I thought I’d never live to see the day. Mark the date my friends. Monday, August 24th. Roger B. gives a negative review. It’s too bad the script wasn’t any good. I have to admit, however, Roger’s pretty entertaining when he’s negative.
Genre: Prophetic horror, Action
Premise: After a terrifying Biblical apocalypse descends upon the world, a group of strangers stranded in a remote truck-stop diner in the Southwest become humanity’s last line of defense when they discover the diner’s young waitress is pregnant with the messiah.
About: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, and Tyrese will star. Scott Stewart, the director, learned effects from the master himself, George Lucas, up at ILM. He later founded his own acclaimed effects company The Orphanage. This will be his directorial debut.
Writers: Peter Schink, Scott Stewart
Now here’s a screenplay I decided to read after I saw the Red Band Comic-Con trailer. I’m a freak for trailers. It’s an art form unto itself, and I’ll watch the more sublime previews obsessively. I disappear into the loop like a borderline autistic child. I had actually opened up the screenplay a few weeks beforehand, and skimmed through the first few pages. It looked pretty good, but I decided to save the read for later. Then that trailer hit MySpace and I was glued to the monitor. In between twitterin’, txtin’, and facebookin’ how much I loved the trailer to friends, I gave the script a read.
I was crestfallen.
I closed the script and half-heartedly clicked on the trailer like a child who just realized that the scuffed action-figure he got so much joy out of is, in reality, just a piece of plastic. A broken, lifeless, limp toy.
I was duped.
I was into the 1st Act. It’s a pretty good-setup. Then somewhere around page 35, or maybe page 40, I dunno…I started to sense that something was rotten in Denmark. Actually, something was rotten in Paradise Falls Gas’N’Grub. Then around page 60, I’m calling bullshit on the writers. My roommate wakes up and tells me to shut-the-fuck-up and who am I talking to?
Then bullshit turns to disbelief, disgust, and ultimately boredom. But what the hell, I’m around page 90, might as well see how it ends.
Yes, I had to force myself to finish. Not because I was tired, not because I needed to take a break, but because I had completely lost interest.
I was bored.
What’s the story?
There is no story. But I’ll tell you about the plot.
The Archangel Michael, the “One who is like God”, the field commander of the Army of God, that guy in the Bible who fought some demon called the Prince of Persia, falls to earth.
He lands in a rain-soaked alleyway, like he’s the fucking Terminator or something. Except you know, he’s not naked. Nope, he’s in full Kyle Reese-regalia. You know, like right after Reese raided that sporting goods store?
Except in this movie, Reese, I mean Michael, is already fully dressed. Presumably, a pair of combat boots and a trench-coat is the traditional attire of the Angelic Host.
Anyways, with the acumen of a Chinese contortionist, Michael cuts his wings off. With a knife.
Let me repeat that.
Michael, an angel, falls to earth, seemingly pissed. He’s angry about something. Emotional. Maybe not the best time to make life-changing decisions. I mean, in that state, even an angel might do something rash. An angel might even act like a hormonal, rebellious teenager who is having a hissy with their parents and starts making unwise decisions. You know, stuff that might have a negative effect down the road. Like say…CUTTING YOUR FUCKING WINGS OFF.
It seems like something an angel would need a teammate for, a spotter, but this guy is determined. And flexible. He cuts off his wings and flees into a sporting goods store. There he finds a first-aid kit, and somehow stitches these wounds closed. It’s impressive. On the LOST pilot, Jack, who is a surgeon, couldn’t even do this. He had to request the help of Kate, a civilian, to help stitch those hard-to-reach places. But whatever, Michael isn’t a Doctor. He’s an angel. And angels know all sorts of fancy stuff. Hell, if you put stock in the Book of Enoch, angels taught us humans all our knowledge and medical-know-how.
But apparently angels don’t need wings. They need guns. A whole shit-ton of them.
