By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
This verse from the King James Version’s translation of Psalm 34 opens — and is intended to set the tone for — the theologically skewed apocalyptic horror outing “Legion” (Screen Gems). But, as the next hour-and-a-half of screen time makes abundantly clear, director and co-writer (with Peter Schink) Scott Stewart’s feature debut portrays the fear of the Lord in a very different manner than either the psalmist or the writers of Scripture in general.
Rather than the reverential submission due to a mighty but benevolent God, the emotion aimed at here seems to be the kind of frenzy which an all-powerful heaven-dwelling terrorist might produce. Thus the script takes for its premise that God has despaired of humanity’s future and has unleashed hordes of demonic angels — not to mention pestilential swarms of insects — to destroy civilization and wipe out Earth’s entire population.
But the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) rebels against this petulant plan.
Knowing that Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), the lone waitress at a remote roadside cafe in the Mojave Desert, is pregnant (though unmarried) with a child who alone can save humanity, Michael sets out to defend the place against the repeated attacks of his fellow angels — who have, by now, taken possession of crowds of human beings, transforming them into zombielike killing machines — long enough for her to give birth.
And just when is Charlie’s due date? Dec. 25, naturally.
Michael enlists the help of the eatery’s owners, religious skeptic Bob (Dennis Quaid) and Bible believer Percy (Charles S. Dutton), Bob’s gentle son Jeep (Lucas Black) — who humbly nurses a forlorn, all-accepting love for Charlie — and just-passing-through customer Kyle (Tyrese Gibson).
What follows is a long, grim slog that intersperses relentless, though only occasionally gory, violence with metaphysical mush. Despite a brief passage of dialogue about Charlie’s experience in an abortion mill that can be read as conveying a pro-life message, the wearisome proceedings overall leave viewers feeling as besieged as the characters in that lonesome greasy spoon.
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.
The film contains convoluted religious themes; constant, though mostly nongraphic, violence; an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; a couple of uses of profanity; much rough language (including at least 25 uses of the F-word); and some crude and crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian