“I am saying this is an extermination”: ‘Legion’ Review
Legion, courtesy of co-writer/director Scott Stewart (Priest), mixes action, horror, and supernatural elements into one gloriously entertaining B-movie that never forgets its schlocky sensibilities to have fun.
After the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) falls to Earth and is stripped of his wings, he leads a group of survivors at a New Mexico diner to battle the forces of God led by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand, chewing scenery like nobody’s business). However, aside from protecting humanity against God, Michael is intent on saving the life of Charlie, a waitress at the diner, who carries with her the only chance at saving humanity: a newborn baby.
One of the many enjoyable aspects of Legion is its absolute commitment to going as crazy as you would hope (although sometimes you kind of wish the film would go all the way up to 11) with visuals, apocalyptic scenarios, and battles between legendary angels. Stewart seems to relish coming up with vibrant visuals of creatures descending upon the diner (of course, one of the highlights is a tense scene between an ice cream truck man and the survivors) and creating all sorts of holy hell upon the survivors.
Part of the reason why Legion is a thoroughly entertaining ride is the decision to play the film completely straight – there’s no winking at the camera moments, it is all played as if they are in a genuine drama. Sure, there’s cheesy (believe me, it is cheesy) one-liners and witty back and forth dialogue between the characters but they all deliver their lines completely and utterly straight; it is no joke it has all taken seriously. The fact that Stewart takes the characters and their interactions seriously are part of the charm of all the film and why it is an entertaining B-movie.
The best example of the serious characterization is Paul Bettany’s performance. As Michael, the angel who’s been revoked of every divine privilege and is portrayed as a protector of humanity, Bettany brings gravitas and credibility to the role. However, above all else, he does not think of himself as someone above the material but rather the seriousness of the drama is what allows Bettany to deliver an incredible performance that takes the material seriously but doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The cast itself is pretty amazing; Stewart has surrounded Bettany with a lot of great supporting actors and character actors. Dennis Quaid, Adrianne Palicki, Charles S. Dutton, Kate Walsh, Willa Holland (pre-Arrow), and Kevin Durand all bring great and fun moments to the film. One of the things that Legion has going against it is Stewart’s reliance on excess CGI; while some of it works most of it misses the mark completely. Granted a lot of the film’s intricate visuals could not have been made practically, but the emphasis on CGI is one of the things that make the movie a tad distracting.
Legion might have a couple of dull moments in between scenes (the pacing for it is somewhat muddled, especially after a terrific opening) and feature some unnecessary CGI work but it is still incredibly fun. Thanks to Paul Bettany’s committed performance and some great visuals, Legion is a fun B-movie that manages to entertain and deliver a couple of outstanding action sequences.