Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Adrianne Palicki, Charles S. Dutton, Lucas Black
Scott Stewart, Peter Schink
Helmed by first-time director Scott Stewart, co-founder of f/x company The Orphanage, "Legion" kicks off in fine fashion before quickly collapsing under the weight of its own heavenly aspirations and just plain silliness.
Taking place in the rather isolated town of Paradise Falls, "Legion" starts off with an archangel named Michael (Paul Bettany) landing smack dab in the middle of urban Los Angeles, shedding his massive wings and getting fully armed and ready for all out war. Acting as an advocate for pretty much all of humanity, Michael rebels against God's plan to wipe out all of humanity after tiring of the rampant sinlessness. Michael seems to think God's just having a bad day and will likely change his/her mind, while another archangel, Gabriel (Kevin Durand), is all ready to go whoop ass on the universe.
Convinced that all the world needs is another savior, seemingly to be personified in the unborn child of a non-virginal waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), Michael heads to Paradise Falls and the diner where Charlie is holed up against increasingly weird occurrences with the likes of the moody cafe owner Bob (Dennis Quaid), cook Percy (Charles S. Dutton), Bob's son Jeep (Lucas Black), a family whose car broke down (Kate Walsh and Jon Tenney) with their daughter (Willa Holland) and a mysterious stranger (Tyrese Gibson).
The film's best scenes are in its opening minutes, including a rather delightful segment involving a not so dear grandmotherly type and the aforementioned Michael sequences. Unfortunately, once these scenes are played out "Legion" becomes a film that doesn't seem to know what it wants to accomplish as Stewart, who co-wrote the script with Peter Schink, transitions back and forth between hardcore f/x scenes and surprisingly heartfelt dialogue scenes that would indicate "Legion" could have become a far better film if Stewart had allowed his cast to accomplish what they could accomplish.
The "wrath of God" scenes, in which the diner is repeatedly the recipient of angelic and otherworldly onslaughts, are rather awesome to behold technically but repetitive and, at times, laughably manifested. The climactic scenes between Michael and Gabriel are particularly campy in nature, not necessarily a bad thing but it really doesn't fit what Stewart has given us preceding it.
The selling points of "Legion," beyond the inevitable intrigue that always seems to accompany any interpretation of the wrath of God, would be the performances of the cast, most of whom make "Legion" feel like a much better film.
Bettany, a vastly underrated actor, clearly transcends the material here in turning Michael into a sort of kick ass yet sincere divinely inspired superhero, while Palicki shines as the beautiful waitress who tries to cope with the knowledge that she may be carrying the next Messiah while the wrath of God is flying all around her. Charles S. Dutton serves up his usual grounded performance, and while Dennis Quaid and Lucas Black go a bit over the top at times they generally do fine in the dialogue heavy scenes.
As could be expected given Stewart's f/x background, tech credits are solid across the board, though the staging of certain fight sequences is a bit muddled and could have been choreographed with greater clarity.
Neither as awful as one might expect given the film's disappointing trailers nor as good as it should have been, "Legion" starts off heavenly then quickly falls to ground. Unfortunately, in the end, cinematic salvation is nowhere to be found.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic