It's a great set-up and it also contains a couple of names that will turn your head towards the film, Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Charles Dutton, and Kevin Durand, now those are a few strong actors, particularly with Bettany in the lead, and there's a healthy dose of horror in there too.
Legion certainly promised a lot and looked like it could be an entertaining and dramatic film.
However god and the angels know that's what he's doing and also that if humans are to be destroyed so must the child, and that's when strange people begin arriving at the diner, people possessed by creatures of god, intent on killing everyone in the diner including the child.
The group of survivors gather together under the guidance of Michael to protect themselves and the child, and all the time the angels are getting closer.
From the beginning Legion looked great, Scott Stewart's cinematic eye brings us some great shots around the diner in the middle of the spacious desert, picking out some great details to go with the voice over introduction. The arrival of Paul Bettany's character is also filmed well, but then there is the fact that Bettany in any lead role looks superb, a great actor with movie star looks and charisma.
My hopes were high for the beginning of the film, and as the character of Michael arrived and met the first of the Legion it looked as though the story was going to be filmed well, carry great special effects and deliver a thrilling and exciting story.
That's because the opening scenes left a strong air of mystery for the character and the events, and that's a factor that's carried through a good portion of the first half of the film.
The religious supernatural theme of any film is always an attractive one since it instantly provides a great deal of mystery and a vast scope with little effort, after all a story about the end of the world at the hands of an unseen and unbeatable power doesn't need a lot more to it to already have the audience interested.
The story starts off with a good pace, and with this religious, supernatural, end of the world element, it's already running at a fair high. It builds well with the arrival of Michael and the audience really not sure who or what he is, even why he's here, the Legion taking over the policeman and the resulting stand-off creates more questions than answers with the audience and pulls them in further, then with the television signal appearing, and the arrival of the old woman, the scene is really being set for the beginning of the apocalypse.
The bringing together of the diverse band of people in one location, cornered and forced to fight back is one that's been used a number of times before, but it can turn out to be very effective when used well. The idea of individuals all overcoming something in their lives, revealing their troubles on the way and redeeming themselves towards the final outcome is a strong story in itself.
So things were looking good for the film, however there were two main aspects that appeared that caused me issue with the story and began dragging it down.
The first is that the standard conventions for these ensemble horror films are pretty much followed. There are a couple of little turns and twists, but these characters do play out pretty much as expected. Each of the ensemble members reveals their story and eventually they find some form of redemption which either ends or moves their lives forward.
The characters aren't fully explored or deliver anything new and unexpected. They seem pretty thin and really weak when they all have some great potential. The characters played by Charles Dutton, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson and even Lucas Black have a lot more to offer than we actually see of them.
All, barring Black, play their role until something happens in a single moment and their lives and characters change, story over. With Black there's more, but there's no real feeling of change or great development other than the action sequences he gets involved in. It's as though a few key moments happen around the characters and that's that.
That said there are a few characters that show some more development, such as Adrianne Palicki's character, the woman who is pregnant with the child that is being protected, and Kate Walsh, the mother of the teenager who goes through a bit of a rollercoaster during her time in the diner.
The other issue that I felt harmed the film was that all the characters just accepted what was happening to them and the world around them with the flimsiest of evidence.
If you're stuck in a diner in a desert with nothing around you for hundreds of miles, would you just assume the end of the world is coming because of a few events? Well okay, it's more than a few events, the emergency broadcast signal kicks it off, although no one really says what it is, the old woman running along the roof, and when someone proclaiming to be an angel arrives they believe him and from there on just go with everything.
For me there would have been a lot of doubting, okay the sum of the events would have persuaded me, but there would have been a lot of questioning and reasoning along the way, and I didn't get that, I just felt that they went with everything, aghast and amazed, and just following along.
They accept all too easily the idea that there are demons appearing and trying to kill them all and the unborn child, and without really questioning the events or the mysterious character that has arrived saying that he's out to protect the child whom they soon discover he would have been sent to kill.
From this point on it feels rather false that the characters would continue the way they are without any amount of questioning, either verbally to the character of Michael, or mentally to themselves.
Perhaps, and this is a fair point, there is no time for them to question as events as the story does race forward with a strong pace, the audience aren't left waiting as the events outside the diner are ramped up step by step and it certainly feels exciting and does take you along with it.
One other thing that I didn't quite understand was the idea that there were hordes of angels descending on Earth but only one to come to the diner. Actually I can kind of understand it with the face-off between the two angels, the different views of humanity and also of their god, and looking back on that it feels a lot stronger than it did at the time.
It was actually the Legion that I didn't quite understand. A horde of incoming creatures to destroy everything in the diner would have worked just fine, surround it, overcome everyone and kill them. It just seemed as though if they had kept going there would have been no need to involve the angels.
So there were a few plot points that didn't quite work for me, and the character journeys could have been developed a little more, but it doesn't totally ruin the film, it just makes you see what more it could have been.
What I did like was the story behind the two angels clashing, and the final reveal of just what was happening between them and their god. I would have liked to have felt more built up around that, but then I guess that's not what this film was trying to deliver.
