Belated Movie Discussion Time

Did you ever notice that sometimes, you need some time to think about something before you really make up your mind?  In that tradition, I bring you some random thoughts about movies that were released a while ago but that took me a while to figure out how I felt.

LEGION

The premise to Legion was promising.  If you’ve read the Bible (or have even a passing knowledge of it) then you know God (in the Old Testament & quite a bit in the New Testament as well) could be a capricious and vengeful sort.  And, despite what Michael Landon or Dela Reese might want you to believe, angels could be brutally effective killing machines.  Everyone already knows this, and that’s just fine.  It means that Legion doesn’t really have to do much work to justify its premise.

But somehow, it still feels it has to do all that work anyone.  Strike One.

Secondly, despite its promise to unleash a legion of vengeful angels upon the world, this is just another zombie movie.  The movie only has two actual angels in it, and one of those loses his wings within seconds of the start of the film.  Strike Two.

Finally, the zombies . . . er, angels of this movie are that most unforgivable of zombie types.  No, I’m not talking about fast VS. slow.  I’m talking about dumb VS. smart.  Zombies HAVE to be stupid.  Otherwise, a zombie apocalypse isn’t very interesting because nobody is going to survive.  Zombies that can think, plan, and strategize destroy any sense of conflict in the story.  The zombies in Legion are smart.  Except they’re not.  They’re stupid because they have to be, and that’s just stupid.  Strike Three.

The whole time I was watching Legion I kept wondering why, if the zombies have been appointed by God to kill this one woman and her baby, why didn’t they just drive a semi-truck into that rinky dink diner?  Or, if they would prefer to be more subtle, they could just charge headlong into the diner until everyone ran out of bullets.  Even stupid zombies understand that strategy.

The problem with Legion is that it’s just so damned generic.  Even the possessed in this film (possessed by angels, I remind you) are as generically villainous as they can be.  Why would angels use Satanic imagery?  Why would angels, who are basically just doing their job, resort to grade Z Freddy Kruegar taunts?  Because . . . well, because . . . well, it beats the hell out of me.

Michael and Gabriel are the most interesting characters in the film, and if there was more of their conflict, it could’ve been interesting.  Perhaps it was giving the film too much credit, but I imagined our two angels representing different sides of God himself.  Michael represents his introspective, hopeful side.  Gabriel is his vengeful, singularly focused side.  Their battle represents a metaphysical internal struggle in the Creatror’s psyche, manifest in a kick ass fight.

That’s probably giving the film too much credit though.  Still, I did like when Michael and Gabriel fought because it was nice to see some actual angels in a movie about angels.  Aside from that though, there’s nothing exceptional about Legion, either good or bad.  Just middle of the road.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Have you seen a Tim Burton film before?  Then you’ve seen Alice in Wonderland.  If you’re up for more of the same gothic wackiness then go for it.  Otherwise, there’s nothing new being brought to the table here.

One point I do have to voice a gripe with is the idea that this is in any way a female empowerment film when it’s just not.  I’m not going to say it’s anti-feminist because it’s not either, but when it comes to empowerment in general, I put it in neutral.

The idea that Alice is a chosen warrior seems anti-empowering to me.  That’s why I’ve never liked the idea of destiny as a plot device.  It just removes anything interesting about a character.  It says, “You’ve been chosen” and that’s the end of it.  You can’t blow it.  You don’t have any choice in the matter.  And without choice, how can one have empowerment?

It’s the old free will VS. predestination debate, I know, and I’m not sure at all where I stand on the issue in real life.  In fiction though, I hate it.

The movie tells Alice right at the beginning that she has to fight the Jabberwocky and that she has no choice in the matter.  It then has her run around for most of the movie saying she’s not going to do it when we already know she is.  Even that is forgivable, except the movie reminds us a couple of times of how insignificant Alice.

The vorpal sword is the Jabberwocky’s archenemy.  Not Alice.  Her only role is to hold onto the sword.  She’s a tool for the weapon.  The weapon is not a tool for her.  That’s not empowerment.  It’s just being a cog in a cosmic machine, which is almost the opposite of empowerment.  Maybe that’s just my perspective though.

