Fashion Hasn’t Changed in Heaven: A Review of Legion

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.

8 comments

  1. RMK says:

    I agree they should have their facts straight for the suspension of disbelief, especially, as you put, with a Christian backdrop. I have yet to see a Hollywood film do anything accurately. I suppose I’ll have to do it myself. However, in regard to your question, God’s promise was that he wouldn’t destroy the earth with a flood again.

    I have a book that may interest you: a consolidated, thorough guide about angels in the Bible. It’s been good for me in my writing and art. Very well done.

    http://www.amazon.com/Those-Invisible-Spirits-Called-Angels/dp/091554024X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1264386426&sr=8-1-fkmr0

  2. Angela Sasser says:

    Aah see I always assumed that meant he would not destroy the people *on* the earth as well. I can see how they can get by on that logic then, though God’s change of heart still seems overblown in the movie.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I shall have to check it out! I do highly recommend The Prophecy if you haven’t seen it. It’s still in the horror movie vein, but more tastefully done, in my opinion.

  3. Christine Griffin says:

    I’m a HUGE fan of the angel/demon/humanity thing. I knew this movie was gonna have plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, but I was hoping at least the visuals would be entertaining and new and macabre. I loved The Prophecy, in that gloriously B-movie done RIGHT way. Christopher Walken…s’all I can say. (That’s it; I’m re-watching it tonight.)

    I think I’ll pass on Legion at the theatre and wait for the dvd after what you’ve said. Shucks.

  4. Angela Sasser says:

    Oh spinny blade-like wings were quite cool! But not enough to make it worth the price of admission, in my mind. For all it’s b-movieness, Prophecy really did capture something special. Then again, I am an avid fan of Walken’s. He makes for an interesting personality no matter what role he’s in!

  5. Hira-Akami says:

    Well, I can tell you why the angels were so vengeful and cruel. As I understand it, the ones that left with Lucifer were the ones for which serving humans was a “deal breaker.” That doesn’t mean the ones who stayed were happy with it. Have you ever known someone with a really crappy customer service job? They have some pretty violent fantasies about what they’d like to do to the people they have to work with every day. But hey, it’s a paycheck, right? Same thing with some of the angels.

  6. Angela Sasser says:

    Ahaha a crappy paycheck? That’s an interesting allusion. I can buy angels being unhappy with their status in heaven. That was the premise for Prophecy as well. I don’t know what it is about Legion that makes it feel like the whole thing seems out of the blue and not very logical. I suppose the folks upstairs were just far too human and flawed to be believable as divine, with the exception of Michael, who seemed to have the moral gumshoe to keep loving humans, despite being kind of a douchebag the entire movie to all but one character.

    Premise seems flimsy to me without more explanation. I guess that’s what I wanted out of the whole thing. Maybe the comic will provide?

  7. Angela Sasser says:

    I should say ‘indiscriminately’ kill his people, both sinners and innocents alike, as with the Flood, but that is merely my interpretation.:)

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