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Paradise Falls has seen better times.
Check that. For all we know, these might be the salad days for Paradise Falls—which boasts neither falls nor paradise. Little more than a gas station positioned in the middle of the desert like a pimple between your shoulder blades, Paradise Falls' clientele has mainly consisted of lost and weary travelers who straggled in once every couple of days or so. It's pretty remarkable how Bob Hanson, the embittered owner, managed to pay his three-person staff all these years.
But now that the apocalypse has come, Paradise Falls is getting a lot more traffic.
Alas, the folks who come around now are possessed interlopers who rarely bother to pay for their meals. They just tend to—well, take bites out of other diners and scamper across the ceiling, without so much as leaving a tip. Then, naturally, they have to be killed, and a dead customer is no good to anybody.
Then Michael skids into Paradise Falls in a stolen police car and explains why the place is getting a sudden influx of new business: God has had it up to here with humanity and has decided to snuff out His creation once and for all with a zombie horde that's possessed by … His angels. Michael knows all this, of course, because he's the angel Michael.
Check that. He's the ex-angel Michael who has tossed his badge down on his boss's cloud and ripped off his wings so he can fight against God's plan for man.
There's no time to explore this tangled theology, though, because the zombies are shambling their way up to the station right now—and they're not coming for the waffles. They're coming for a baby—the unborn waif being toted around by Charlie, the diner's chain-smoking waitress. That baby, Michael solemnly intones, has the capacity to save humanity. Only he has to be born first.
Legion acknowledges that humanity hasn't lived up to its God-given potential. And it tells us that things might have turned out better if we had more often given of ourselves—sacrificially, when needed. Michael's big on sacrificial giving, and he's big on mercy—showing some himself when he tangles with Gabriel. (Yep, that Gabriel.) Other characters exhibit a nice bit of courage, love and even forgiveness too.
There's also a sliver of a pro-life message embedded in here. And one of the diner's occupants, Percy, repeats something his dad told him that I'd like to let knock around inside my head more often: "If today was the last day on earth, would you be proud of what you've done in your life? 'Cause if you ain't, you better start getting square."
Note: All of these positives get murky in Legion's ethos, since all this courage and love is fostered in a crucible of rebellion—against God Himself.
"This is [director] Scott Stewart's interpretation of the way he sees the world and the way he sees certain verses in the Bible," actor Tyrese Gibson told Fox News. "It's his opinion, he's entitled to it. I was just happy to help him bring that vision to life, but that doesn't mean I see it the way he sees it."
How does Stewart see it? Well, for starters, Stewart's idea of God doesn't much resemble the real one, though Stewart would have you think it does. No, Stewart's template for the film's deity seems to have been Dilbert's pointy-haired boss—only with more wrath.
Consider the setup: God, sick of humanity, decides to destroy it. But rather than just flick our tiny planet out of orbit, sending it hurtling into the sun, he decides to send a few angels to possess a few folks and then sic them on other folks in a sort of a global grudge match. At the same time, God also sends a newfound savior (one delivered hurriedly on Christmas, no less) to save us. Then, apparently having second thoughts, he sends more angels to destroy that savior. But …
Well, you get the idea. "Certain verses" couldn't have even begun to inspire this bizarre, incoherent vision. Because, really, the only thing Legion seems to have taken from the Bible is its title, a couple of angelic names (Michael and Gabriel) and the words of Psalm 34:11, which are stamped onto the screen during the opening credits.
So allow me to assume a biblical tone for a moment: Woe to those who pay even scant heed to Stewart's underlying spiritual speculations: That questioning, nay, rebelling against God is about the best thing you can do, because God isn't just mean and vindictive, He's wrong.
Let me repeat: In Legion, God is wrong, so rebellion is required.
Scripture tells us that our problems here on earth are caused by rebellion. But in Legion, rebellion is a great and honorable aspiration—and that's embodied by Michael, who tells everyone, "I'm following my own orders now." He denigrates Gabriel for being so "obedient," so "eager to please," and he claims that it was God who lost faith in His creation. "I didn't."
In the end, Michael is redeemed by God not in spite of his rebellion, but because of it. "You gave Him what He asked for," Michael taunts Gabriel. "I gave Him what He needed." The assumption: God, just like the rest of us, needs a critic.
For the record, there are no demons and there is no devil in Legion. And that makes me wonder: Did Stewart simply miss the obvious parallels between his Michael and the real Lucifer? Or did he just not have the courage to unveil this "heroic" angel for what he is?
