From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Legion: Get Thee Behind Me

Anyone who saw the preview for Legion knew it was going to be terrible. Sadly, a percentage of those people probably thought it would be terrible in an entertaining way. Those people will go see this movie, and lo, how greatly shall they be disappointed.

A grinding gunfest, ridiculous and dull by turns, Legion is the sort of movie that makes you wonder how no one involved raised a hand at some point and said, “So…is this really what we’re going to go with?”

The setup has the standard pulp appeal: a ragtag trapped at the edge of the desert must face the apocalypse. (If it’s good enough for Stephen King, right?) Unfortunately, a script cobbled together from Audition Monologues for Beginners, uninspired graphics, and an unrelenting self-seriousness manage to suck away any sense of fun, leaving the movie in a quality-free vacuum of its own making.

After a hamfisted introductory voiceover involving nighttime stories of a prophecy of the end of the world (Baptists, I guess), we meet fallen angel Michael, played by Paul Bettany, who I sincerely hope lost a bet to the director. Not to say that he doesn’t do his best throughout — during his flashback conversation with Gabriel in a Heaven that looks suspiciously like Minas Tirith, he’s acting so hard you can practically hear his features emoting — but rarely have I seen an actor struggle so hard in what he had to know was a losing battle. Those who get vicariously embarrassed, steer clear.

…GET IT?

…GET IT?

Meanwhile, in Paradise Falls Diner (not a joke, it’s a literal neon sign fifteen feet high) we’re introduced in short order to the dimwitted mechanic, his burnout father, the faithful fry cook, the snotty urbanities (they wear tailored clothes!) and their rebellious daughter, the faux-gangster, and the pregnant waitress. If you haven’t started placing bets as to who dies in what order, then you have never seen a movie before.

And here the movie effectively ends. The bizarrely-vampiric-looking angel-infested extras that rush the diner, the depleting ammunition, the picking-off of the supporting cast are so rote and handled so poorly that they don’t merit the time it takes to watch them unfold.

(Times a malfunctioning piece of weaponry works just after a fatalistic one-liner: two.

Characters unable to recognize traps that badgers would know to avoid: two.

Times a character’s parents delivered long and shockingly-applicable lessons for them to monologue about later: two.

Characters of color who sacrifice themselves to rescue white characters: two.

Times a character is not dead as previously supposed: two.

Innocuous extra turning suddenly evil: two.

Main characters who survive: two.)

Beyond these halfhearted excuses for gunfire, the movie attempts to distinguish itself in the religious-horror genre by presenting the “vague and unexplained return of Christ” theme, complete with woman whose value consists entirely of her pregnancy, and a Monologue 101 about her inability to go through with a planned abortion, which means that the bearing of an unwanted child was (surprise, surprise) the single action that saved the world from annihilation. (Why this would soothe God’s wrath is never explained, nor does it seem to work in practice.)

If this text had been delivered with any forethought, the message would be suspect at best and disgusting at worst; however, in a movie where avenging angels’ greatest weapons are Final Fantasy maces and bulletproof wings that work by spinning fast enough to deflect bullets, I think it’s safe to say that forethought is something of which this movie cannot be accused.

Rare is the movie that makes you think, “Man, Constantine did it so much better,” but here Legion does, at last, succeed.

Genevieve Valentine’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Federations, and more. She is a columnist at Tor.com and Fantasy Magazine. Her first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is forthcoming in 2011. Her appetite for bad movies is insatiable, a tragedy she tracks on her blog.

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