So Michael starts filling rifle bag after rifle bag with FEROCIOUS firepower. Whatever he’s preparing for is going to require lots of explosions and kill-shots. But shit, this store is locked. How is he gonna get out? Not quietly, that’s for damn sure…
BOOOOM! That’s how! The explosion cuts a cross-shaped exit out of the sporting goods store. Oh shit! This catches the attention of two on-duty black-and-whites. In fact, the fiery debris of Michael’s ostentatious exit rains down on their hood. But Michael doesn’t give a shit! Why? Because he moves so fast it’s like a blur, that’s why!
He quickly grabs a cop and tries to talk sense to them. It’s an urgent bit of business. Michael has a child to save! Which gives him the searing authority to be as capriciously brazen as he needs to be. But oh shit, son, that cop with the gun aimed at Michael starts to vibrate like a human dildo. Sodium lights start to hum and flicker. Something supernatural is happening!
Bones crack, and a hideous smile forms on the copper’s face. And then he says something that makes me think of Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys: “What are you doing Michael? These weren’t your orders.” Except it’s not Kiefer. It’s never explained, but I’m pretty sure it’s The Big Guy Upstairs.
So how does Michael respond to this? He pretty much tells The Almighty to fuck off. “I’m following my own orders now.” God doesn’t seem very concerned. God informs Michael that then, he too shall die, along with the Christ child.
Yeah, dudes. Christ, the son of God, is returning back to His Creation again. In the form of a baby. He’s gonna be human again. And God the Father wants his Son dead. What is that? Filicide? But aren’t they one and the same as well? That’s also suicide, isn’t it?
But enough semantics. You don’t need to think about the concept of the Holy Trinity to understand this movie. In fact, it’s best not to ask these type of theological questions at all if you want to enjoy this prophetic horror narrative!
God isn’t really concerned with Michael’s rebellion. Why be concerned when you have an entire heavenly army at your disposal? If that’s not enough, God can just demonically possess humans with his angels and turn them into fast-motion zombies. He can use hordes of these things to dispose of Michael. Because when you’re God, even angels can be like demons! Even angels can drop F-bombs like I, the foul-mouthed Roger Balfour!
What’s the rest of the plot?
While the rest of the world is being terminated by God’s Own Army, we get to meet the important players. Our ensemble cast, if you will. We get to meet Charlie, our twenty-something Mother Mary of the Paradise Falls Gas’N’Grub congregation. A colony of ancient silver Airstream trailers in the middle of the desert. Humanity’s Alamo is the truck-stop diner that serves as the Paradise Falls nexus. I like the name of our setting. It’s so Miltonian. I’m into that kinda shit. Puns…
Ahem, so. Jeep is our hero. I don’t mean the vehicle. There’s a guy named Jeep in this thing. He rises up to be our hero. I like him. He’s the son of the owner of the gas-station and diner, Bob. Bob has a cook named Percy. Percy is a war veteran who has a metal hook for a hand. I like that detail. I like slasher movies, and I like pirates, and what do these things both have in common? Hooks. So that’s pretty cool.
Percy is going to try and lay some wisdom down on Kyle Williams, our black Escalade-driving cool-as-ice gangbanger. He’s handsome as hell, thug-style, bwoi! Kyle’s just driving through, but when the apocalypse rides in on angel’s wings, he’s here to stay. Kyle’s gonna try to put those sweet baby-face moves on Audrey, the provocative teenage daughter of Sandra and Howard, our requisite salt-of-the earth suburbanites.
So them’s our players.
They only exist to have horrible, horrible deaths. One dude even gets nailed upside down to a cross, like St. Peter. But unlike St. Peter, he also has explosive, acidic boils all over him. It’s a nasty biological bomb. That happens sometime after the first wave of attacks.
So yeah…Michael shows up, arms everyone with guns. Makes them defend the truck-stop diner while wave-upon-wave of angelically possessed fast-motion zombies, referred to as The Possessed, attack the diner. They have to hold them off so Charlie can push her baby out, who presumptively is going to grow up to become Neo from the Matrix movies. A lot of these details are referred to vaguely, or completely left to the imagination. Kind of like a Mad Libs tablet…or not. I think the idea is that Jesus Christ, angel-slayer, will reach adulthood and war against the Divine Army, showing God, his Father, that humanity and its institutions are in fact, pretty fucking groovy.
