Noah Hawley's Legion, starring Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller, is a mind-bending push into Marvel's X-verse of super-powered mutants. Spread over eight episodes, the show digs into the fractured psyche of one of the most powerful mutants alive. Unlike any of the Netflix Marvel offerings, Legion is a stylish, nightmare take on familiar plots and themes that make it more than a simple "superhero" show. Legion -Season One arrives on Blu-ray with a strong A/V presentation and a few decent bonus features. Fans of the X-Men films should absolutely keep this one on their radar. Recommended.
Superheroes are literally everywhere you go these days. I don't mind, I'm a life-long comic nerd, so I get more than a little excited at any new announcement that comes down the pipeline. When Noah Hawley of Fargo fame announced he was jumping into the fray adapting Chris Claremont's mentally troubled mutant, Legion, I was initially a little wary of the idea of another superhero television show. But after a couple episodes, I was immediately hooked. The show offers a new spin on mutants in a neo-mod nightmare world as we traverse one character's fractured psyche and question reality. But is it all show? Is it all style over substance?
David Haller (Dan Stevens) has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He spends most of his time in an institution questioning the voices in his head while hanging out with gal pal Lenny (Aubrey Plaza). The day Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) arrives, David starts to actually, sort of feel better…ish. But he can't trust everything he sees or even remembers. While he is being poked and prodded by a covert government agency called Division III, a powerful team of mutants led by Dr. Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) hopes to recover David, as he is actually a mutant with extraordinary and dangerous telepathic and telekinetic abilities. As they believe David is actually sane, the reality may be far more terrifying as Syd hopes to help David recover and lead a normal life. But David and his psyche are far, far away from being "normal."
When you line up all of the comic book shows on the market, Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Flash, Supergirl, you start to get a little stagnated. While the approach to these characters can run the gamut of being kid-friendly and colorful to adult-focused and brutally serious, you still have a set of format expectations. Random Hero establishes himself in a nondescript city facing terrible peril and fights a season villain whilst making a bunch of less-powerful friends who will help him on his hero's journey. There are ups, there are downs, friends are made and lost and things more or less plug along from one season to the next. Then along comes Legion. The opening episode feels like a nightmare superhero version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by way of a David Lynch fever dream in all of the best ways. It spins you about as you try to figure out what the hell is going on peppering little clarifying clues throughout. It's a bold way to punch into a crowded field of characters through multiple viewing platforms.
What I love about this show - and what's also got me a tad worried about its longevity - is its sense of style. It looks like a world that takes place somewhere in the late 1960s middle 1970s range, but the technology is decidedly modern if not futuristic. Costuming similarly follows suit as we're introduced to Dan Steven's David Haller wearing a vintage-looking tracksuit while being interrogated by shady government agents that have tablet computers or television screens that appear to be made of burlap? It's a very bizarre juxtaposition that along with the show's tendency to skip around and break traditional continuity that keeps you on your toes and focused on what's happening. It's a real marvel that through the chaos comes to a sense of cohesion and comprehension of the story.
While I do love the sense of style and creative approach to Legion as they psychologically dissect David Haller's numerous psychological issues as well as his powers and personality as a human being, I'm worried that is the only card they have to play. As we start to understand who - or what - the main antagonist of the show really is, I couldn't help but think about Bob from Twin Peaks. Who is this nightmare devil with the golden eyes? Finding out is a bit of a fractured journey. I didn't mind going down this crazy bumpy road that diverged into a side trip to the Astral Plane with Jermaine Clement living in a giant ice cube, I also started to wonder if all the randomness was starting to turn into a one-trick show pony. Does Legion actually have a sense of direction? Considering the character's lineage - he's Professor X's son in the comics and even killed him at one point triggering a major event series - there's a lot of room to explore this character beyond great visual trickery.
