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'Legion' marches to mediocrity

Article Published: Jan. 28, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Legion' marches to mediocrity

Paul Bettany strikes his "Vatican pose" in 'Legion.'

In the new supernatural thriller, Legion, God grows weary of mankind and decides to wipe everyone out.

In Hollywood, producers grow weary of creativity and decide not to give a damn.

Packed with cardboard characters, a boggling number of elements lifted from superior films, and a plot more confusing than a football bat, Legion should shamefully retreat into cinema's January drudge.

Feeling audiences haven't had enough apocalypse fare for a week, Hollywood attempts a peculiar tweak on a tired formula, pitching a rag-tag group of unlikely survivors against a horde of - wait for it - angel zombies.

You'd think a director could have fun with this premise. Instead, visual effects artist turned director Scott Stewart (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love) takes his material so seriously that Legion misses its calling, that of a campy horror flick.

In a Terminator-esque sequence, Legion opens in Los Angeles, with the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany, Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World) falling to Earth, only to cut off his wings and rob a gun store. We soon learn the reasoning behind his wanton disregard for plumage and the law - he and God don't see eye to eye.

While God is fed up with humanity and its brutal nature, Michael remains hopeful in mankind's inherent good. The key to prevent the species' unfortunate demise lies at a middle-of-nowhere desert diner and garage.

Owned by down-on-his-luck divorcee Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid, Innerspace) and his slack-jawed hillbilly son, Jeep (Lucas Black, Sling Blade), Paradise Falls is the workplace of waitress and single mother-to-be Charlie (Adrianne Palicki, TV's Friday Night Lights).

Also present and accounted for are kindly cook Percy (Charles S. Dutton, TV's Roc), a lost traveler (Tyrese Gibson, Death Race), a stranded yuppie couple (Jon Tenney, The Stepfather, and Kate Walsh, Under the Tuscan Sun) and their rebellious daughter (Willa Holland, TV's The OC).

Seemingly unconcerned about the looming cloud of darkness on the horizon, the diner folks discover something's amiss when the television, radio and phone all go dead. They really begin to worry when they're attacked by an elderly woman who eats flesh, crawls on ceilings and makes one think twice about ordering rare steak.

Michael appears soon after, telling the understandably shocked patrons that angels have started possessing humans, effectively zombifying them into contorted monsters, to carry out God's final solution. Further, they must survive the ghoulish deluge until salvation arrives with the birth of Charlie's child, which would somehow prove to God that humanity's worth it, after all.

Originally tasked with killing the child, Michael has rebelled, deciding to "give God what's needed, rather than wanted."

Armed to the teeth with machine guns, pistols and Busch Light, our holed-up heroes take up the task and take down the zombies, as Michael and Jeep, who unrequitedly loves for Charlie, attempt to protect mankind's last hope.

But there's little hope - or originality - to be found in Legion. Combining elements of The Prophecy (renegade angel Christopher Walken seeking to kill mankind's unborn salvation), The Terminator (featuring a selfless hero to protect the child), The Matrix (ethereal beings possessing humans in a display of herky-jerky convulsions) and any zombie movie in the last decade, Legion never gains its own footing.

The convoluted plot is weighed down by excessive dialogue, unsuccessfully designed to flesh out its two-dimensional characters.

Bettany, Quaid and Dutton attempt to have fun with their roles, doing their best with the material provided, which surprisingly works to Legion's disadvantage, as they stick out like sore thumbs in their dull surroundings.

Black, whose claim to fame is a spectacular performance in 1996's Sling Blade, is simply atrocious, seeming to actually dumb down his similar character from 2006's Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Palicki is decent as Charlie, portraying a sense of frustration that can only come from being a single mother during the apocalypse, but the rest of the cast is basically angel zombie fodder.

Legion does, however, manage to deliver some decent action, with an eerie rooftop shootout and a well-choreographed angel duel to the death (or life thereafter). On the other hand, suspense is nowhere to be found, having been ruined by the film's all-to-revealing trailer and television spots.

But that's where the revelation ends. With a confusing resolution teetering between ambiguous and lazy, as well as a literal case of deus ex machina, Legion leaves viewers praying for a refund.

Legion, rated R for strong bloody violence and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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