There are about five seconds of good movie hidden within Legion, and all five come from a point in the film when It’s a Wonderful Life plays on a diner’s television. The rest is terrible. It leaves me astounded that this film was greenlit given how terribly the screenplay ends up being shown to us, but maybe at one point there was a good idea at work, and it was butchered during the various stages of production.
What audiences end up seeing is a complete disaster on all levels. Legion is a boring action movie containing an overly convoluted, yet surprisingly simple, plot, shot without enough lights and with indifferent actors. Oh, and the special effects are laughable as well. For a movie with a 2010 release date, you don’t expect the CGI to look this terrible, especially when the film has a $26 million budget. But here comes Legion to significantly drop our expectations for other movies. About the only thing that Legion does well is make other movies look better by comparison.
The story kicks off a couple of days before Christmas, and opens with an action scene in which Michael (Paul Bettany) decides to rob a warehouse containing all sorts of weaponry. The police try to stop him, but fail after one of them transforms into … something. We’re not sure at this point, and we’re not supposed to be. We then move to the middle of nowhere and focus on a diner. It’s owned by a father and son duo (Dennis Quaid and Lucas Black, respectively), and there’s also the chef (Charles S. Dutton), and a pregnant waitress (Adrianne Palicki).
Oh, there are more people as well, as a family’s car has broken down, and another person is lost. Despite the film’s attempts, the characters and their names don’t really matter. For the first 30 minutes of Legion, we learn about the relationships between characters, and build suspense. Ominous clouds begin to form in the background, the radio and television stop working, and an old lady (Jeanette Miller) bit a man, walked on the ceiling, and was then killed. Interesting things are afoot, it would seem. Michael then shows up and begins explaining just what’s going on.
It turns out, God has grown tired of humans, and has sent angels down to Earth in order to kill them all. Michael is also an angel, but he’s defying God’s orders and is mounting an offensive against the other angels. The rest can’t come to Earth in their own bodies, and must posses humans, effectively turning them into zombies. Why? Who cares. Maybe it’s so that average angel won’t get its body destroyed by normal human weapons. Anyway, there’s a war coming, and Michael’s the only supernatural on the side of the humans. Also, the pregnant woman’s baby has to survive in order to eventually, one day, lead what’s left of humanity in a revolution of sorts.
So, yes, Legion basically wants to be The Terminator. The problem is that by using basically the same plot point, our minds are reminded of the vastly superior movie. I kept thinking that I would much rather watch The Terminator again instead of sitting through this garbage. In fact, that’s what I advise you to do: Go watch The Terminator again (or for the first time) and forget that Legion even exists. I regret sitting through the entire thing.
Oh, and even if you go into Legion with brain fully turned off and hoping just to see a mindless action film, you still won’t be satisfied. Between every action scene is a fifteen minute segment of attempted character interaction. Of course, you need real characters for it to be effective, but give Legion applause for trying to make us care, even if that effort undermines the action. There’s a war going on, and we spend most of the time sitting around for it to get to this middle-of-nowhere diner. Did God forget that he didn’t have to drop off his minions at the nearest town with more than 100,000 people?
This could be salvaged by an amazing ending, but instead of that, we get a one-on-one fight scene that’s less of a climax and more of a reason to stop watching. Not only is it edited to make sure that we don’t go more than two seconds without a cut, it’s also shot without much light, making sure to hide from us the fact that it wasn’t made with much skill. That holds true for most of the film, as the lights conveniently go out and stay out for the majority of its running time (also, it’s night 24/7, apparently).
When you look at the actors that agreed to this production, you’re surprised. We have names such as Paul Bettany, Tyrese Gibson, Charles S. Dutton, Kate Walsh, Doug Jones, and Dennis Quaid, and yet none of them bring much to the film. All are monotone throughout, except perhaps Jones, who doesn’t get a speaking role. You know that terrible CGI mouth extension character from the trailer? That’s the entirety of Jones’ role in Legion, and also the worst use of special effects in the film. Why they chose to show it in the trailer is beyond me. My best guess is that looking at people sitting around talking in a dark area wouldn’t be all that marketable. It would be more truthfully, however, and I’m all for telling the truth. Since that’s the case, here’s the rotten truth: Legion is awful and you have no reason to watch it.