I am Legioned

A movie like Legion really doesn’t have to do a lot to earn a passing grade from me.  As long as the movie avoids really obvious mistakes, I’ll walk away happy.  Unfortunately, movies like this don’t often avoid the obvious mistakes.  In fact, the only reason these mistakes have become so obvious is that we’ve seen them made in so many movies.  For some reason, even though the bar is set ridiculously low, this type of movie almost always disappoints.  Legion is no exception.

Here’s what I wanted:

1) No actors who are so bad they’re distracting.  Mediocre, or even pretty bad actors are fine, but a movie like Legion must avoid the total embarrassments.

2) A reasonably cool look that doesn’t rely too heavily on cheap CGI tricks.

3) Avoidance of lame, b-movie cliches.

4) A decent explanation for the events taking place.  In this case, an attack of killer angels in human bodies.

We’ll start with the acting.  Obviously there were no Oscar performances here, but Paul Bettany was adequate as the archangel Michael.  I was hoping for a few lovable character actors to make appearances, so when one of the first scenes featured Denny Quaid* and Charles S. Dutton, I thought I was sittin’ pretty.  Then Tyrese showed up.  Thats when I knew I was in trouble.  Tyrese has never been in a decent movie, and he never will be.  “Tyrese”, and “good movie” are mutually exclusive.  Memo to directors, casting agents, et al: if you ever find yourself thinking, “You know who would be great in this movie?  Tyrese!”, then you’re making a bad movie.  I don’t care how much you think you need a perpetually scowling face.

*Quaid used to be a leading man, but obviously things have changed.  He’s a role player now.  Don’t feel bad for him.  He still looks great and he’s still getting work.  An actor in his 50s could do a lot worse.  I bet Quaid is a cool guy, too.  He’s gotta be.

Unfortunately, Tyrese is not the worst actor in this movie.  That honor is held by Lucas Black*, who plays a slow-witted mechanic named Jeep.  That’s right, his name is Jeep.  Its not short for anything either, as far as I can tell.  Nor are we ever led to believe it could be a nickname.  And did I mention he’s the main character?  Yeah, he is.  It’s painful.  His character’s simple naivete (he’s retarded!) is conveyed by a furrowed brow and confused wag of his head.  He does this before and after he says anything.  No exaggeration, it was one of the worst acting performances I’ve ever seen.

*I just went to Black’s IMDB page.  I was shocked to discover this guy has been in a lot of movies.  I felt sure Legion was his first major role.

The truth is Legion failed to meet any of the modest standards I set.  I never found myself thinking any scene looked remotely interesting.  The monsters weren’t scary, the set (singular) wasn’t impressive in any way and the CGI was cartoonish.  The demon ice cream man was maybe the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.  I’m sure there are people out there who thought this movie looked cool.  I’m also sure those people are too young to view the movie legally.

Cliches?  Where do I start?  Well, first of all, the male and female leads live and everyone else dies.  This is the cliche that should be most obvious, and therefore easiest to avoid, yet is mindlessly embraced by all films in this genre.  Let’s see, what else….we got the middle of nowhere setting, we got the demons taking over human bodies (their faces shake!), we got the good guys hunkering down in a building trying to survive the night, we got the character who goes crazy and almost gets them all killed, we got the irreverent teen, we got unconvincing catharsis all over the place, the list goes on and on.  What can I say, bad movies like to borrow from other bad movies.  Legion plays like a poor man’s The Prophecy.

Miserable failures on criteria 1, 2 and 3 notwithstanding, tt was Legion’s failure to meet my 4th criteria that really disappointed me.  A plot like this could have been cool with the right back-story.  Instead we get a few statements about God being angry with humanity and a half-assed, 30 second flashback of Bettany and fellow angel Gabriel discussing the situation, presumably in heaven.  I found that laziness appalling.  Why should we care about a movie’s plot when the filmmaker doesn’t even bother to put it in context?  A good story, one that the storyteller actually cares about, has a history.  It has a world in which it exists.  Legion, and movies of its ilk, always fall laughably short in this regard.  The explanation is simple: they don’t care about their story.  When I’m watching a movie and I figure that out, its curtains.  I’ll continue to sit in the theater and look at the screen, but my brain will be elsewhere.  It knows when its not needed.

The only thing that saved Legion from being a complete disaster was the aforementioned decent acting from Bettany, Quaid and Dutton.  There was one scene where Dutton was on the roof talking to Tyrese and my inner monologue was like, “Tyrese, I hope you’re takin’ notes.”  I doubt he was.

next week: From Paris With love

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8 Comments

Filed under Bad Movies

8 responses to “I am Legioned

  1. bighatt

    I just realized I never talked about the actual plot of the movie. Not that it matters (at all), but here’s the condensed version:

    God is angry, he wants humanity exterminated. So he sends his angels to kill this woman whose unborn child is supposed to save humanity. Bettany disagrees with this, so he disobeys God (or does he?) and comes down to earth to save the girl so her child can be born. And guess who the girl knows: Jeep!

  2. “have faith”

    I will second the statement that Jeep was one of the most irritating characters I’ve ever seen on the silver screen. I can’t comprehend the director OKing that performance but I guess I can’t comprehend a lot of things that happen to me on a daily basis.

  3. Pretty sure your (our?) boy Lucas Black is from none other than Columbia MO. I seem to recall someone talking about how they knew them, I think they wanted me to be impressed. I also recall that he was a, “‘don’t give a fuck’ kinda actor, who would rather go huntin’ than worry about what the director says and all that other acting bullshit” (paraphrased but I think I got the sentiment down pretty good).

  4. bighatt

    Nice Luke Black intel. I’ll have to keep an eye on him. Could be the next Paul Walker.

  5. there’s a part at the beginning where Quaid is holding court to Jeep – it’s some of the finest acting i’ve seen in years. i felt like i was watching an oscar reel.

    i enjoyed this film about a thousand times more than i did The Mist, which was one of the worst viewing experiences of my life and yet a VERY similar movie to this one.

    i wonder if there is a danger of not being bad enough for the audience’s tastes when making movies such as these. clearly a perfect formula at work.

  6. bighatt

    I know what scene you’re referencing. In the parking lot after Jeep has failed to fix the rich people’s car, right? True story: while watching that part my inner monologue said, “Quaid bein’ Quaid.”

    The similarity with the Myst occurred to me as well. Might be time to check that one out again (gasp!).

  7. I agree. There’s been a lot of talk about a second Myst viewing ’round these parts.

  8. Bob

    First off, I should have listened to you about this, but, as we discussed, I’ll watch anything that appears to be even vaguely blasphemous.

    You’ve done a good job of covering the major, major flaws with this movie, so I’ll just mention briefly the things I liked: 1) the product placement for Busch beer, which you just don’t see much of these days; 2) mostly for its camp value and typically horrible delivery by Tyrese, the line “Are you asking me to explain the behavior of a motherfucking pestilence?”; 3) the return of Old Testament God, who just likes to kill people (but can also see the error of his ways and be reasoned with, a la the Sodom and Gomorrah story).

    Finally, I think the filmmakers missed a major opportunity. Rather than concocting ridiculous backstories about the character traits of angels (as revealed by the one expository conversation in the spaceship-like Heaven), they should have exploited the existing mythos about rebel angels and made the Paul Bettany character Lucifer. He at least has a history of being oppositional, and maybe he wants to keep humanity around because he needs their souls, or whatever. In any event, making him the hero would have pissed off religious people and generated some excitement.

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