Anniversary Review: Legion (2010)

Legion. Directed by: Scott Stewart. Starring: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black. Runtime: 1h 40 min. Released: January 22, 2010.

Since this is a 10th Anniversary Review, I’ll be discussing some spoilers, but I’ll still include a spoiler warning when I really spoil the plot.  

Frustrated that humans are just generally terrible people, God sends his angels to Earth to bring on the apocalypse. We see the apocalypse start at a roadside dinner in the middle of nowhere. The archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) eventually helps this group of people because the waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), is pregnant with humanity’s last hope.

Legion is just a missed opportunity that doesn’t feel like it has its own identity. At times it’s a serious actioner toeing the horror line, and other times it’s tongue-in-cheek, silly and hilarious all in one. The film’s highlight is a possessed granny, Gladys Foster (Jeanette Miller), who cusses everyone out, goes totally bonkers and starts crawling on the ceiling. I feel like on the film’s 10th Anniversary (well, it was released January 22, 2010, so close enough), this crazy granny is the only thing people remember about this film.

It’s a genuinely freaky moment that is also just hilarious. The whole scene is decent and when Gladys gets killed, the film’s peak dies with her. The cast is an impressive little ensemble even if not everyone has great performances. Dennis Quaid phones it in as the owner of the diner, Bob Hanson, and Lucas Black (of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift fame) is a weak spot here as his son, Jeep Hanson.

Tyrese Gibson is fine, too, but honestly I watched this a week ago and completely forgot he was in this. That’s because the characters just aren’t that memorable, and the only characterization I remember is Jeep wanting to take care of Charlie, even before the apocalypse hits.  The other character work isn’t notable, as the only others of note are a family passing through including Sandra (Kate Walsh), her husband Howard (Jon Tenney) and their daughter Audrey (Willa Holland).

Audrey’s the only one who has anything to do, and Sandra’s just there to be a terrible, terrible character and a nuisance to the story as she blames her daughter for the situation because they stop at this diner because Audrey’s promiscuous and they were moving here (Nevada, I think) because of her. Newsflash, lady, the apocalypse is going on everywhere in the world. But to be fair this apocalypse is so concentrated here because of the baby inside of Charlie. I like Kate Walsh but her character is terribly written and she just brings so many unnecessary moments.

Paul Bettany makes a fine Michael, by the way, but it’s awkward that he never explicitly tells the group that he’s the famous archangel Michael. He’s just a Terminator type sent to help them and everyone takes that at face value because they don’t have a choice. Some of the action scenes of them warding off demons are fine, but they’re often unintentionally hilarious, especially when we meet small child with the deepest voice you’ll ever hear. There are some funny delights – like Doug Jones as the Ice Cream Man whose limbs extend and jaw widens and he starts charging the group. It’s one of the creepier visual moments.

Legion article

Doug Jones as the Ice Cream Man in Legion. (IMDb)

The film tries to say a lot about fate and explores a lot of its religious themes in dull ways, largely in conversations between Michael and his brother Gabriel (Kevin Durand). The brotherly rivalry is made boring and is the most disappointing thing about this film. If you haven’t seen this and want to, I’ll pretty much only be talking spoilers from now on as I discuss most of the end of the film.

It’s disappointing to me when you have the potential of a big fight and a fight between two archangels is so pedestrian. Gabriel’s weapon is cool but it’s a boring fight scene. The third act feels like a weak re-shoot. The part that makes me think that is after Michael and Gabriel’s fight when Bob blurts out an action movie one-liner (I can’t remember the line but this film is so cheesy there’s a decent chance it’s “your wings are cooked”) before he blows the diner. Gabriel starts to fly away like he’s about to be blown to smithereens. The concentration on his face is the look of a man that is trying to escape imminent death.

Instead, he catches up with the fleeing Charlie, Jeep and Audrey a minute later completely unscathed. That makes me think they tacked on the escape scene after test screenings because no way Gabriel’s trying to get out of that explosion so quickly if he knew he’d be totally fine.

Eventually, Michael comes back from Heaven, an archangel again with his wings and everything, and then I think “Oh wow, now we’re going to get the memorable archangel fight!” I thought maybe it was trying to make up for the mediocrity of the first fight, but I gave Legion too much credit in that moment. Gabriel just gets angry at Michael – his inferiority complex has been building up too long – and charges at Michael and Michael just slices right through Gabriel.

Gabriel plops on the ground and that’s the end of the fight. It’s kind-of an uneventful smack in the face and the editing here (by Steven Kemper) is just ugly when Michael slices through Gabriel. You barely see it and it’s literally like five quick edits in one second. The non-fight just has the sense of an editor trying to put the finishing touches on a weak film and says, “Sure, that looks fine, I want to go home.” Truthfully, that’s what a lot of Legion feels like.