Looking back at it, what it clearly delivered was action and effects and some cool moments, but not a great deal more.
There are a lot of comparisons that can be made with other films, most notably Terminator and especially at the end of the film, and that wouldn't be so bad if it carried it off well. For there seems little reason for the ending to present the ending of the story the way it does when a few minutes before almost the exact opposite was presented.
The ending is confusing and doesn't seem at ease with the rest of the story, in fact it almost feels tacked on to a film that perhaps had a different ending to it, or at least more story between it and the rest of the film.
The picture quality on Legion is just superb and it's this kind of quality picture that I thought would reveal CG a lot more against practical shots, but with Legion we see just how strong the effects team are as the CG is almost seamless. There's a strong reliance on practical effects, but the CG isn't noticeable, you just have to watch a scene such as the huge cloud of flies moving towards us from the horizon and you'll realise just how good they are.
There's a great contrast in the film, the daytime scenes are burning bright and when the blacked out night scenes arrive in the diner the picture is still perfectly crisp and clear with black levels handled perfectly, and that's despite some shots having an almost complete lack of light.
DTS HD Master 5.1 English, Italian
The audio track is also excellent on the disc, making great use of space when you have a five or seven speaker set-up. The audio makes you feel as though you are at the point of filming, immersing you in the film, and that's a huge bonus for any film with action. It doesn't just rely on the big sounds like explosions and gunfire though, there are plenty of atmospheric effects that really make you believe in the world you're occupying.
Bringing Angels to Earth: Picture in Picture, Creating the Apocalypse, Humanity's Last Line of Defence, From Pixels to Picture, Designing Paradise Falls, Designed for Action: Blueprint of a Scene, Play with MovieIQ, PS3 Themes
Bringing Angels to Earth: Picture in Picture:
At first I thought there was no audio commentary on the Legion disc, but what we get is something even better. The film is replayed with a picture in picture for almost the entire film, and it's not just the director we get talking about the film, we get a lot more. There's the director and co-writer Scott Stewart, actors Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, Jeanette Miller, Willa Holland, Adrianne Palicki, Kate Walsh, Paul Bettany, Charles Dutton. Then, when the director or stars aren't talking to camera, we see the storyboard frame for the shot we're watching, behind the scenes shots, or different, wider angles of what's happening in the main picture. This is a really informative and engaging extra, and you can really see the effort that's been put into it and it's been treated as a main part of the offering rather than a disc filler. I just wish the picture in picture was bigger.
Creating the Apocalypse:
This featurette provides some great detail about the various stages of turning Doug Jones into the ice cream man, the effects on the baby and the old lady, and various other key effects and stunts throughout the film. There's plenty of behind the scenes footage, of the crew members talking about the work to develop them, and of the cast members themselves. What's great about this is that they take a sequence and use all these elements to describe it, even pre-vis shots and test runs. It's very comprehensive and much better than a lot of featurettes that we normally get to see, here you really feel like there's some time invested in the featurette and that you learn something about the film rather than random behind the scene moments.
Humanity's Last Line of Defence:
The cast and director talk about the film, their roles, and each other. Now we do see a featurette much like the standard disc addition, however the previous two have made up for this already.
From Pixels to Picture:
The special effects team and director talk about some of the major effects shots in the film, from the ice cream man to the fly swarm, to the angel's darkworld and the cliff scenes. There are some interesting moments, but I would have liked them to invest as much effort in it as the others.
Designing Paradise Falls:
An interesting examination of how the diner was conceived designed and built with a set walkthrough. There's a nice use of the 3D model of the building during the physical walkthrough with cuts to the actual film footage from the same part of the set as the narrator is standing in. The featurette then moves on to examine the filming on set inside the diner and the lighting throughout.
Designed for Action: Blueprint of a Scene:
This looks as though it's going to dissect an entire action scene from start to finish through the eyes of the different teams involved, however it soon loses focus on the main scene and moves into the diner area as a whole. It's not a great loss, and there are some strong moments such as the 3D modelling of the internals of the diner, but it's not what the title suggests.
Play with MovieIQ:
The MovieIQ seems to be a standard addition to Blu-ray nowadays and is an interesting concept, if in need of a drastic redesign. You can either watch various facts of the film displayed on screen as you watch the film or use a given code on your mobile device or laptop to synchronise with the playback of the Blu-ray, and present the facts on your device while you watch the film. It's a great feature, but does need some serious development to check which device you're using and present the information in a relevant and easy to use way.
Finally there are two free PlayStation 3 themes on the Blu-ray which is really a cool addition. Just have a look under games while the disc is in and you'll see two angel based themes to add to your PlayStation 3.
There's a lot lacking in Legion, character development, a solid ending, an exploration of the more interesting aspects of the story, and a strong ending. However there are some good aspects, some great effects, sound design, great set design, a few really strong action sequences, and some strong actors. There is a lot to Legion the film, but it just doesn't break away from the standard ensemble end of the world story. Still, there's enough to provide an entertaining, wash over you kind of film but nothing that really leaps out and grabs you.
The Blu-ray does offer a lot over the film, a great picture, superb audio, and quite a few really good extras that deliver a lot of what went on behind the scenes.