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Heavenly Terminators

by Ann Morrow on January 28, 2010

Directed by Directed by Scott Stewart

In the latest apocalypse flick, Legion, the inspiring quote, “My name is Legion, for we are many” can be taken as a reference to the many movies that it rips off, rather than the multitude of zombies, er, angels, er, demons, that provide the action. Aside from the names of the two warring angels, Michael (Paul Bettany) and Gabriel (Kevin Durand), Legion has almost nothing to do with bible stories and a lot to do with modernizing The Terminator for audiences who might be more concerned with conflicts from On High than renegade machinery. According to the film’s smidgeon of philosophy, God has lost faith in his favorite creation, and wants to exterminate the human race. Michael is the “good” terminator, er, angel, in that he falls to earth to protect mankind from God’s wrath. Gabriel is the bad terminangel, because he is carrying out God’s orders. Or rather, legions of demonized average citizens are doing it.

A sanctuary of sorts is created at a desert gas station owned by Bob (Dennis Quaid), who is a bitter divorcee and paternal supervisor of his staff of three: Percy (Charles S. Dutton), a one-armed fry cook; Jeep (Lucas Black), an innocent redneck mechanic, and Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a waitress who is eight months pregnant. Just as Armageddon is unleashed, the staff and customers—including Kyle (Tyrese Gibson), the kind of armed loner that every last outpost really needs—are attacked by a little old lady who turns demon, insults the customers with her foul language, and then rips out a man’s neck with her piranha teeth. Michael arrives just in time to reveal God’s vengeance, and to protect Charlie, whose unborn baby, he says, will be mankind’s great hope. Hope for what, exactly, isn’t given much attention, although Charlie’s resemblance to Linda Hamilton’s character in the Terminator is as close to a prophecy as the film can be bothered with. As for Bettany, he appears to be in actual pain from playing a role that is underwritten almost to the point of non-existence.

The comic shock value of kindly citizens being revealed as cranked-up zombies is repeated several times, and, par for the course, the lucky few at the gas station are picked off one by one, as Gabriel sends in reinforcements. Competently directed by Scott Stewart, the action is predictable, and predictably alternates with scenes of interpersonal dialogue, along with a wisp or two of humor, as when Percy tells his non-believer boss: “In case you haven’t noticed, these aren’t exactly our regular customers.” The closest thing to a revelation in Legion—which occurs during the expected wings-of-steel angel smackdown—is that special-effects wingspans are much improved since The Prophecy movies of the 1990s.