A movie about angels for the areligious, as careless with human life as it is with the use of cliche, Legion hand represents a twisted look at the end of days, casting the Almighty in the role of villain. Unfortunately, while it shows real intent to develop characters and incorporate some sort of moral complexity, its approach is way too serious for a movie that derives a fair amount of its appeal from overplayed horror film tropes. Imagine The Terminator but without the wit, time travel or killer robots -- in truth, the elements that made that film worth watching.
The action begins in Los Angeles, where the angel Michael (Paul Bettany) literally falls from the sky and brings destruction with him. As the city falls into darkness (again: literally), he hits the road in search of Charlie (Adrienne Palicki), who, despite being an eight-months-pregnant non-virgin, is still the prophesied mother of humanity's savior. The tiny desert diner where Charlie waitresses for owner Bob (Dennis Quaid) and his son Jeep (Lucas Black) serves as ground zero for the battle against agents of God in the form of "weak" possessed humans who function much like classic Romero zombies. With the diner surrounded and the patrons inside turning against one another, it's up to Jeep and Michael to keep Charlie safe long enough for the second coming of Jesus to take his first baby breath.
Slow to start, with an unnecessary emphasis on character development, the movie quickly picks up once the Apocalypse is fully underway. The film's biggest scares come courtesy of the "weak" humans, who quickly pick off the unaffected diner patrons one by one over the course of the film. Whether the work of God or the Devil, there's little creepier than a possessed child or old lady, and scenes featuring these twisted agents of the Lord are some of the film's most terrifying components.
In comparison, the actual angels, who in their fully-realized incarnations sport some impressively rendered wings, intrigue but fail to be at all threatening. Legion can't overcome the iconography of grown men wearing wings, even if they happen to be bulletproof; perhaps if the filmmakers hadn't stuck so closely to the classic image of angels, their marquee villains wouldn't seem quite so ridiculous.
The high-caliber cast is wasted on the extremely cliched dialogue; both Bettany and Quaid are slumming it here, but try to make the most of the material and avoid looking like they're just there for the paycheck. As the mother of the Second Coming, Palicki is tough but likable, and has some nice chemistry with Black, who unfortunately never really manages to step up as leading man.
At its core, Legion is deeply cynical, even when Michael rants about the potential good of humanity, and ends on a depressing note that even manages to quash any hope for the future. But it does stand apart as a unique experience amongst the recent flood of apocalyptic films; those who enjoy the combination of semi-automatic weapons and Scripture may find something to enjoy.