What could bring about the end of the world? According to Hollywood, the sky’s the limit. It could be a meteor (“Armageddon”) or a comet (“Deep Impact”) crashing into us, the earth’s core heating up (“2012”), our sun going out (“Sunshine”), nuclear or atomic war (“The Road” and “The Book of Eli”), a virus (“The Happening” and “I Am Legend”), the undead rising from their graves (“Dawn of the Dead”), an alien invasion (“War of the Worlds”), technology turning against us (“Terminator”) or, in the case of “Legion,” God getting tired of our “bullshit” and sending down a flock of angels to finish us off.
“Legion” begins with the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) falling to earth in the rain. With a curved blade that is inscribed with angelic language, he chops off his wings. After sewing up his back, he steals two bags full of guns and a police car and heads for Paradise Falls, a desolate desert town that, if you blinked, you would miss it as you zoomed by on the highway. Before he arrives, though, the proverbial shit has already hit the fan in a diner, where a group of eight people are assembled. Bob (Dennis Quaid), the owner of the diner, is trying to fix the TV. Percy (Charles S. Dutton), the cook, is preparing food. Jeep (Lucas Black), a mechanic and the owner’s son, is pining over Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), the diner’s 8-month pregnant waitress. She is taking orders and serving food to customers, including gun toting Kyle (Tyrese Gibson), and a stranded, affluent couple Howard (Jon Tenney) and Sandra (Kate Walsh) and their teen-aged daughter, Audrey (Willa Holland). The “shit” arrives in the form of an elderly woman on a walker. Sweetly, she smiles to everyone and orders her meal – a rare, very bloody, steak. As she waits for it, she engages in small talk. Everything seems normal until she begins chuckling about “babies burning,” her eyes turn black, and she scurries up the walls and onto the ceiling. Unfortunately, for the diner inhabitants, this shark-toothed woman is the least of their worries. The film is, after all, titled “Legion,” which in its noun form means “multitude” or “army.” The angels are on the way.
Although it might seem as if I’ve spoiled the entire plot for you in my summary, there isn’t anything mentioned here that you won’t see in the trailer. And that was one reason for my disappointment. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the best parts of the film. Well, almost. It doesn’t contain Kevin Durand’s entire performance as Gabriel, the obedient-to-a-fault archangel who wields a metal barbed club, flies, and spins with his wings closed so as to deflect bullets. His 10 to 15 minutes of screen time is worth the price of admission alone. I only wish the director, Scott Stewart, could learn how to film a fight sequence so that we could actually tell what was going on.
The first 20 minutes of “Legion” are tense, creepy and suspenseful. Sadly, the rest of the film doesn’t sustain this tone. This is probably due to the fact that it didn’t offer anything new to the “angels are pissed and taking it out on us” films, such as “The Prophecy,” or the end-of-the-world-is-coming-so-look-for-the-flawed-woman-who-is-pregnant-because-she’s-giving-birth-to-the-savior films, such as “The Seventh Sign.” My biggest gripe wasn’t the lack of character development, the incessant barrage of bullets stopped only by inane conversations, or the lackluster and zombified performance by Bettany, who is looking fabulous by the way. No, I am still a bit miffed that a film that promises us a legion of really angry angels only delivered a group of possessed humans who were easily mowed down by automatic weapons. I’m still waiting for Hollywood to give us a film populated with kung fu fighting, cudgel swinging, and, perhaps, katana slicing angels. What could be cooler than that?