In the supernatural action thriller Legion, an out-of-the-way diner becomes the unlikely battleground for the survival of the human race.
When God loses faith in Mankind, he sends his legion of angels to bring on the Apocalypse. Humanity's only hope lies in a group of strangers trapped in a desert diner and the Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany).
Movies like 'Legion,' those middle-of-the-road, would-be crowd pleasers that seem built upon the filmmakers' idea that if they create moments, characters, and creatures that remind you of other, better movies that you've previously enjoyed, then you'll also enjoy this crappy movie, really rub me the wrong way. Maybe the biggest reason for my irritation with these movies (and I'd count the three 'Underworld' films in their ranks) is because I always get suckered into thinking I'm going to enjoy them.
I walk into the local multiplex, see a poster with an angel brandishing a machine gun and I'm supposed to NOT go see this movie? Fat chance. It's the cinematic equivalent of the Big Mac: irresistible and oh-so-bad for you.
'Legion' makes its "homage" (although I'd say it's more "fromage") well known from the beginning of the film, with its contemplative shots of wind blowing across an open desert vista and tough-as-nails female voiceover. It wants to say to you, "This movie is very much like 'The Terminator.' Please enjoy." This point is hammered home when a mysterious stranger, in this case a tattooed angel (Paul Bettany), arrives in an urban location and takes out a bunch of goons. In a flourish reminiscent of that wriggly head motion that happens right before someone in 'The Matrix' is taken over by an agent, Bettany faces off against a couple of cops that have turned into vicious angels or demons or something. Get Robert Langdon on the line!
Um, anyway, after our initial introduction to Michael the bad-ass, heat-packing angel, we're introduced to our central set of characters, in a dusty old diner/gas station in the middle of the New Mexico desert. These characters are supposed to represent a "cross section of American life" as envisioned by genre filmmakers, but each are so one-note and cartoonish that they don't even feel like real characters (nor do they utter any dialogue that sounds even remotely human). There's Tyrese Gibson as the troubled young man who has had a run-in with the law; Charls S. Dutton as a one-handed cook (yes, seriously – he has a damn hook); Dennis Quaid as the down-on-his-luck owner of the store; Lucas Black as Quaid's son, a gullible mechanic; and Kate Walsh as a woman stuck at the diner with her bland husband (Jon Tenney) and even blander teenage daughter (Willa Holland).
Angelic Michael comes a-callin', with the info that young, unwed Adrianne Palicki is pregnant with the savior of mankind. (The reasons for this are never truly explained nor is it revealed how, exactly, this mystery child is supposed to deliver humanity from the grasp of evil.) For reasons entirely arcane, God wants to kill this woman and child and so sends hordes of people, possessed with angels (see that nice twist) to dispatch with her and anyone else unlucky enough to be stranded at this diner. It's the end of the world as we know it, and I could give a damn.
The movie is a ponderous, unfunny mess. If anyone was having a good time making this movie, then it isn't apparent in the finished film. While things occasionally take on an unintended camp frivolity (like when another agent, played by 'Lost's Kevin Durand, comes to the diner to rumble), most of the movie is just an uneven slog. 'Legion' is a disastrous combination of horror, fantasy, and action movie elements that all amount to shockingly little. Even the above-average cast, especially for a movie like this, can't enliven it at all. The director, Scott Stewart, is a former visual effects guy who seems to only have a cursory understanding of how movies are put together. Scenes begin and end with no rhythm, camera angles are chosen with little regard as to how they'll be seen by an audience, and the entire thing reeks of amateur hour theatricality. 'Legion' is the regional theater version of something like 'Drag Me to Hell:' all flash and pop without any real talent.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The disc automatically plays, followed by trailers for 'Unthinkable' (the direct-to-video Michael Sheen/Samuel L Jackson thriller), 'The Runaways,' and 'Youth in Revolt' (remember – Sony now handles the Weinstein Company's home video releases). The 'Legion' set comes with a 50GB Blu-ray disc (region "free") and a DVD, which includes the digital copy. Because you're definitely going to want to take this one wherever you go. The Blu-ray disc is also BD-Live ready. Woo.
As much as I hated 'Legion,' there's something to be said about its pristine 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer (aspect ratio is a slightly wider 2.40:1 from its original theatrical 2.39:1).
'Legion' features both gloomy, atmospheric scenes of intense darkness as shadow as well as wide-open vistas that are almost out of classic westerns. It's a pleasure to report that both extremes of the visual spectrum are represented incredibly well. Color is nice (the desert scenes have a pleasant golden hue), skin tones look good, black levels are deep and dark, and textural detail is exceptional. Almost everything looks great.
There's a nice layer of grain which gives the movie a filmic authenticity, and aside from some occasional banding in some of the more frantic sequences, the transfer is free of glitchy technical issues or concerns.
For the most part it's a sharp and well realized transfer, typical of Sony's commitment to the format (they invited it, after all). If only such visual lushness was bestowed on a better movie.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is every bit as impressive as the video transfer, which will, again, make you wish it was applied to a better movie.
There's always something going on in 'Legion:' swarms of zombie-like hordes, a gas pump being lit on fire, angels battling (they have sort of metallic wings), and a giant storm cloud, a surefire sign of the impending apocalypse, blankets the sky. All of these things are rendered with an impressive amount of nuance and the surround sound submersion is almost nonstop. When an old lady in the diner turns into a fanged beast, you will believe that it's happening in your living room. Similarly, the world ending events bring a nice expansiveness to the sound field.
The awful dialogue is also well prioritized, always sounding crisp and clear. The same amount of dutiful attention was given to the dialogue, it seems.
The track is free of any gummy technical issues as well, no pops, hiss, or anything else can be detected.
There's also a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on the disc, as well as subtitles in English, English SDH and French.
There are a handful of short documentaries on the disc that are shared with its DVD counterparts and there is one huge "plus" saved for the Blu-ray only, which I'll talk about in just one minute.
If you really want to give your home theater a vigorous workout, then rent 'Legion.' You can overlook the hackneyed script, ridiculous dialogue, and tired visual effects, and just focus on how good it looks and sounds. (Also, the extras aren't totally abysmal.) Anyone else, in the market for a movie that's not the cinematic equivalent of huffing paint fumes, should probably look elsewhere. I may have hated 'Legion,' but its stellar presentation on this disc is undeniable. Good disc, bad flick.