Thankfully Legion - Season One is a solid first start. Whether or not there is a sense of direction through the random chaos remains to be seen. For now, this is a solid and exciting start to a new television series. It certainly grabbed my attention and got me hooked. I dare say that I loved it actually because it gave me something that I love - superheroes and comic book characters - but gave them to me in a way I hadn't gotten to experience yet. But, like so many other comic hero focused shows over the years - I hope this one has got the legs to finish the race. As I'm about to start digging into Season Two, I hope the lightning is still in the bottle. I don't want to see it spiral out of control into just being stylish to be stylish.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
20th Century Fox brings Legion - Season One to Blu-ray in a two-disc Blu-ray set. Pressed onto two Region A locked BD-50 discs, the discs are housed in a two-disc eco-friendly Blu-ray case. The fist disc begins with previews for other FX and Fox-related properties before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
Legion possesses Blu-ray with an often striking and beautiful 1080p 1.78:1 presentation. Every now and again, and seemingly without any real motivation other than to keep the viewer on their toes, the image will shift aspect ratios to 2.38:1. While this show was shot digitally, an amount of digital grain has been added to give the show a more film-like appearance. I usually don't like this effect as it can sometimes appear too thick and obvious or just come off as noise, but for Legion, it's smartly applied and very convincing. As I mentioned in the primary write-up, Legion is a heavily stylized show and as such so is its color schemes. Considering we're dealing with the damaged psychosis of a very powerful mutant, this show takes that latitude and runs with it in a very creative way skewing colors, contrast, and black levels at a whim. Thankfully, the transfer handles these shifts beautifully as there's never any sign of artifacts or compression issues. Colors are bold and offer up a nice solid primary presence. Black levels are nice and inky allowing for a great sense of image depth. The only iffy spot I have to point out is some of the CGI effects are a bit on the flat side. The final escape sequence of the first episode features some pretty silly weightless effects - but that's my only real quibble with this presentation. Everything else is spot on and picture perfect. I'd love to see what this show looks like with an HDR pass in 4K.
Legion - Season One comes packed with a stacked DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix that is a real treat. Even in the quietest of moments, there's almost always something going on, so when the show decides to go dead silent when not even the characters can speak - it's really, really unnerving. The traditional elements like dialogue, sound effects and scoring are all well and good here and are managed well considering the wild manner of the show's presentation. The real highlight are all of the voices David hears throughout the run of the show. Sometimes it might be one or two little whispers off to the side, sometimes it can be a dozen voices talking over each other so that it just sounds like swirling noise, sometimes it's a barrage of screams. It's a real ride as the show constantly keeps you on your toes visually, this audio mix keeps the pace nicely.
Legion - Season One arrives with a modest little bonus features package. Outside of the Deleted Scenes montage, there's really not a whole lot of genuine substance beyond the typical talking head EPK stuff. It's interesting and you do get to glean some sense of the show and its production, but it's all very surface.
Deleted Scenes (HD 26:50) While there is nearly an episode's worth of cut content here, nothing actually feels missing. While you can sort of paste where these bits were intended to fit, you can tell why they were cut.
Fractured Reality: A Difference Kind of Hero (HD 10:35) This is the primary EPK talking head stuff with cast and crew discussing the character of David Haller and his origin and representation in this show.
Promotional Featurettes (HD 19:22 total runtime) Spread out over seven individual featurettes, these altogether too brief segments barely scratch the surface of the production of the show, the characters, the production design, visual effects and so forth. It's still interesting stuff, but nowhere near long enough for my tastes.
Legion - Season One is a hell of a ride. As comic book fans face a parade of new heroes committed to movie theater and television screens every year, I'm glad to see that someone like Noah Hawley came along and actually made the effort to give people something genuinely different. Sure, these characters have superpowers and live in a fantasy world, the show is far more interested in understanding them as individuals and people rather than have them jump from one CGI-laden fight sequence to the next. My hope is this show doesn't lose itself in style over substance as this first season is a hell of a great start!
20th Century Fox delivers a terrific Blu-ray experience for Legion - Season One with a stellar video transfer and audio mix to match the show's wild visual and sonic stylings. The bonus feature package is a bit lacking, but the material that is there is at least worth looking at. Fans of comic books who have been hungry for something refreshingly new, give Legion - Season One a shot. Hopefully, Season 2 doesn't drop the ball. Highly Recommended.