Also, I’m not usually one to invoke phallic imagery because when you get right down to it, nearly everything long, straight, and hard can be phallic, but Alice’s moment of “empowerment” arrives when she grasps a sword (traditionally phallic) that she doesn’t even control.  I’m not Freudian (in fact, I think Freud has been proven to be mostly full of crap), but even I have to pause at that one.

DELGO

Odds are good, you have not seen Delgo.  I’ll save you some time and just say, it’s not very good.

Delgo is an animated feature that manages to be off putting and uninteresting at the same time.  I could point out that the plot is too complicated while still managed to be incredibly generic, but I’d like to talk about the art of animation instead because this is where the movie fails most spectacularly.

Let’s begin with the character design.  Everybody looks alike.  If it wasn’t for their clothes, you couldn’t tell them apart.  Some have wings.  Some don’t.  Other than that, it’s a crapshoot.  I’m assuming that the character design team did this on purpose.  Rather than have extreme designs, they weren’t for something more realistic in terms of proportion and design.  And they ended up right in the middle of the uncanny valley.

Animation is, above all, about action.  It’s about movement and life and energy.  Even understated animated features will have some moments of life to them.  Delgo has more scenes where characters are sitting around and talking than any other animated feature I’ve seen in a while.  Pixar and Dreamworks can make a talking scene work, but it’s always with the understanding of how important the smallest bits of animation can become in these scenes.

Ultimately, Delgo fails because it’s a series of well-meaning mistakes.  I don’t doubt that many people worked very, very hard to make this film.  They just didn’t end up with anything worth watching aside from a how-to-not-make-an-animated feature instructional video.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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8 Comments

  1. Jesse
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I felt similarly about Legion. We have to kill this baby. Why not just light the place on fire and either kill her in the process or smoke her out of the crappy diner? Oh no reason except then the movie will be 12 minutes long.

    I didn’t bother with Alice in Wonderland because Tim Burton has worn out his welcome with me. The last movie he made I had any interest in was Big Fish which was mostly good because it wasn’t your typical Tim Burton story.

    I also tend to agree with you about destiny as a plot device. Typical story arc for a story with destiny.
    Old guy: “You are destined to be AWESOME!(tm)”
    Kid: “I don’t want to be AWESOME!(tm) I just want to be normal. WAH!”
    60 minutes later.
    Kid: “I guess being AWESOME!(tm) was unavoidable all along! It’s cool to be AWESOME!(tm)”
    Roll Credits.

  2. Posted July 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Awesome blog, Alex! I totally 100% agree. Legion could have been great…but way missed the mark. I think they were focused too much on being like Terminator and forgot their own story.

    As far as Alice, I was so disappointed. I even blogged about it last week. You are absolutely correct. If she is fated to fight, then where is the conflict? Nobody in the entire movie had any affect. They never seemed very concerned about anything. And what was at stake? I never got a feeling of imminent pressing danger.

    This is one that, again, could have been great…but missed the boat.

    The other movie, I haven’t seen, but I am sure you are dead-on correct.

  3. Giga Watt
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    How did you feel about Kick-Ass? I remember you saying something about it on Facebook, but I cannot remember exactly what it was. I personally enjoyed the movie very very much. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, even though it opened my eyes to how graphically violent and unrelenting the real world can be.

  4. Elizabeth
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Legion was going to be a “been there, done that” movie and I knew that. But sometimes, the “been there, done that” can be like putting on an old outfit you just got something new to go with it that looks great.

    Taken was like that in my opinion. Legion was not. The angel characters were interesting and should have been developed way more-if not in that movie, in another one. Then again, I want to see Small Gods turned into a movie like Hogfather.

  5. AC
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    when I saw Legion, it heavily reminded me of a condensed form of the terminator movies, except instead of SKYNET, they’re fighting ANGELS

  6. Rippley
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    To the person who hacked my twitter account (a.k.a Saviour Faire, Siggy Rosenblum),

    Ha ha, how funny! I hope you hack someone of importance, so they track you down and arrest you. I did not do anything to deserve this. All I wanted to do was learn the craft of storytelling. I don’t even no what to say at this point, because I am so entirely frustrated.

    p.s. You are a bad copycat.
    p.p.s. Why me?

  7. Zovesta
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only seen Alice in Wonderland of your reviews.

    I personally agree. I still don’t remember the part with the sword and her grasping it, though.

    The Jabberwocky was the only character I liked.

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