Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Trial By Reaction

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a film from the calibre of its audience. The trailer for Legion suggested it would be nothing more than utterly ludicrous entertaining trash, hilarious for all the wrong reasons, but my admiration for the audacity of a bold plot premise surely set to rile up religious folk and my monthly Cineworld membership drew me to Wood Green’s finest cinema – seriously understaffed as always with frustratingly enormous queues (frequently resulting in the panic setting in as I fear missing the film’s start) and home of the permanently broken elevator and staff with the slowest reaction times I have ever seen.

Easing into my seat, as the film is about to start, I get a whiff of urine that becomes more potent throughout the film and seems to be emanating from the people seated in front. Throughout the film ‘movie lovers’ talk loudly to each other, the people behind launch missiles and a constant flow of viewers trickle in and out of the screen buying more snacks or announcing to the rest of us their need for a toilet break. Clearly Legion was a film they were desperate to watch and had successfully captured their imaginations and attention.

Sick of all mankind’s “bullshit” a traditionally merciful God implements mass extermination, instructing his angels to possess humans and pit themselves against each other. Michael (Paul Bettany), an angel and general in God’s army, is given an order he does not believe in and becomes “the rebellious son”, going down to earth to save mankind, voluntarily cutting his wings off and boldly declaring: “He lost faith, I didn’t.”

Meanwhile, on their way to Scottsdale the Anderson family’s car breaks down and they wind up in a New Mexico desert diner where waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), works. Eight months pregnant, Charlie nearly aborted her baby and still smokes heavily. Simpleton Jeep (Lucas Black), the diner owner’s son (Dennis Quaid as Bob Hanson) dotes on Charlie and will do anything to protect her.

Queue Gladys Foster, affectionately named “Grandma”, a seemingly nice old lady who walks with a zimmer frame and beams at the diner customers, delightedly announcing: “It will all be over soon… I said your fucking baby is going to burn. All those little babies are going to burn. You are all going to fucking die.” A foul-mouth is not all Gladys has as she hungrily bites Howard Anderson before spider-pigging it along the ceiling slack-jawed with her shark teeth on display.

The gang are fearful and confused; the TV, radio and phone are down and dust clouds seen in the distance are in fact huge insect swarms - “a mother-fucking pestilence” preventing their escape.

Just as chef, Percy (Charles S. Dutton) announces, “I’m going to get my bible – somebody’s got to start praying,” the mysterious Michael shows up to explain the apocalypse is upon them and that the birth of Charlie’s baby is the only hope for humanity.

With the eerie sound of an ice cream van approaching, they prepare for battle, lock all doors and barricade themselves in. The rest of Legion sees the diner gang fight “malicious gatherings” with one wave of the Pac Man jawed spider-like possessed testing their strength followed by a second test of weakness by an onslaught of cars containing juddering people shaking demonically, possessed like characters paused in a computer game.

Legion turns into a race against time for Charlie to give birth to the redeemer and re-write the future. A good old circular ending with the same voice-over story (“When I was a little girl…”) juxtaposed with the heroes driving off in a car full of ammo rounds off a pretty abysmal hour and forty.

The script is liberally peppered with appalling one liners - far too many to catalogue as either Michael spouts inspirational macho talk (“He can handle it, he doesn’t have a choice.”), Charlie muses nonsensically (“This can’t be happening to me, I’m a waitress. I do not even own a car.”), Percy makes supposedly clever observations (“Those people aren’t exactly our regular customers.”) and the intentionally sinister Gabriel (Kevin Durand) with his metal wings and laughably gruff Terminator voice, sternly announces: “You wanted to live like one of them but now you will die like one of them.”

Set to cheesy angelic sounding music, much of the final fight between Gabriel and Michael as they grapple with each other, looks more like a gay love scene than mortal combat; Charlie’s labour is conveniently speedy and the miraculous survival of the baby after a severe car crash with no booster seat, carrier or seat belt is entirely implausible.

Legion is Scott Stewart’s second outing as Director - his background is in visual effects so where Legion fails miserably to satisfy in script and plot, it certainly doesn’t in vision. Sadly, looking pretty isn’t enough to save Legion from its consistently poor characterisation and dialogue, making it nothing more than something to laugh at.

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