In a recent review of The Book of Eli, I referenced Owen Glieberman’s review of the film in which he bemoaned the release of another post-apocalyptic film, a viewpoint of which I was critical. Well, I spoke too soon. The recent release of Legion represents just the type of (post)apocalyptic film we could do without.
Legion opens as the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) falls from heaven and cuts off his wings, arms himself to the teeth with machine guns, and high-tails it to the desert where he meets a group of rag-tag folk trapped in a diner, Paradise Falls, in the middle of nowhere. Here, he finds a young, pregnant waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), Bob (Dennis Quaid), the restaurant owner, and Bob’s son Jeep (Lucas Black) who has taken it upon himself to serve as Charlie’s protector. There’s also a wealthy family trapped in transit (their BMW broke down), a short-order cook, Percy (Charles S. Dutton), and a lost young father, Kyle (Tyrese Gibson), on the way to a custody hearing for his young son. For reasons relatively unexplained, God has decided to destroy these people, and every other person on the planet. For more unexplained reasons, Charlie’s child is the future of mankind. Michael fell because he would not follow through with God’s plan of destruction and set himself to defend the young woman and her child against the onslaught of demons and the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) that God has sent to destroy them.
To clarify, it’s not that we don’t need (post)apocalyptic films…it’s just that we don’t need the kind that espouses this type of theology. I am again mindful of Barbara Rossing’s The Rapture Exposed in which she contrasts the notions of a God of revenge and destruction with a God of striving, never-ending love. In Legion, Michael loves humanity more than God does, while Gabriel is willing to follow God’s orders, even if that means destroying the creatures that God once loved the most. One begins to wonder if Gabriel exhibits a bit too much angelic jealousy. As Michael tells Gabriel, “You gave him what he wanted, I gave him what he needed,” they sound like two soap opera characters fighting over a would-be lover.
To top it all off, Legion falls in line with those (post)apocalyptic films that Richard Lindsay argues are all about the preservation of the white, heterosexual family. Apparently, given Michael’s assertion, what God really needs is Jeep, Charlie, and her child to survive in order to create some new, perfected order. How they will right the “bullshit” that has so angered God is anybody’s guess. The film even conveys their chosen status by basically stealing a scene from The Ten Commandments (1956) in which Moses peers down into the promised land of which he will not partake. So too do Jeep and Charlie climb over a ridge to view a community of survivors that welcomes them and arms them with a cache of weapons and an SUV for their journey to God only knows where. Thankfully they’re off into the sunset and the credits roll. May God, in God’s great mercy, save us from a sequel.
Legion (100 mins) is rated R for strong bloody violence and language.