Legion star Paul Bettany has pipped critics to the post when it comes to summing up his new film: “If you’re looking for a serious discussion on religion, it’s not. It’s about guns and explosions.” No kidding.
In the showdown between big themes and big set-pieces, the latter wins hands down. True, some will attempt to find meaning in its theological wranglings. Here’s a tip: don’t bother.
Intriguingly, the movie’s chief baddie is God himself who, having decided to smite everyone on Earth for being a bit crap, dispatches a swarm of angels to turn us all into flesh-chewing zombies.
However, the Archangel Michael (Bettany) thinks that the Almighty’s being a bit hard on his flock, so decides to save us – only to be opposed by the Archangel Gabriel (the imposing Kevin Durand), who carries out the Lord’s work with the aid of his bullet-deflecting wings. You know, just like you remember from Sunday School.
The plot – indeed, the fate of mankind – hinges on Michael’s inexplicable efforts to save the unborn child of a chain-smoking waitress (Adrianne Palicki) working in a middle-of-nowhere diner, where the cast is filled out by the likes of Dennis Quaid (rough), Charles S Dutton (tough) and Tyrese Gibson (packing heat). At this point, you’re either on board, or think the whole thing utterly ludicrous. It is. It’s an antidote to the sombre apocalypses of The Road and The Book Of Eli.
It’s also far from perfect. First-time feature director Scott Stewart is a former ILM special effects wizard who’s been given the keys to the store and it shows. There’s little sense of narrative cohesion – or any explanation for the moments of madness.
Good job, then, that these fits of freakiness are spectacular enough for their own sake: flies attacking a moving car, an old woman spider-walking on the ceiling, one angel bashing another over the head with a telly…
Enlightening? Not remotely. Entertaining? Amen to that.
Is it a zombie movie? An action movie? A message movie? It’s actually all three: a faintly risible but spirited muddle that mangles lofty ambitions with low pleasures. All together now: Spider-Nan, Spider-Nan…