Score: 30/100

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

X-Men Origins WolverineReleased: May 1, 2009. Directed by: Gavin Hood. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston. Runtime: 107 min.

While a seasoned fan of the X-Men franchise will surely be disappointed by this film, I’m think a casual fan could be entertained. This is a popcorn flick more concerned with just giving its audience a mildly entertaining 107 minutes. Obviously, this is a prequel that follows the origins story of Wolverine, and while future Wolverine won’t know the answers to his past, at least we as audience members get answers. That’s one of the reasons that this film is partly a delight. Though, his transformation scene to be inserted with an adamantium exoskeleton feels nowhere near as raw as it did previewed in X2

By the way, Logan had a much less cool set of bone claws before he got his awesome ones. I’m not being picky because if I had a set of any sort-of claws, I’d be pleased. There’s a cool scene where we learn why Wolverine is called that. His relationship with Kayla Silverfox (portrayed by a great newcomer Lynn Collins) is nice, as they share a great chemistry. We learn that Wolverine was born roughly around 1838 in the Northwest Territories of Canada. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? We also see him go through a bunch of wars in a decently directed sequence by Gavin Hood. 

Logan’s brother is a guy named Victor Creed (played leeringly by Liev Schreiber), who’s Sabretooth. He has the fingernails of a bag lady. But, since Creed is obviously Sabretooth, it really doesn’t explain why he didn’t recognize Wolverine in the original X-Men. Hey, what can I say, I’m a fan of logic. Victor obviously has rage issues and is trigger happy, and is uninspiredly cruel. It gets explained later in the film, but his rampage of violence against his old team is just a bit strange at first to base a story around. Victor’s readiness for violence makes this feel all a little clichéd. 

The timeline of the film isn’t that enjoyable because you can never really tell where it’s set without doing research, since Logan doesn’t age. I assume the film is set in the late 1970s or early 1980s because I learn that the last war in the montage was the Vietnam war. But does that really make sense when Stryker looks like 25 in another movie in the franchise? My point: The film is awful at establishing a strong time period. 

I like the mutants that are on the team that Logan was on. One cool one is Bradley (Dominic Monaghan), who is a telekinetic. He has a really cool scene at a carnival. Will.i.am is also good as a teleporter. Stryker gets a cool characterization, and we can see that he’s always been a dick. Though, Cox is an infinitely better Stryker than Danny Huston. There are some awesome action sequences (notably Logan fighting a helicopter), but there are also a lot of silly comedic attempts, and just silly occurrences in general. Take for instance: An idiotic fight that’s started by a trucker who wouldn’t get off the road to let Logan pass. Logan confronts him about it, and in a very short dialogue exchange, the guy takes a swing at him even though Logan asks nicely. It’s ridiculous. There are some strong attempts at comedy, though, which hit. This is only sporadic. 

The characters are boring. Especially Victor, who’s just a boring psychopath. You have to question why he uninspiredly hates his brother so much, just for walking out on the mercenary group. When Logan and him meet again, they fight – and you know it’s a brawl in Canada when there are a whole bunch of logs nearby. Logan has an idiotic tension with Agent Zero, shown when Zero shoots Logan’s cigar in a hideous and artificial visual. I learn that there was an early copy of the film leaked online, and I’m almost convinced I watched that copy – because the visuals are absolutely hideous at times. They look partly unfinished and unconvincing. Since I am not sure if I watched the good visuals of the film, I won’t take marks off for that. Well, as many marks. Because, crap, the film looks so ugly at times. The poor visuals make this look like a crappy video game. The lackluster storytelling doesn’t help, either. Nor does the god-awful editing, the quick edits just suck. At times, this isn’t fun to watch because of it. Kevin Durand’s character is hideous when he’s a CGI-assisted fatty.

It’s not that great when Agent Zero’s powers are never explained, because he just seems like an assassin who’s good with a gun and has impossibly cool acrobatic ability. I mean, how could one gain so much momentum to do a twenty foot backflip just catching guns? The film’s worst misfortune is featuring Gambit, an awesome mutant who deserves so much better than this. What’s unrealistic in the direction is how many times people are stabbed, and how there’s hardly any blood throughout. The occasional poignant occurrence rings true, but they’re just that – occasional. This is popcorn-munching, illogical fun. Take it or leave it, really. The finale is a bit fun, but if characterization is your favourite part about the franchise, you won’t get any of it this time around.

Score: 55/100

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

City of BonessReleased: August 21, 2013. Directed by: Harald Zwart. Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan. Runtime: 130 min.

