Well, as more than one critic points out, it is January, a bleak wasteland in the movie release schedule. Nonetheless, I had higher expectations for Legion, a “The Apocalypse Cometh!” flick which I’d been excited about since first seeing the previews.
For the record, I have something of a soft spot for movies (usually violent ones) about the wars in the heavens. There’s something intriguing to me about how the angels, shunned middle children of God’s creation, react to their human brethren winning the place of favour over them. Or maybe I just like seeing people reminded that angels are first and foremost soldiers, not harp-playing cartoon cherubs. I don’t really know, but I do know that movies like The Prophecy fulfill my need for both myth and violence, and I was so very eager to see Legion step up to the task.
It did, sort of.
I can’t fault the cast. This is a star-studded bill, despite the minimal advertising going on. I suppose I could have seen Paul Bettany‘s being cast in the lead as a warning — I love him, but he does seem to swing between movies that delight me and flicks which completely suck — but I remained optimistic. Everyone in the movie was fine, the characters were realistic, if not overly engaging. I’m not as harsh as The Boy, who stated that not a single hero was likeable; I was happy to side with the somewhat sheeply knight in shining armour, and found enough to like in the knocked-up heroine to go along with the story.
Where I felt let down was with the parts of the story that the film chose to fill in (with talking, and lots of it) versus the parts they chose (apparently) to leave to the viewer’s imagination.
The basic plot is understandable: God has tired of his creation, and has given the order for the angels to clear the slate. Michael, lucky for us, has chosen to throw his lot in with the humans, take a stand, and fight. There’s going to be blood, and the time is now. Great. This is the kind of premise upon which epic movies are built.
What epic movies have that Legion lacks, however, is myth to drive the characters that extra mile, to bring out in humans those precious qualities that make us worth saving. In the breaks in the action, the movie pans through the people shoring up against the hordes attacking them, and we see the typical slice of humanity we expect Hollywood to throw at us: an atheist, a faithful Christian, a “criminal” on the surface who’s a good person at heart, a crazed mom just looking out for her family. We see the hero and heroine go through the normal “I’m not strong enough! I didn’t ask for this!/Well this is it whether you like it or not! You are stronger than you think, now suck it up!” bickering we expect and we move slowly into a reasonably good fight scene towards the end.
In all, it’s structured the way it should be, and should have been entertaining, and yet… it feels hollow. I walked out of the theatre knowing why all the humans involved took the stand. I know what they were thinking as they faced death, I know what they vowed to themselves in their moments of truth. I didn’t need the movie to know that though: if there’s a blank in a movie that I can fill in on my own, it’s human motivation.
What I was missing is the divine side of the story. What did God think about what was going on? Michael’s old comrades in arms? Michael himself? The movie, for all its chattiness, did nothing further than point out the issue: no time or dialogue at all was devoted to really telling the viewer what was in it for Heaven, as it were, or balance any of the passion in the humans with the divine love (or lack thereof) of the angels.
I can accept that in the cosmic scheme of things, human lives are not that important. So if the whole premise of the movie is that, in fact, we are that important, shouldn’t we be given more than a dry two-line statement as to why?
Old system: 4/9