Elsewhere, Percy wears a cross and, when he learns disaster is coming, runs into the diner to pray. When an angel-possessed woman obscenely tells Charlie that her baby's going to "burn," we hear Charlie muttering that she must be a "Jesus freak." When Bob says he doesn't believe in God, Michael replies, "That's just fine, Bob, because He doesn't believe in you either. He doesn't believe in any of this anymore." Michael also says that one of mankind's biggest shortcomings was killing each other because of race, creed and the "words of old books."
Charlie's not sure who her baby's father is. Audrey, one of Paradise Falls' non-possessed guests, wears a very short skirt and curve-hugging top. When her father asks why she's dressed the way she is, she sarcastically says that she'd hoped to have a sexual interlude with a couple of meth-heads. (Only she says it much more vulgarly and provocatively.)
The angels in Stewart's vision are only slightly more intimidating than your average film ninja. The feathers in their wings are quite sharp—Gabriel glibly slices through a couple of folks with his. And they wield maces that sprout so many blades at the wielder's whim that they appear to have been crafted by the Swiss army. Gabriel even has a long blade lodged in the handle, which he uses to sneakily stab Michael.
Michael loses both his mace and his wings when he rebels. (We see him graphically stitching up bloody wounds on his back where the wings used to be.) So instead he totes scads of automatic weapons. These he doles out to the human occupants of Paradise Falls, and together they empty clip after clip after endless clip into the advancing possessed hordes. Despite Michael's claims that he holds mercy in high regard, he has no problem dispatching the possessed humans, and he seems OK with allowing his own allies to be killed, blown up or eaten alive on occasion.
But the possessed legions are the film's main purveyors of violence. They grow sharp little teeth and bite into people's necks whenever an opportunity presents itself, ripping out hunks of flesh. They're resilient, too—though not immortal. One old lady keeps coming after her neck's broken, then goes down when she's shot.
One unfortunate traveler nearly dies after being bitten on the neck. Then, just when it looks like he might recover, he's dragged away by the possessed. Next time we see him, he's hanging upside down, his skin sickeningly blistered. When his poor wife runs to his aid, his torso explodes, spraying acid everywhere. That acid, by the way, eats into Percy, who dies as the skin and muscles melt off his back. (We see his exposed spine and ribs.)
Thumbs are severed and limbs sliced. Angels get strangled, stabbed and go flying through car windshields at high speeds. Michael ignites the gasoline in the station's pumps. Cars, buildings and people explode. A bloody boy zombie bites people before he's killed. A baby nearly hits the ground when he's dropped. Policemen get shot in the head. Blood drips from the ceiling for no apparent reason.
Crude or Profane Language
Characters utter the f-word more than 25 times, the s-word nearly 20 and the c-word once. We hear "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑" and "p‑‑‑." God's name is paired with "d‑‑n" at least five times. Jesus' name is abused once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Charlie smokes every chance she gets. When someone mentions that cigarettes aren't particularly good for babies, she sarcastically says, "Guess I should think about quitting, then." Bob serves up beer as a tonic for frayed nerves.
Other Negative Elements
Bob keeps a lighter on him to remind himself of how much he hates his ex-wife. The short-skirt girl sasses her folks. Her mom pays her back by telling her she's the reason they're in this mess. Really, though, the entire film is one large negative element. And I just don't want to talk about it anymore. Bob's son throws up.
You're still reading? Fine. I'll be even more blunt: This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It is so bad that it could kill monkeys. It is so bad that I'd recommend any cinema playing the thing to put baffles up so its badness doesn't somehow leak onto adjacent screens. It is so bad it should come with a surgeon general's warning—and a government tax for causing cancer.
Legion is a film almost without merit on every level—from artistic to intellectual to spiritual. It left me feeling so sad, so sickened and so plain alarmed at its blasphemous, big-budget awfulness that I feel a sense of pity for everyone who worked on it. And for anyone who willingly watches it.
It's ironic, I think, that a film that seems to desperately want to make God's wrath look so terrible ends up making it seem rather small and ineffectual—as if Stewart believed that all the powers of heaven might only amount to something so silly as a zombie stampede. Bad, yes, but nothing a few misfits in Paradise Falls can't fend off over the course of a long weekend.
Thus, Stewart's vision ultimately does little to diminish the reputation of the real God, or His heaven and angels. Rather, it diminishes itself by way of fevered theological claptrap devoid of even an ounce of thought. Legion is nothing more than the reckless musings of someone who knows about as much about the Bible as I know about macroeconomics.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Paul Bettany as Michael; Dennis Quaid as Bob Hanson; Lucas Black as Jeep Hanson; Adrianne Palicki as Charlie; Tyrese Gibson as Kyle Williams; Charles S. Dutton as Percy Walker; Kevin Durand as Gabriel
Scott Stewart ( Dark Skies)
January 22, 2010
May 11, 2010