The Legion Review The Buff and The Blazer
To spare you any confusion, we will immediately say that Jose Magan’s The Legion is not a good film. Instead of using this entire article to bash the 2020 offering, it is better to look at what specifically went wrong. If the film taught us anything, it is that we take many of the standard film-making techniques for granted, mainly cinematography, editing, and direction/scene blocking. There are many things wrong with The Legion, but we will deal specifically with those three areas.
There are some elements of film that are not noticeable when used correctly/effectively. One of those is editing. Most of the time, we simply do not notice editing because the editor has done his or her job well enough to serve the story. On the other hand, bad editing sticks out like a sore thumb that gouged your eye out. That was certainly the case for The Legion.
Many of the scenes in the film, attempted to establish a rhythmic pacing that was ultimately derailed by a bad editing choice. One scene features the main character Noreno (Lee Partridge) scaling a mountain. The scene is long and arduous, but there is consistent pacing to it. The pacing is immediately derailed when we cut to a sequence of Noreno resting on a ledge. The scene then continues almost immediately after with Noreno continuing the climb. Another awkward editing moment features an overly drawn out exterior shot that fades to black and cuts to an interior shot of a character walking mid-stride. Both examples highlight many of the editing flaws that extinguish any sense of consistent pacing.
Another weakness of The Legion was its random collection of shot choices. While the film does feature some beautiful shots, most of the cinematography appears random, meaningless, or ineffective. In a shot where Noreno is exiting Duria’s (Marta Castellvi) hut, he is framed from an extremely low angle. That choice is traditionally used as a way of emphasizing a character’s power. In this instance, it seems to serve no obvious purpose at all. During the extended chase/running scenes, many of the shots are a messy assortment of feet close-ups and characters running in and out of frame. In those sequences, the frame squashes the characters just below their brows and you feel as if you are missing the action. The camera does not give you a clear sense of how the scene is developing.
The awkward blocking choices in The Legion are our last point of contention. They are often the result of a collaboration between actor and director. Those awkward moments occur mainly in scenes involving two characters, but there are exceptions. The film begins with Corbulo (Mickey Rourke) monologuing to a marble bust of Emperor Nero. The scene is either poorly thought out or meant to highlight Corbulo’s eccentrics. Either way, the scenes are extremely awkward. Another poor choice of blocking occurs when Corbulo is being persuaded to help the stranded Roman Legion. As he listens, he rises from a seated position and makes his way across the room to a couch, only to sit down again. Examples like these take away from any sense of naturalism. They give the appearance of staged performance rather than believable choices.
Movies like The Legion remind us of the film-making techniques we take for granted as movie-goers. For prospective filmmakers, it is ultimately an effective example of techniques to avoid.
The Legion is available on digital now!
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