In a weird way, it’s a lot like “Dawn of the Dead”, which is a much better movie. Both versions. It’s about survival! But with “Legion”, it’s survival and ‘splosions before everything else. Even story, sadly.
And it’s also like “The Terminator”.
It’s really like “The Terminator” when Michael says, “If you want to live, you’ll do exactly as I say.”
I typed the phrase, “if you want to live” into the search bar on this pdf script. It came up twice. Both times uttered by Michael. It’s very Terminator.
In the third act, even the T-1000 shows up in the form of Gabriel. He’s Michael’s Lieutenant. Except he obeys God. Even when it comes to exterminating mankind. And Michael is in his fucking way.
Things don’t go very well for Michael. There are a few things working against him. 1.) Gabriel has a pretty bad-ass mace. 2.) Gabriel has wings. 3.) Michael cut his wings off when he got to earth.
But it doesn’t matter. Michael is covered in tattoos. The tattoos are actually Instructions on raising the Christ-child. Training him. Preparing him to be John Con…a leader. When Michael is killed, the tattoos will disappear from his divine dermis and supernaturally appear on the flesh of Jeep.
Which makes me think why he didn’t just off himself when he got to earth. But there I go again with those questions.
Jeep is the father-figure. I mean, he’s not the actual father of the Christ-child. That’s some random dude who only exists in Charlie’s Mary Magdalene-past. Regardless, Jeep loves Charlie. He wants to be her husband. He wants them to be a family.
He gets his wish when Gabriel kills Michael and when he and Charlie kill Gabriel. With a grenade.
Grenades kill angels. Pretty cool, huh?
So our tale ends with Jeep and Charlie riding off into the post-apocalyptic sunset with their new baby.
Instant family. Just add Jeep! And he’s got those Instructions tattooed onto his flesh. It’s gonna be A-OK…or is it?
In your Hollywood screenplay, injecting room for those nawty sequelz.
Wow. Anything else you care to say, Roger?
In terms of suspension of disbelief, horror is a genre that certainly gives you some leeway. You have some slack to play around and be crazy. Get some blood and gore on those hands. But it doesn’t mean you have a free pass to throw character, logic, and story out the window.
You have to find that balance. This script attempts to establish a story between Jeep and Charlie, and it’s promising when we first meet them, but their story, and all concrete sense of character, are pushed to the background as soon as the repetitive and numerous action sequences arrive. I literally felt my eyes glaze over as soon as gunplay, explosions, and gore rammed its way into the foreground.
And it’s not anything new. All the money shots are in the trailer.
Little details are planted to suggest that some of these characters have interesting back-stories, but it’s all too little too late. These characters are one-dimensional in a flat world.
There’s even a moment where the emotions and sentiments feel flat-out wrong. When Gabriel points out that Michael no longer has wings, Michael replies, “To no longer feel their burden…is a dream.”
I’m sorry, what?
I just don’t buy that. It feels forced. Flight is both an archetypal dream and a fear…and there’s no explanation to why God is doing what He is doing and why Michael hates his angelic status so much.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I’d also like to point out, that when you’re playing with mythology, theology, and lore to create a world, to fucking do your research. Check out some library books. Do a little reading. Hell, check out Wikipedia at the very least. I know novelists who cut-and-paste their baddies from the monster compendiums on Wikipedia for fuck’s sake. It’s lazy, yes, but it’s at least something. The writers of “Legion” should be damned to a Southern Baptist-fried Vacation Bible School to at least glean a basic knowledge of theology.
When I saw the trailer, I thought it was interesting that someone tipped the demonic convention of prophetic horror on its head by having angels be the baddies. It could have worked, but in this story it just came off as ignorant.
You want to see and read some good, post-apocalyptic, prophetic horror narratives that manage to create interesting worlds and have great characters? Check out Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” and Garth Ennis’ “Preacher” (someone with true anger and knowledge who is criticizing the Church and questioning theology). Want to see angels as baddies done intriguingly? Check out the CW’s “Supernatural” and Caitlin R. Kiernan’s short story cycle, “Alabaster”.