January 28, 2010


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Legion (R)
Angels battle for the future of humanity in the underwhelming Legion, which is kind of what would happen if John Milton wrote a Paradise Lost offshoot with more fighting, less poetry and an extremely pat ending.

Like, Milton when he needed money to pay for his second divorce and his third stint in rehab. Before his critical comeback and after a string of blockbusters followed by a summer movie season flop.

Angel Michael (Paul Bettany) falls from heaven and sets about gathering an arsenal to prepare for a war that a possessed police officer expositions to us is coming. I’ll spare you the achingly slow plot build-up: God’s all cheesed at humanity and has decided to destroy us with angels. Angels that appear in the form of possessed humans with superpowers and the ability to be flexible in really creepy ways. Key to their plot, for reasons that don’t make sense and are never really explained, is killing the unborn child of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), an unmarried waitress at a truck stop out in the California desert who can’t kick the smoking habit even though she’s in her eighth month.

But Angel Michael isn’t going to let that happen (due to reasons laid out in long boring speeches that basically amount to “if I don’t protect the baby, this movie has no plot”) and all the customers who happen to be in the diner when the warring angels show up (these being basically killable characters played by Charles S. Dutton,Kate Walsh, Dennis Quaid, Willa Holland and Tyrese Gibson) are drafted into helping the angel protect our not-virgin Mary. Leading the protection brigade is Jeep (Lucas Black), the boy who adores Charlie and works at the truck stop’s garage.

We go through phone and electricity outages, a sudden (and suddenly gone) swarm of insects and then the appearance of the creepy angels — kind of a weak apocalypse, if you ask me. Whatever happened in The Road and The Book of Eli seemed much more humanity-endangering than this extinction-via-angels plan. Even the biblical world-ending disaster in 2012 seems more appropriate to an angry God then the kind of hand-to-hand combat required by this army-of-angels scenario.

I wanted the heavenly battle to be more epic — particularly when the God-defying Michael spars with the gung-ho Angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand). I wanted big campy war-with-Godness, cheesily cribbed Milton and cartoony riffs on Bible tales. Instead we get a half-hearted retelling of the Jesus story and visuals that seem stolen from the Keanu Reeves movie Constantine. C

Rated R for strong bloody violence and language. Directed by Scott Stewart and written Peter Schink and Scott Stewart, Legion is an hour and 44 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Sony Pictures.