Legion not to be confused with or related to the low-budget alien amok film Legion (1997) or the William Peter Blatty novel Legion (1983) that became the basis of The Exorcist III (1990) reads like an action movie version of The Prophecy. It is perhaps telling of the films approach that upon landing on Earth, the first thing that we see Paul Bettanys angel do is to sew up the bloody stumps of his torn-off wings in gory detail, followed by his raiding an armoury to steal a massive arsenal of guns. That ultimately is where the focus of Legion lies it is chiefly construed around a series of scenes with Paul Bettany and others wielding a large collection of artillery and blasting apart possessed zombies. That and a series of novelty gore effects Doug Jones turns up as an ice cream truck attendant who distends his entire body to turn into a spider-like creature; Jon Tenney is nailed upside down on a cross and then explodes in a rain of ichor that burns Charles S. Duttons back away to the skeleton; as well as sundry other gore effects. The silliest of these and indeed a scene that sinks Legions credibility considerably only a small way into the film is where an old lady (Jeannette Miller) turns up at the diner, starts talking foul-mouthed and then abruptly reveals black eyes and sharp teeth, before scuttling up the walls and around the roof, attacking everybody in sight. The scene is served up without the slightest sense of the absurdity it has on screen not to mention that the geriatric ladies conducting ceiling scuttling antics is a direct rip-off of the far more effective scene in the aforementioned The Exorcist III.
The plot feels like a more serious version of the similar plot in Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight (1995) about a group of people holed up in a motel fighting off demonic forces. Although it pays lips service to angels and possession, most of Legion plays out as though it is a zombie film, more along the lines of Night of the Living Dead (1968), which had various people holed up in a farmhouse shooting at the dead massed outside. Equally, Legion joins a horde of modern films such as Spawn (1997), End of Days (1999) and Constantine (2005), which have pretensions to religious significance but in their approach arrive at exactly the opposite effect if there was a religious equivalent of the term anti-intellectual, they would surely embody it. Judaeo-Christian religion is something that regards issues of salvation and heavenly deliverance as matters of faith in things that cannot be seen, living by a certain moral code and following a process of inner revelation. Prayer and trusting in divine protection is all that one needs to fend off evil and drive away demonic forces. To the contrary, for films like Legion and these others, the war between light and darkness seems to be won by action heroes mowing down demonic hordes with very corporeal machine-guns. They involve the stripping away of matters theological to absurd action hero cliches besides the demon-banishing weapon of choice in these films, the machine-gun, Legion also has angels combating one another with swords, fists, maces and spiked armed bands that turn into the equivalent of a high-speed drill bit, not to mention a nifty spinning move that turns their wings into a shield against gunfire.
Directed by Scott Stewart, previously a visual effects supervisor at The Orphanage, Legion is absurd on most counts. Scott Stewart tries to leaven the action/effects scenes with interludes that explore the characters. Normally, one would applaud characterization in a film but these become even more absurd than the effects sequences as Stewart trots out excruciatingly banal scenes that become risible in his strained efforts to generate emotion. About the time that Charles S. Dutton is telling his story and tears are rolling down his cheeks, one is contrarily laughing at the absurdity of it. Even more ridiculous is a scene that comes a few minutes later where Paul Bettany gives Lucas Black a pep talk on faith and love, as all the while angelic choruses play in the background. The dialogue is corny, verging on laughable the most absurd line is when the angels announce [paraphrasing Shakespeare]: The dogs of Heaven are unleashed. In all of the silliness, at least Paul Bettany, who has become a rapidly rising star in 2009, gives a fine performance of coolly alien aloofness.
Scott Stewart and Paul Bettany subsequently reteamed for the marginally less silly Priest (2011) featuring Bettany as the title character combatting vampires in a post-holocaust future. Stewart next made the okay alien visitors film Dark Skies (2013) and the Christmas episode of the horror anthology Holidays (2016).
Legion was subsequently spun out as the tv series Dominion (2014-5).
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 2010 Awards).