Review of Legion
February 4, 2010
In Legion, God is pissed, and it is all our fault. Incomprehensible theology, a bumbling bunch of characters, and a taffy-stretched plot is not saved by randomly strewn bits of hunky ethereal badassery.
Humanity’s gone and done it; God has to wipe us out again. The characters have no direct contact with God on screen; he never appears, but he is the villain of the story. He devises a plan to off us using angels to possess human beings to give zombie kisses to the people of the world. He also sends flies to muck up the cabins of innocent SUVs. The angel Michael (Paul Bettany), goes against God and leaves heaven to protect Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a pregnant waitress whose baby is the only hope for human survival. He happens across her at work, along with her boss Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid), his son Jeep (Lucas Black), their cook Percy (Charles Dutton), and a gaggle of customers in a remote greasy spoon called Paradise Falls.
Writer Peter Schink and writer-director Scott Stewart’s Legion reminds me of my human sexuality class in college. My professor committed the sin of making a topic of universal interest, sex, boring enough to dry socks. Schink and Stewart tripled the transgression by taking morality, god, and guns and turning them into a treatment for insomnia. Even though there is always something happening on screen, there is a distinctive lack of plot movement.
When Legion’s ending credits begin to roll, there is a painful yearning in the souls of the audience to encounter the middle of the story. Little about the characters, their purpose, or the consequences of their behavior is explained because Schink and Stewart nixed the climax and the resolution and stretched out the introduction until it was nearly transparent. Legion’s one hundred minutes easily could have been compressed into twenty. They could have completed the story with the left over eighty minutes. I guess they, or more likely the studio, did not think we are worthy of such trivial and expensive indulgences.
God doesn’t just evaporate Charlie or her baby. He doesn’t have an angel possess her body and kill her baby that way. When Michael is killed for going against God’s wishes, God resurrects him, giving him back his angel body, presumably so he can stop Gabriel from doing as he was ordered. Even though he took mercy on Michael and allowed him to save them, Charlie, Jeep, and the baby are still in peril.
Any way you dissect it, in Legion, God is a son of a bitch in ways that only a creature without the restraints of human morality could be. What is unclear is whether he is impotent to change course, is too lazy to do so, or is a slightly retarded deity with short-term memory issues that make emotional or philosophical consistency impossible.
The mythological issues get worse if we acknowledge their obvious biblical inspiration. If we presuppose that the god character in Legion is the same one as the one in the bible, and we accept the dogma and midrush of the last 2,000 years, we have serious consistency issues. The Christian god as revised in the New Testament is: 1. all-powerful, 2. all-knowing, 3. all-loving, and 4. all-forgiving. It is also important to note that in the past, God created a prison for an angel who went against his wishes.
Applying these new factors, the god character in Legion knew when he created people and angels how things would go and chose to do it anyway. He knew his love would be exhausted and his forgiveness would run out circa 2010. He knew when Lucifer fell from grace that Michael would eventually do the same thing. He could have prevented Charlie from getting pregnant in the first place so there was no chance of his plan being derailed. If he had real moral concerns about the consequences of human existence, he could have chosen not to create people or he could blink out existence so there would be no suffering, but he chose not to do it that way.
In fact, God manages to have none of the personality traits he developed in the New Testament of the bible. Just like he did in the story of Noah, he maximizes the suffering of everyone on the planet, thus making himself anything but all-loving. Unlike the story of Noah, he can be undone by the birth of a single child, which makes him not all-powerful. God doesn’t know what he needs, so he isn’t all-knowing. The fact that he’s decided to wipe everyone off the planet means he certainly is not all-forgiving.
Trying to resolve the theological issues of the movie is a tiresome task. There is no context in which to put the story that does not leave the gears in my brain seized with smoke coming out of my ears. Schink and Stewart’s only accomplishment is making Legion as consistent as the bible.
Just like in the bible, the rough edge of the sins of inconsistency can be smoothed away with action and adventure that entertains the brain while engaging the imagination. Not surprisingly, Legion is rough around the edges. Legion does not have long lingering pauses; that would make the lack of both plot and action too obvious. It gifts the viewer with back story that is meaningless to the plot, hints of foreshadowing that turns out to just have been worthless words whispered only to waste our time.
For all the guns being carried around, there is little shooting. The close quarters and high stress leads to only minimal infighting. Some of the deaths are inexplicable or hallow both visually and emotionally. It feels like the editor decided that plot could be replaced with action. When he realized there was not enough action to go around, he supplemented with some leftover scraps he found on the cutting room floor.
The only thing about Legion that makes perfect sense is Paul Bettany. He’s eerily still and angelic. If he flew down and stood in front of me, I would find it hard not to be in awe of him. Thinking about him right now makes me think that angels might exist…
Legion might have been fun had they completed the plot instead of leaving it open for a sequel. Sitting there for so long, fiddling with my bottom lip to cope, made me wish God had given up on me and sent an angel zombie my way.