God has lost faith in humanity, something that hasn't happened since the days of Noah. But instead of a flood, He has sent down a legion of angels, who possess the bodies of weak-minded people, turning them into ... certainly not demons, but then again, there's nothing angelic about these people, so maybe there's no other way to describe them. Anyway, it seems the only one who has kept the faith is the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany), who directly disobeys God by protecting what he was sent to destroy: A pregnant young waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), whose child was prophesized to be humanity's salvation. Upon finding her in a middle-of-nowhere New Mexico diner - named, appropriately, Paradise Falls - Michael leads a stranded group of strangers in an apocalyptic battle against the angels, who descend in droves.
What I find fascinating is that, for a film that comes across as nothing more than a violent, gory supernatural thriller, "Legion" tells a thoroughly absorbing story, one that, oddly enough, sends a message more hopeful and satisfying than the one sent by the duplicitous "The Book of Eli." I suspect few will latch onto this, since more time is spent on bloody shootouts and cornball dialogue; a basic shot consists of Bettany toting heavy artillery while someone over his shoulder swears loudly. Another basic shot shows a possessed person transforming hideously, and yes, this includes the overhyped scene of the old woman in the diner. And yet, in spite of all this, the subtexts are there, and there are moments of compelling character development.
Consider the relationship between Charlie and her boyfriend, a simple but decent mechanic named Jeep (Lucas Black); he wants to provide for her despite not being the father of her child, which she finds difficult to understand since she doesn't believe herself to be all that good of a person. She has no plans for the future. She contemplated an abortion, and even in her eighth month of pregnancy, she smokes. "Why do you have so much faith in me?" she asks Jeep, as if to suggest that it's wrong to care for someone who doesn't have it together. "Am I another one of your lost causes?" Jeep then leaves, refusing to indulge a woman who spends every moment feeling sorry for herself.
Another important relationship is examined. Jeep and his father, Bob (Dennis Quaid), haven't been getting along too well lately, although we quickly learn that Bob is really not a bad guy - he just doesn't want his son making the same mistakes he made, mistakes that left him without a wife in a poor desert town working a dead-end job. Although he has difficulty showing it, he sees the good in Jeep and wants him to put it to better use than fixing cars in a rusty garage.
From Michael's point of view, Jeep is a sign that, in spite of wars, injustice, bigotry, greed, and waste, humanity is indeed worth saving. But it won't be an easy fight; even if Charlie's child manages to be born, it will still be vulnerable to the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand), leader of the angel army on Earth. Unlike Michael, he believes that if God gives an order, it should never, ever be questioned. Needless to say, he and Michael are now enemies, although one gets the sense that, deep down, Gabriel wants to side with Michael.
I'm probably in the minority here, but I think that there are deeper aspects to "Legion." I also think that they redeem the disappointing screenplay, parts of which seem to have been written by a potty-mouthed sixteen-year-old. Some of the worst dialogue is given to Quaid, who at times portrays his character as nothing more than a country/western stereotype. And then there's Charles S. Dutton as a God-fearing veteran with a hook for a hand, who at one point recalls his father's words of wisdom about dying before waking up. It wasn't profound by any means, but the fact that he tried to make it seem like it was caught my attention.
"Legion" is not a great movie, and will never be seen as one. But I do think it's better than some have suggested. It tells a Christ-inspired fable that consistently kept me interested, and in spite of some bad dialogue, ridiculous action sequences, and overly gory special effects, it had surprisingly good depth of character. Its greatest accomplishment was its ability to tell a hopeful story without having to cheat at the last second, which is more than I can say for Denzel Washington's latest movie. Keep in mind, however, that this is coming from the guy who loved the critical flop "Knowing" and hated the much praised "Babel," so maybe my priorities aren't yet straight when it comes to spiritual parables.