It’s the end of the world. Again. Mankind is doomed. Yawn. Grab yourself a tub of popcorn and an overpriced soft drink and settle in for the carnage. Why do filmmakers love apocalyptic scenarios so freaking much? And how many ways are there to skin this particular feline? The Last Humans on Earth have to do battle for the survival of their species against all manner of predator.
Aliens? Check. Vampires? Check. Angels? Hang on. There’sa new wrinkle. Everybody’s seen and loved “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Aren’t angels supposed to be on our side?
Obviously somebody didn’t get the memo because the newly released “Legion” calls out the forces of heaven; the irresisitible force in “Daybreakers” came from another darker place. Both of these films strain story logic and borrow from better movies but ultimately sputter out the same question: Humans, how do you want to die?
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God wants to cut His losses with humanity, and Legion has Archangels Gabriel and Michael dispatched to wipe the slate clean. They quibble about God’s will, with Michael (Paul Bettany) deciding people deserve another chance. Michael senses an unborn child will lead humanity back from the brink, so it appears Armageddon will be fought at a roadside diner in the high desert outside Las Vegas. You know how this one turns out if you remember The Terminator, Assault on Precinct 13 and scramble your biblical knowledge.
The Defending Champion
Edward Dalton’s job doesn’t have the same old bite anymore, and that puts Daybreakers into gear. Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist trying to create a blood substitute in a world where a virus has turned nearly everyone into a vampire, including Dalton. Time is running out because humans are getting scarce and Dalton’s change of heart makes him a bad guy to authorities and his boss Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). Mixed into a series of betrayals and happy accidents Dalton and a few rogue humans produce something even better than a blood substitute. If only those pesky vampires do their part.
Director Scott Stewart shares writing credit with Peter Schink, but Legion feels less written than assembled from elements you’ve seen elsewhere. The story arc mirrors The Terminator with a pregnant waitress (Adrianne Palicki) and a hero not-of-this-earth. The avenging angels (are they angels?) come straight from Night of the Living Deadville and John Carpenter’s The Thing. This film is light on originality and may disturb viewers who value a biblical memory. It’s hard to miss seeing Jesus-Mary-and-Joseph in Charlie (the pregnant waitress) and Jeep Hanson (Lucas Black), the man who loves Charlie but is not the father. Then there’s the matter of the Archangels. Both Gabriel and Michael appear in the Tanakh Jewish Bible, the Old Testament and Qur’an as servants of God, not combatants against each other. Twelve years of parochial schooling gave me an appreciation for these figures and the religious traditions that value them. If this film confusion finds a wider audience, some viewers might drop their popcorn and stone the screen.
Daybreakers doesn’t have that problem, but it threatens to give audiences a case of vampire-theme fatigue. Lots of exposed canines and no orthodontia in sight. Directors Michael and Peter Spierig include the customary blood and solar ickyness in their script, but too much of the drama seems unconvincing and ..yes, bloodless. A story by the numbers, needing more passion than it delivers.
No ringing endorsements here, but enough to keep from thinking you’ve wasted your ticket money.
Let’s be honest: These are not special movies, but they cover familiar ground. That may be enough for some viewers, and one of them — Legion — may put off audiences that fail to recognize it’s only a movie, not an attack on their religious traditions.
Here’s the winner: Daybreakers, and not by much. These minor films will be available soon on Netflix. See a better movie at the cineplex.