Looking Back At LEGION - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At LEGION

Alexander Wallace stops at a diner.
The Biblical apocalypse has provided so much fodder for writers for centuries; the dreadful visions of John of Patmos are vivid and harrowing, with sights like rivers turning to blood and the stars beginning to fall. No wonder, then, that so many would want to visualize it in all its horror.

2010’s Legion is a Biblical-based thriller, albeit one not based off of Revelation per se. Rather, it is about God becoming angry with those made in His image once again in the twenty-first century, and sends his angels to wipe away humanity like he did once before, as he saved Noah, his family, and nobody else. Theologically, it is a somewhat confused movie; I doubt any Christian denomination’s most ardent believers would approve of the events it portrays.

But as a film (speaking as somebody of no religious belief from a lukewarm Catholic family), I think it fares pretty well over a decade after its release. In some ways, it's a typical horror film, with outrageous horrors attacking a confined space. In this case, that confined space is a diner along a highway in the Mojave desert (straddling the borderlands between California, Nevada, and Arizona). It's a small building far away from anyone else; its desolation and isolation enhance the tension of the entire situation as this diner comes under siege by horrors of a divine nature.
Plotwise, Legion is ultimately a siege movie. The diner is the fortress, and the armies of the almighty are its attackers. The characters here are relatively normal people who are looking for one thing or another in life, and are visibly perturbed at being caught up in the latter-day flood, this time of bodies and not water. That flood is presented in an engrossing way; the angels do not look like the women with wings and dresses we usually think of, nor even the unnerving entities of the Bible; rather, they come about by possessing the bodies of the unworthy. This leads to some very creative action sequences, one involving a crying child, and another that makes an ice cream truck scary.

Legion was mocked upon its release for one of its creatures: the possessed old woman, who would otherwise be grandmotherly and sweet, turns out to be nimble and agile as she is one of the possessed. I don’t feel like writing about her is spoiling anything; she was all over the trailers, and she received much mockery by the commentariat. Watching her in the film over a decade after its release, I can’t help but feel that the snideness was misplaced (although this is probably helped by that I had forgotten about her up until then). Her presence and particular attributes add to the atmosphere of general unease.
Of all the performances, one in particular stands out: that of Paul Bettany as the Archangel Michael, he who is like God. Bettany brings a real pathos to the character, the only one of God’s archangels to go against the Almighty, and the only one that views humanity as being worth saving. He gives Michael a strong sense of justice and a firm conviction that this species deserves a second chance. In this way, he is quite bold; it takes a lot to deliberately go against God himself (portrayed in an interesting way in the film, incidentally).

As I said, this film is doctrinally dodgy; in not a single school of divinity would you ever see this movie presented as an accurate understanding of the divine. But, as with just about anything Hollywood writes about, it is bent to service the plot. Fortunately, the plot here is good, and Legion is enjoyable; just don’t expect the devout to find it particularly flattering.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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