There’s still plenty of time left today for the rapture, and though not all of us are too bothered about it (or cashing in on it – no refunds!) it can’t hurt to take a look at what cinema predicts the biblical end of the world might be like in the 2010 film Legion, directed by Scott Charles Stewart and starring Paul Bettany, who seems to have dedicated his current film career to playing pale English warrior religious guys in every terrible film that needs one, like the upcoming “Priest”. Oh and Dennis Quaid is also here who is still apparently able to still get film roles solely because of the goodwill he generated by being in some stuff in the 80s that people vaguely remember. Spoilers aplenty follow for Legion, but it really sucks anyway.
So anyway, Legion kicks off with a diner in the middle of nowhere where an unlikely group of people are gathered. The TV stops working – this is the undeniable first sign of an impending apocalypse. The first thing Satan does is cut the TV signal, so that people don’t know what he is up to. I don’t know how the forces of Evil accomplish this, maybe they knock satellites out of orbit, cut TV cables worldwide or use dark magics, but they don’t demonstrate this sort of organisation or ability at any point later in the film. This is by far the most competent the forces of Evil are for the entire movie – their pointless opening gambit. Oddly, they don’t cut the power, just the TV signal.
Now, it struck me that perhaps the Evil ones had arranged a more successful first strike attack elsewhere, on military targets or civilian population centres. However it is soon revealed that this shitty diner is in fact ground zero because this is where the Messiah is soon to be reborn to a very pregnant waitress and the forces of Evil want him/her dead. So I suppose it is possible that the Enemy has just cut off the TV to this one diner. Next up arrives the first attack – this is the attack that has the greatest chance of success because the Warrior Angel Paul Bettany has not yet arrived to protect the waitress. So, obviously the forces of darkness send in one old woman who proceeds to order food. After being creepy and insulting the other customers for a bit, the old woman remembers she is a demon harbinger of the apocalypse and attacks with superhuman strength and speed. It looks absurd of course, and luckily everyone defeats her, mainly because she tipped her hand a bit by being creepy and offensive which really blew her cover. Still, a valuable lesson: old women may look sweet an innocent but they are often demons. Don’t trust them, especially if you suspect you may be pregnant with the Messiah.
The guys in the diner go to look for help but they can’t get to the city because there is a swarm of locusts. That’s something from the bible right? Locusts? Makes sense then I guess but I can’t help feeling that a swarm of something actually dangerous would be more useful in the short term considering that they aren’t worried about their fucking harvest. How about a swarm of bees! Or just forget the swarm idea all together and do something actually effective like a bomb. I swear, I could organise a much more efficient apocalypse, someone ought to put me in charge.
Luckily at this point, Warrior Angel Paul Bettany arrives and tells everyone what is going on. He has a stolen police car full of machine guns. Everyone trusts him, probably because of his English accent and because they must be getting sick of Dennis Quaid’s stupid frowny, jowly face. So another helpful tip: always trust mysterious Englishmen carrying guns. For some reason he has cut off his wings, I assume so he can blend in, but the only people he has seen so far have been a couple of demon possessed cops. And then he tells everyone in the diner he is an angel anyway. I bet he regrets cutting off his wings now!
He explains that the Evil corrupts weak people first and they become puppets for the demons – except he later explains that they are not actually demons but misguided angels – which makes no sense at all because I really don’t think angels are meant to do this sort of thing no matter how misguided they are. So, now comes Evil’s second offensive, a raid consisting of a bunch of ‘weak’ people, possessed by demons that are really angels. Again, Evil really drops the ball here: the forces of Darkness drive around aimlessly in station wagons, getting shot to bits by the heavily armed people in the diner. One is a little girl with a balloon – hardly the demon/evil angel strike force you might expect but it goes to show: don’t trust little girls either. Evil achieves nothing. Round 2 goes to the morons in the diner.
At this point, the demon/evil angel forces decide to capture one of the people in the diner and crucify him upside down in the parking lot, covering him in explosive acid buboes as a living booby trap. Again, this doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that angels would do, I don’t care how misguided they are. Still, their lame plan works and they manage to kill the diner’s chef – all the forces of evil planning since time immemorial with one goal: to stop the birth of the Messiah and they manage to kill a chef who has nothing to do with anything. So lessons learned: watch out for any crucified people covered in pustules, it might just be a trap set by some uncharacteristically mean angels designed to spray you with acid even though you aren’t really involved with proceedings.
The third offensive is much like the second, with an added ruse to try and lure everyone out of the heavily fortified, invincible ramshackle diner. It works because people do go out to the obvious trap, but then it fails because, again, the demon/evil angel strike force is possessing useless ‘weak’ human bodies, like children, and Warrior Angel Paul Bettany is still a Warrior Angel and so slaughters them all. Seriously, how hard would it be just to ram raid the diner? Could the legions of heaven/forces of Evil, whoever they are, not muster more than a few cars full of children and ice-cream men? This is the big one! Give it a bit more of an effort!
Ok now things start to get serious, Archangel Gabriel himself arrives to sort things out, apparently the only angel to realise that it’s far more effective to just stay an angel and not posses a little girl with a balloon. He arrives with wings, a suit of armour and – no joke – a chainsaw mace. If he had only arrived first, instead of the old woman, the film would have been so much better (shorter). His first act is to let the Messiah baby go, he just lets them drive away. WHY!? Again, a tactical error here which he later picks up on and tries to chase them, but first he kills Warrior Angel Paul Bettany who is at a disadvantage because it turns out that angel wings are bullet-proof and lethal and he mistakenly cut his own off for no good reason.
So the film wraps up with Gabriel catching up to the pregnant waitress only to find that Warrior Angel Paul Bettany is reborn with all his angel powers and wings. There is some dialogue along the lines of ‘oh Gabriel you silly goose, God didn’t really want you to murder the messiah and demonically possess people and then slaughter innocents with acid bombs like you thought for some reason. You totally dropped the ball! Only I, Warrior Angel Paul Bettany spotted this and so I am reborn and have to kill you.’ Something like that anyway, I had lost the will to live by this point. The Messiah is born and humanity survives living in a desert somewhere.
I think one important lesson that Legion teaches us is that it’s quite possible that there may well be a Judgement Day as a result of a mix-up in Heaven. Some angel got the wrong memo or someone utterly misinterpreted God’s plans and suddenly – bam! Apocalypse. Sure, it might be possible to predict the Rapture using scientific analysis of the Bible, but who can possibly predict this sort of bureaucratic mix up? If you suddenly find yourself stuck in the middle of a badly-managed apocalypse just remember to fortify yourself in the most remote, ramshackle building you can find and kill every single old woman, ice-cream vendor and little girl you can see. Don’t fall for the tricks of the Evil angels that will try to spray you with acid or lure you out of your refuge by pretending to be children in distress. And most importantly, listen to Paul Bettany when he claims he is an angel. Oh, and don’t forget your chainsaw mace.