Legion (1998)
Legion (1998)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Release Date: April 18th, 1998 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Jon Hess Actors: Terry Farrell, Parker Stevenson, Corey Feldman, Rick Springfield, Troy Donahue, Audie England, Trevor Goddard, Richmond Arquette, Elston Ridgle, Gretchen Palmer, Tricia Peters

 


 

I

t’s 2036, the sixth year of a world war that rages beyond the boundaries of Earth. Tens of millions of civilian and military deaths have accrued, with the ongoing combat reaching a stalemate. But the Allied Strategic Command of the U.S. Army claims to have a new strategy for turning the tide.

Meanwhile, at a military prison, Private Gomez has reached the end of the line, having been sentenced to death for murder. He’s summarily executed in an incinerator, which is set at 500 degrees. Due process reaches prisoner 1709, Captain Aldrich (Parker Stevenson, a Z-grade Harrison Ford lookalike), as well, who has served two years for his crimes and is up next to be turned into ashes. When he manages to escape, briefly, he discovers that his flight was orchestrated by the man in charge, General Flemming (Troy Donahue), as part of an evaluation of his skills for an upcoming life-or-death mission. Along with a squadron of similarly condemned army soldiers – considered scum by the institution – Aldrich is tasked with overthrowing a fuel-processing plant utilized by the enemy to launch bombs toward Earth. And he’ll be under the command of the steely Major Agatha Doyle (Terry Farrell), who surely has more faith in this ragtag team than anyone should. If they’re successful, they’ll receive honorable discharges. But the odds dictate that no one will make it out alive.

“The angel of death is my superior officer.” During the initial briefing and the tactical shuttle ride to the enemy base, it’s quite apparent that “Legion” borrows generously from “The Dirty Dozen,” “Aliens,” “Predator,” and “The Thing,” to name just a few. A colorful selection of misfits compose the team, including the stereotypical tough guy (Trevor Goddard), a muscular brute (Elston Ridgle), an overly emotional guy (Richmond Arquette), the nervous demolitions expert (Rick Springfield), the nerdy tech (Corey Feldman), a preaching doctor (Audie England), and, for a bit of a twist, a silent yet acrobatic booby-trap-disarmer (Tricia Peters), and a nymphomaniac (Gretchen Palmer) primed for dereliction of duty. The group is impressively diverse as well, made up of men and women of varying ethnicities and ages. “When do we get weapons?”

When the platoon gets to the fuel depot, they search for life signals using a motion detector, realizing that the enemies appear to be located all in one west wing – almost exactly like in “Aliens.” And a storm prevents reinforcements from arriving for another eight hours (which eventually feels like real-time). “This doesn’t make any sense!” The comparisons (primarily to “Aliens,” though other derivations abound) keep growing, yet the acting and the scripting are exponentially inferior. The lighting keeps things gloomy; the set is little more than an empty factory; and the premise is mediocre at best (and nonsensical, since many of the troops are homicidal maniacs, rapists, and drug addicts, who can’t be trusted with shoelaces, let alone machine guns). As mutiny stews, the convicts verbally and physically fight one another, and room after room is searched, minutes are spent without significant revelations or appearances by the enemy. It feels like a setup or a trap, or perhaps there’s a saboteur and killer among the group, but no one perishes until nearly 45 minutes into the picture.

“I don’t think we should split up.” The tension is acceptable, when it finally arrives, though “Legion” is all about creating an atmosphere to avoid actually showing special effects or stunts that might increase the budget. The violence is limited, makeup effects are virtually nonexistent, and a monster-cam viewpoint gets annoying fast. Plus, Farrell tries her damnedest to remain formidable and sincere, yet she’s never entirely convincing as an order-spewing, drill-sergeant type. And too many other pushy personas fill up the screen, distinct as they may be, serving merely as bait as the crew members are picked off one by one at an exceptionally slow rate.

But perhaps the silliest aspect of “Legion” is the lack of knowledge concerning the enemy; one would think that after six years of warfare against an opposition that has spanned to nearby space colonies, every single human would be intimately familiar with who or what they’re battling. By not showing even a hint of the monster until the very end, the thrills rapidly lose their credibility. During the closing scenes, when things are ultimately explained (in a meaty monologue) but remain unoriginal, the film resembles a bad episode of “The X-Files” or “Star Trek” (which is particularly curious considering that Farrell had just finished – abruptly – her run in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”).

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10