A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Legion is a historic action drama with some faith-based scenes. It follows a brave, persevering messenger who's sent to get word to a Roman general that help is needed: He must get past the opposing forces and survive the mountainous elements. While there are lots of battles and fights -- with an arsenal of historic weapons -- the point of impact is almost never seen; it's just out of frame. There are two very bloody deaths, but the most squeamish moment may be when viewers get a good look at the messenger's blistered feet. Mickey Rourke co-stars as a glammed-up real-life general. Occasional strong language includes "f--k" and "goddamned."
What's the story?
Inspired by true events, THE LEGION takes place in 62 A.D. Roman troops have invaded Parthia but demonstrate poor strategy. Two legions are isolated in the snowy Armenian mountains, surrounded by Parthian patrols and slowly freezing to death. Roman soldier Noreno (Lee Partridge) is sent on an impossible mission: Cross the most difficult terrain to get a message to Roman general Cabulo (Mickey Rourke) in a desperate attempt to save thousands of lives.
Is it any good?
The Legion is bizarrely bad, but it's also too boring to reach cult status as a "so bad it's good" film. The story is a shell of a good idea, but many viewers -- especially teens -- will require a clearer explanation of what's happening. It's a sword-and-sandals epic where punches don't connect and the actual action frustratingly happens just out of frame. Most of Rourke's scenes as General Cabulo have him all alone, stiff-jaw monologuing to a bust of Nero. Oh, and while playing the much admired, famously tough Roman leader, Rourke sports a Captain Jack Sparrow-esque look that includes an eye patch -- which he lifts at one point to reveal that his eye is totally intact. Why? Bai Ling, who's credited as one of the stars, doesn't show up until the very end to add some tacked-on political intrigue -- it's as if the filmmakers finished shooting the movie, and then got her to sign on, and then wrote an unnecessary scene for her. Equally bizarre? Three-quarters of the way through the film, there's a twist: an appearance by the biblical figure Saul, who's better known as Paul the Apostle. Surprise, this is actually a faith-based film!
As Saul was, indeed, around during this time in history, it's not a terrible idea to have him meet and interact with a Roman warrior to promote the peaceful teachings of Jesus Christ. But the characters' conversation isn't compelling enough, and the whole scene is such an odd insertion that it takes you out of the story. Again, you can only imagine that a financier came on board who insisted on Christian messaging, because Noreno's faith only shows up during the wrap, which looks like it was shot on the set of a high school play. The Legion ends with an excruciatingly long shot of a painting to demonstrate live action -- and that may be the worst offense. Still, the film does have something substantial to offer: gorgeous cinematography. Most of the film consists of Noreno's week-long marathon across snowy, rocky mountains. At times, it's absolutely beautiful -- a credit to cameraman Robert Reed Altman (son of legendary director Robert Altman). The contrast between that and the final, stagnant shot makes it clear that director José Magán gave up. Teens? They'll have given up within the first five minutes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Legion. How much is shown, and how much is implied? How does that affect the impact?
What is the film saying about finding purpose in life?
How does this movie compare to other faith-based films you've seen?
Talk about Emperor Nero and the Roman empire. Why is it unusual to see this administration's soldiers and generals as the heroes of a story?
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