering zero scares and an achingly confusing plot, there’s a sudden shift in perspective, making the previous storyline pointless. What you are left with is a sort of Bible thumping Terminator-esque fiasco begging for sequels that, God willing, will never come. Even a scene of frantic angel Kung Fu can’t save this madness.

Acting performances vary GREATLY. Quaid seems to have been told to play a curmudgeony old man who just gave up the drink. That’s the only reason I can see for this crinkly faced, lurching performance. We all know the man can act and does it very well. There’s no excuse for this. He may as well have not been in the film at all. Black has been set to “brood” and allowed little else. Bettany is believable enough for his part, but no amount of acting ability can change the words coming out of his mouth. There’s no coming back from bad writing. That’s really all you need to know. Palicki’s pregnant Charlie character may be unsympathetic and Tyrese can attempt to act his ass off while playing the most horrific stereotype you could imagine, but they can’t change the way they were written. It’s a complete disaster.

The cinematography of Legion strives to be epic but amounts to a collection of pretty paintings. An oncoming cloud of ... something. An angel stretching its wings toward the heavens. An army of the possessed waiting in the mist. These are striking images by themselves, but when we string them together, project them forward and fold them into the plot, they are pointless and fleeting reminders of what could have been. Was I wishing they’d handled the plot differently? No. The plot makes very little sense and is highly unoriginal. It’s the visual of an angel taking flight that begs further exploration. Maybe by the third film we will have seen the all-out angel on human war the premise promised. It would take a major miracle for that to happen after this train wreck hits the screens.

It is unclear where the creators of Legion went wrong. Was there once a coherent film that was cut to hell by the editor’s axe? Did they start with a deeply dramatic screenplay and rewrite it into typical American action/horror drek? Does it matter? The finished product is shockingly bad. If countless angles of people firing guns with spent shells clinking to the ground is all your heart yearns for, then Legion may be your ideal Saturday night. Hoping for anything more is an exercise in futility. Spare yourself the agony.

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