Angels are awesome! Not wussy angels like Nicolas Cage in City Of Angels, but real kick-ass angels like Christopher Walken in Prophecy, or, errr, other macho angels.
So, when presented with Legion, a film in which a gun-toting Michael the Archangel drops down to Earth to protect us from an army of evil, it can only be a good thing.
Michael (Paul Bettany) has come to Earth because God isn’t happy with the way that mankind is going about its life. Sporting an incredibly tattooed physique and a distinct lack of wings, Michael secures a cache of weapons to fight against a demonic evil and protect an unborn child.
A bunch of characters are introduced at the conveniently named Paradise Falls Diner: loyal, if somewhat low on brain cells Jeep (Lucas Black), pregnant Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), diner owner and Jeep’s father Bob (Dennis Quaid), a chef with one hand (Charles Dutton), lost driver Kyle (Tyrese Gibson), the Andersons -Audrey the tarty daughter (Willa Holland), Sandra the uptight mother (Kate Walsh), Howard the uptight father (Jon Tenney.)
We’re rapidly given backstory for each of these characters, showing how they get on and the tensions that exist between them. Jeep and Bob are confrontational over Charlie’s reliance on Jeep (who isn’t the father). Audrey likes the look of Kyle despite her parents’ disapproval of her lifestyle, whilst Kyle likes the look of Charlie. Somewhere along the line, it turns out that Jeep has been dreaming incredibly dark dreams about Charlie. That’s the character development over and done with.
Things really heat up when an old lady arrives at the diner being all lovely and gentle, even when she’s providing some rather mocking prophecies. Within moments, the first death happens and chaos begins.
Thankfully, Michael arrives to explain things. He dishes firearms out to the occupants of the diner and briefs them on the challenges they will face (rather cryptically) and the nature of his mission: God has ordered the extermination of mankind. There’s consternation and confusion, but slowly people are convinced that Michael is the real deal.
From an initial attack of the weak-minded through to the arrival of Gabriel, things heat up with attack after attack, leading to a confrontation that will decide the fate of mankind and leave a trail of devastation in its wake.
Bettany and Black carry the film through the drudgery of poor scriptwriting. With Bettany’s performance, I found myself reminded of Julian Sands in Warlock: The Armageddon, with the difference being that it was actually good. His clipped dialogue ripples with malice and meaning.
Black gets the meat of the script on the human side, as his character acts as protector and confronts some personal demons. Quaid should be given credit for handling some particularly dire dialogue with style.
The script, by Peter Schink and director Scott Stewart, isn’t without interesting ideas and moments, nor does it lack humour. It’s just a bit plodding, complicated, dialogue-heavy and dull, with interesting bits few and far between. The dialogue for most of the characters comes across as soap opera quality, with each character explaining their background far too often. As if that isn’t bad enough, there are moments where things don’t make much sense at all, and these aren’t moments where there are explosions, violence and death!
There’s plenty of stuff to look at as the siege on the diner increases. Particularly spectacular are the various explosions and interesting creatures that lay waste to the diner. Gabriel looks like a kick-ass member of God’s army, complete with huge black wings, whilst the possessed lumber along like characters from Romero’s films. Sadly, despite a rather violent build up, the final confrontation is all too short, with a blatant hope of a sequel.
It’s not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just a jumbled film that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It goes from Terminator-esque action to pondering biblical issues and there are moments when it lapses into pure cheese followed by moments where it has poignancy.
Overall, it just feels messy, as there’s just too much of everything in too short a running time.
With audio available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, both soundtracks really come into their own during the many attack sequences. There are times when your surround sound will be working overtime, including an annoying moment where a high pitched tone is played from far too many speakers for far too long. Turn it up as high as you can because it’s definitely worth it.
The picture quality is pretty darned good too. It doesn’t appear to suffer from any artefacts or imperfections, remaining sharp and detailed throughout, especially considering how dark things look. The outdoor night sequences are as black as, well, night, whilst the explosions and use of lighting look impressive. As for bitrate, you’re looking at in excess of 27Mbps for most of the film.
MovieIQ is available to those with BD-Live, providing details on scenes, music and actors. It’s a bit like having the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia to hand throughout the film.
Bringing Angels To Earth offers picture-in-picture commentary on the film, with Scott Stewart and the cast and crew. It covers the creation of the film, special effects and the challenges of filming in New Mexico. Stewart often describes what’s happening in the film, but does provide some wonderful titbits of information, especially when he’s talking about the difficulties of making an angel movie. The cast seem to have had a pretty good time and bonded well. Picture-in-picture is well used when they are comparing the shooting to the actual end result, including shots of special effects work.
Creating The Apocalypse features cast and crew talking about the making of the film and uses behind-the-scenes footage to show how different effects were put together. Some of aspects are available through picture-in-picture commentary, but it’s still worth watching, even if it runs for a paltry 23 minutes.
Humanities Last Line Of Defence is about the human characters in the film and the actors that played them. Various cast members talk about why they got involved. All of them seem to have been excited about the project and fed off each other. It’s a bit short at 11 minutes, but is moderately interesting.
From Pictures To Pixels looks at the CGI and visual effects work on the film and the process of building the layers for individual scenes. Again, it’s too short at 10 minutes, especially considering the amount of visual effects in Legion.
Designing Paradise Falls is a 16 minute featurette on the construction of the diner, which turns out to be a wood fabrication specifically for the film on a sound stage and on location. The benefit of this is, of course, they could build in the best places to shoot from. It is a surprisingly interesting feature as it is one of the things you don’t really pay much attention to in the film. Watching this makes you appreciate the work that they did.
Designed For Action: Blueprint Of A Scene is a ten minute feature that looks at the scene where Kyle tries to rescue a family in the 4×4 and the challenges of the set design and filming.
Trailers are a random collection of trailers including a Blu-ray promotional advert, trailers for Armored (heist movie), District 9 (action movie), Zombieland (comedy), 2012 (disaster [on two levels] movie), and The Boondock Saints II (Irish gangster movie). Told you they were random!
The various featurettes could have benefited from a Play All feature, if only to make it feel like a longer feature. It’s hit-and-miss as to how interesting the individual features are, with some repetition with the picture-in-picture commentary and within the features themselves.
Legion is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.