Angels. We’ve seen them help a struggling ball club “win the big game” (Angels in the Outfield); we’ve watched them guide loveable losers out of the depths of despair (It’s a Wonderful Life); we’ve even seen them give up their angelic abilities for the sake of love with a mere mortal (Wings of Desire/City of Angels…take your pick). We’ve seen angels do a lot of things in movies, but I can’t, for the life of me, recall having ever seen an angel fire an RPG into the side of a logging vehicle or bust caps John Woo style whilst delivering sweet reverse roundhouse kicks upside the heads of an army of possessed humans hellbent on killing the messiah. Thanks to Legion, I have lived to see the dream.
The film opens with the archangel, Michael (Paul Bettany), descending from the heavens, cutting off his own wings, and breaking into an illegal firearms warehouse (disguised as a toy shop) to gear up with enough guns and ammo to…well…fill an issue of Guns and Ammo. Apparently not a proponent of stealth tactics, Michael blows a (cross-shaped) hole in the front of the building, attracting not only police attention, but also that of forces of God; the very God whose orders Michael has chosen to disobey. One of the cops becomes possessed and warns Michael about the consequences of his transgressions. Michael answers with two bullets to the dome, and speeds off in the police cruiser, destination: sacrilege!
Meanwhile, at a remote roadside diner in the New Mexico desert, we meet Charlie (Adrienne Palicki), a young pregnant waitress mere weeks away from delivering her unwanted child into the arms of an adoptive family. While Charlie wants nothing more than to get this baby out of her and move on with her life, her “friend”, Jeep (Lucas Black), wants to finally tell Charlie how he really feels about her, and offer to help her raise the child together. Jeep’s been feeling especially protective of Charlie’s unborn child, lately, and Jeep’s father, Bob (Dennis Quaid), is concerned about his son’s unrequited love for the loose-moraled Charlie. Bob knows a thing or two about broken hearts sacrifices, and he’ll be damned if he sees his son waste his life in this godforsaken desert on account of either of those things.
While Bob has a heart-to-heart with Jeep outside, Charlie waits on one of the diner’s few customers – a seemingly sweet elderly woman who transforms into a ceiling scrambling demon-bitch. The old woman tells Charlie that her baby is going to die, and, as she makes her move, she’s gunned down by Kyle (Tyrese Gibson), a single father passing through on his way to a custody hearing in Los Angeles. One of the diner’s customers is injured in the attack, and Kyle, along with Bob’s best friend, Percy (Charles S. Dutton), attempts to rush him to the nearest hospital (80 miles away!). Their trip is cut short, however, as a swarm of flies descends upon them, forcing them to return to the diner where Michael, has finally arrived, with his arsenal in tow. Now, with Heaven’s former general as their leader, this ragtag group of misfits must fight off an endless siege of possessed souls, and protect Charlie’s unborn child from a vengeful God who has given up on humanity.
Legion is a flawed but fun popcorn flick that won’t win over the Da Vinci Code crowd, but will prove an entertaining enough distraction for fans of rat-a-tat-boom-style action flicks and pulpy horror/fantasy. It’s a gorgeous looking film, with breathtaking cinematography (by John Lindley), solid special effects, and mostly competent performances from an impressive roster of talent that also includes Kate Walsh, Willa Holland, and Kevin Durand as the archangel, Gabriel. All of this is undermined, however, by a plot laden with so many holes you could strain pasta through it (why does Michael cut off his wings seeing as how he never makes a secret of being an angel? Why did he land in Los Angeles anyway? Don’t they have guns in New Mexico? Speaking of guns, where did Michael get his arms training seeing as how all of the other angels wield knives and maces? Where did he learn to drive?), and dialogue that alternates between groan-inducingly macho and saccharine sentimental. Thankfully, the action speaks louder than words for much of Legion’s 100 minute running time, making for an agreeable if not wholly unnecessary diversion.
Sony descends from the heavens and unleashes Legion onto Blu-ray with a visually scrumptious 2.40:1 1080p print. The level of fine detail is apparent early on when we are first introduced to Michael, and we get a close-up look at the myriad tattoos/symbols that cover his body, and the same holds true in later scenes, with exceptional levels of detail evident in the faces, fabrics, and textures. As much of the action occurs at night, I paid especially close attention to the black levels, and they remained consistent throughout, with a nice balance struck between the deep velvety hues of night and the gloomy, candlelit interior of the diner. It’s a really fantastic transfer, and it’s complimented by an equally impressive 5.1 DTS HD audio mix.
Bonus features include the PiP commentary track, Bringing Angels to Earth, which features director, Scott Stewart and several cast and crew members dissecting the film with the assistance of some behind-the-scenes snippets and making-of footage. It’s not a traditional commentary track, but it proved informative and made up for the lack of a truly in-depth making-of featurette.
Other extras include a pair of EPK style featurettes; Creating the Apocalypse (HD) and Humanity's Last Line of Defense (HD) , as well as a short special FX-focused piece entitled From Pixels to Picture. Rounding out the extras are several trailers for other Sony releases.
Take a peek at some of the bonus features here, here, and here!
I had a lot of problems with Legion, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sorta enjoy most of it. The action sequences are top-notch, and the special effects, especially the depiction of titular legions massing around the diner, are haunting and effective. Sadly, the film takes itself a bit too seriously - a huge detriment given the ludicrous nature of the plot – and gets bogged down by all of the theological hoodoo and sanctimonious claptrap. Still, as Saturday night and a six-pack entertainment goes, Legion proves to be a bit of harmless, brainless fun, even though it’s obvious that it aspired to be so much more.