So from the first moment I saw the promotional images of Paul Bettany sporting cryptic tattoos, a pair of gorgeously rendered dark wings, a gun and a superfluous knife, my interest was piqued. “A new representation of angels in the movies? Interesting…” I thought to myself.
My fears grew as the first trailers showed a possessed old woman climbing, spider-like, across the ceiling and careening across the diner where the main action of this movie takes place. A horribly predictable plot ensues with equally horrible plot holes. But wait, I didn’t see this movie for a plot, I saw it for the latest take on angels!
On that topic, for the five minutes we see Archangel Gabriel tearing up the scene, we’re treated to the spinning, flailing, slicing, dicing, and bulletproof wing-action which was the whole reason I went to see the movie in the first place. Outside of this interesting rendering of wings, I was left pretty unsatisfied. Even Paul Bettany could not save this movie with his role as the Archangel Michael, the angel most faithful in the goodness of man (and yet he spends most of the movie not giving a crap about any of the characters). He is cold, cryptic, and inconsistent, just as the rendition of the angels are.
I could not help but compare this movie to The Prophecy movies with Christopher Walken. No, there wasn’t much flailing wing action, but there was something about this movie’s nod to the mythology that inspired it which made it shine above others with grander budgets. For instance, in Legion, the old-lady turned demonic spider sports an aura of flies, eats raw meat, and curses like a sailor. The angelically possessed terminators even go so far as to crucify a victim upside-down in the process of killing a character.
Even for angels which have been ordered to exterminate mankind, why would they go through such lengths to be hateful and demonic, rather than reverently going about their duties with a sense of remorse or reluctance for the creatures they had once revered and loved? Why would God go against his own promise to never let a disaster like the Flood happen ever again? From a continuity point, this movie just does not work.
I understand it is a movie made for entertainment’s sake, but if you’re making a movie in the setting of the ‘real’ world with a heavily Christian backdrop, then there are certain plot devices which cannot be ignored in order to maintain the suspension of disbelief. Maybe in this world such promises were never made? Maybe in this world, God is just pissed off and therefore his angels are pissed off as well? But none of these pretenses are explained or justified fully in the movie, beyond a bedtime story guessing at God just being “sick of the bullshit” (a story they felt like repeating twice, just in case you didn’t get the message before) and a mention of an offhand order to exterminate mankind.
In contrast, The Prophecy tells the story of Archangel Gabriel, who has come to earth to collect the dark soul of a war criminal in order to fight a war in Heaven that has been going on since humans were lifted above angels in God’s eyes. The angels, once descended to earth, become mortals who have no eyes, a nod to the fact that angels do not have the ‘windows to the soul’, being soulless, unlike humans.
Instead of being vague and cryptic a la Bettany’s Michael, Walken portrays Gabriel as enigmatic and even naive. Being somewhat disconnected with mortal goings on, he cannot drive nor operate a computer. As an angel who does not believe in human worth, he calls them ‘talking monkeys’. The angels also sport dusty long coats and any clothing they could get their hands on, along with angelic script tattooed on their necks that represent their names. No Roman armor and suped medieval maces here!
There is even a point in The Prophecy in which Gabriel tells the main character about the indentation in his lip where he once laid his finger in order to tell a secret, a direct nod to a Jewish story concerning an angel’s role as a keeper of secrets who whispers to the unborn soul knowledge of heaven before it is born, and then hushes them with a finger on their lips so they will forget. Such a subtle nod to the lore, but oh such an effective scene, especially when Gabriel looks at the main character with his hollow illusionary eyes!
It is in this attention to detail, mythology, setting, and world-building that a movie based in supernatural pretenses can maintain suspension of disbelief and a level of uniqueness lacking in the fractured mess that was Legion. Go to see it if you want some nifty wing-fu and mindless action, but not recommended to anyone with more discerning tastes for the lore. I may check out the prequel graphic novel just to see if any of the plot holes are explained, but I don’t expect them to be.