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is a bad, silly and largely unoriginal young adult adaptation. It takes components from many other young adult novels – classic love triangle, vampires, a bunch of mythical creatures, and the humans are called mundanes, a spin on muggles it seems – and mixes it into one. Authour Cassandra Clare, originally known for penning Harry Potter fan fiction (which caused a mighty roar of plagiarism), proves that really anyone can write a young adult novel. There’s one South Korean thriller called “Intruders” that includes a character who essentially says that, if a novel is published, it’s going to be read – even if it’s a bad book. Clare’s novel is half-decent, but this really doesn’t work on-screen. It’s as if the big screen amplifies some of its stupidity.

When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors – called Shadowhunters, who are half humans, half angels and apparently all British – who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld.

This is one of those forgettable movies where the main character learns their life hasn’t been entirely truthful, and then gets hit with a lot of information at once. Some of this information is told to her by an arrogant Shadowhunter named Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower), who she is first afraid of and then (not so gradually) takes a liking to him. Cue the love triangle with Jace and Simon (Robert Sheehan). Further information about this new world is revealed to her by the leader of the Institute, Hodge (Jared Harris), making this another young adult novel where an adult gets the best monologue. By the way, the Institute is a lovely building protected by a glamour that just makes it look like a dump to mundanes. Other characters living in the Institute are Alec Lightwood (Kevin Zegers), a bitter and hateful protagonist, and his sister Isabelle (Jemima West). This film is also a good vs. evil tale where the evil person is Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a power hungry idiot, who, if he gets all of the mortal instruments, could summon demons and rule the world.

"Next time... I want a buzz cut."

“Next time, I want a buzz cut.”

One can tell who the villains are because they have really bad haircuts (with the exception of Robert Maillet’s character). Kevin Durand looks like Friar Tuck in this movie, and his character is way dumb. In a scene involving him that makes this film feel as silly as a parody, is when he randomly humps a character’s leg while interrogating him. I shit you not, this happens in the movie. There’s some laughably bad CGI, shown in a demon octopus thing, and a few vampires. The good CGI is found in the Silent Brothers, who look nightmarish and cool. I think the only half-decent innovation made by screenwriter Jessica Postigo is that Mama Fray (Lena Headey, who, by the way is on-screen only a bit more than Schwarzenegger’s wife in “Batman & Robin”) drinks a coma potion before being abducted, and I don’t remember that happening in the novel. So she makes maybe one decent innovation of her own, but the bad innovations are just horribly bad. She introduces this cringe-worthy concept that classical music is kryptonite for demons, because Johann Sebastian Bach was a shadowhunter… Uh? Ludicrous is the another good word to describe that.

The writing is really bad because it’s often so cheesy. One of the cheesiest moments is during a kissing scene when sprinklers go off, while a Selena Gomez pop song plays over the soundtrack… Kill me. (Another strange score choice is during a fight scene where there is pop music that sounds more like disco music.) You know, on paper, this universe is pretty cool – but this sucks on-screen. The writing has ideas that are inconsistent, and the movie is way too long and uninteresting. Lily Collins helps bring people some enjoyment because she’s really quite decent as her character, and she’s attractive to boot. More on the writing before I move on; Jessica Postigo isn’t completely to blame for most aspects of the writing, because she it’s an adapted screenplay, novelist Cassandra Clare writes in one twist that is truly strange and utterly stupid, especially how it’s handled on screen.

The writing isn’t the only thing that makes this bad, the casting director Stephanie Corsalini only gets the casting right for a few characters. Lily Collins fits the description of Clary and is a good lead, and it helps that she’s very attractive; Kevin Zegers, Jared Harris and Robert Sheehan are good as their respective characters. They’re really the only good actors in this film; Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine is hard to take seriously because he chews the crap out of the scenery.

Campbell Bower isn’t strong as his character, because he’s bland, can’t land a joke, and his seriousness makes his arrogant character downright boring. Alex Pettyfer would be a much better Jace. Matthew Davis (TV’s “The Vampire Diaries”) or Mark Pellegrino might make a better Luke, too. But the worst casting is Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane, because he is a god-awful actor who should stick to modelling, and if memory serves me well, Bane is described as muscular in the books. Or maybe there’s a perception of him being muscular because of Bane in Batman. All I know for sure, this skinny Asian dude sucks as him. Anyway, the movie just sucks altogether, from the bad writing to the poor casting, and the boring plotting. The tonal choices also don’t make much sense, either; sometimes it takes itself too seriously, and sometimes it embraces campiness too much. Pick one, please. The only redeeming qualities are a few okay fight scenes and Collins’ attractiveness.

Score30/100