Imagine The Terminator if you were substitute “heaven” for “the future” and you’d have a good idea of what this movie is about, right down to a mother offering a philosophical closing narration (okay, that’s Terminator II, but still…). Oh, and maybe drop the quality expectations a bit.
Okay, quite a bit.
The movie opens with our lead character, the Archangel Michael, removing his wings, his little angel collar and taking lots of guns before blowing a cross-shaped hole in some doors and leaving. That about sets the tone for the movie. Why couldn’t he just unlock the door and leave like a normal human being? I don’t know. How did he manage to blow a perfect cross-shaped hole in the door? I don’t know. All I know is that Paul Bettany took the role because it might be the last time he got a chance to play a machine-gun-weilding version of the Archangel Michael – which is good enough for me.
The basic premise of the movie is that God has finally lost his patience with us. Why now, you might ask? Why not during the Holocaust or the Great War? I don’t know. You’ll notice that’s going to be a trend in this review. So, God has decided to end our existence. Thus creates the first major flaw in the film – and it’s a pretty big one.
There’s a reason that movies typically use Satan or the Devil or even another fallen angel in this sort of scenario. The reason that other movies opt to use these other theological references is because you can justify the fact that they are invading or conquering by reference to God – because, in any branch of Christianity, God calls all the shots. You know the standard plot device used to explain why human characters ever have a chance in these sorts of stories – Satan has to move subtly and through human means because if he uses anything resembling divine power, God will cop on and land the fallen one in a divine bureaucratic nightmare. So Satan plays on Earth by rules which resemble our own.
If a movie asks us to accept the existence of a Judeo-Christian God, it can’t really rely on a plot like this. The movie centres on the idea that – if God wanted to destroy the world – He would lay siege to it. I’m not God (who is traditionally all-powerful and capable of greater reason than us), but if I want to end mankind, I can think of several ways to do it that don’t involve laying siege to a small-town dinner and biblical plagues. The plagues were an attempt to “reason” with Egypt, but if God really wanted to destroy humanity he could:
- throw an asteroid at us; or
- change the laws of physics so the universe explodes; or
- click His fingers and crush the entire planet; or
- anything else, really
Sure, it’s totally “kewl” and “radical” for a movie to present God as a bad guy, but you need to think about basic plot functions.
Still, there is one exchange which almost excuses this rather fundamental plotting problem. “I don’t believe in God,” one character observes. “That’s okay, Bob,” Michael explains, “he doesn’t believe in you either.” In fact, that one exchange is the wittiest thing in the entire film and might have excused maybe one big plot hole of somebody’s choosing. However, there are so many plot holes lying around I’m surprised that the cast don’t get lost in them.
For example, consider Archangel Gabriel’s weapon of choice – his mace. My brother described it as “a Swiss Army Mace”, because it seems like it’s literally able to everything – it even has extensions and chainsaw functions. However, why does the Archangel Gabriel need a switch to activate it? These angels are shown to be able to take possession of people, to give people boils and to command armies of flies, but he needs a switch on his freakin’ mace?
All of this might be excusable if the movie could manage its tone, but it veers between camp and serious far too often (to the point where you aren’t even sure the camp is intentional). Possessed children should be scary, but I was laughing in my seat as a kid’s voice dropped like four octaves to say “You’re gonna die now.” Gabriel threatens Michael that “the dogs of heaven will be unleashed?” Really, dogs? I know doves aren’t exactly badass and threatening, but maybe hawks? Because I’m fairly sure the “dogs of heaven” would just fall to their death.
And then there’s the relationship that Gabriel and Michael have with God. Seriously, they talk about Him, the divine creator of all things, like He’s their girlfriend. “How dare you presume to know his heart?” Gabriel demands, getting all pouty. “Because he made this one,” Michael explains. You just know Michael’s got a stash of emo poetry he writes. Later on, Gabriel is mildly ticked when God chooses to restore Michael. What does Mike have that Gabe doesn’t? “You gave Him what He asked for. I gave Him what He needed.” Michael might as well have just said, “He’s with me now.”
Despite all this, the movie does have some good points. The most obvious is Paul Bettany, who never descends to self-mockery, but plays the role with such earnestness that you know he probably suspected the film wasn’t too hot. I like Kevin Durand, to the point where I kinda felt sorry for Gabriel. Here’s a guy, just doing his job without the gift of free will, and he gets stabbed, blown up and thrown through a windshield for his trouble. I really hope he got to kick back with a cold one that evening. Plus it’s always good to see Charles S. Dutton, even in a small role in a crap film. That man can really throw a frying pan.
Legion is not a good film. It’s one that struggles with its core premise, and can’t manage its own pace or tone. There are elements of the film that work, but they are far outweighed by those which don’t. Sadly, as exciting as “Paul Bettany as a gun-toting angel” might sound, the movie can’t quite deliver.
Filed under: Non-Review Reviews Tagged: | Archangel Michael, Charles S. Dutton, film, Gabriel, god, Kevin Durand, legion, legion (film), Michael (archangel), Movie, non-review review, paul bettany, review, Satan