Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Legion: Season 1 ★★★★★

Before long, Marvel will be running the world. Everywhere you look, there’s a Marvel film or a Marvel TV show or a Marvel game or, obviously, a Marvel comic. In the last 20 years or so, the brand has really grown to enormous new heights and nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen any of the Marvel adaptations. In this ridiculously crowded subgenre of film & TV (yes, I consider Marvel to be its own genre now), it takes a hell of a lot for something to stand out. But TV series Legion certainly does stand out, thanks to a unique and original delivery.

Based on the Marvel Comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, Legion tells the story of David Haller (Dan Stevens), a troubled young man who may be more than human. Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. Now in his early 20s and free once again, David loses himself in the rhythm of the structured regimen of daily life: breakfast, lunch, dinner, therapy, medications, sleep. The pleasant numbness of David's routine is completely upended when a situation arises that leads him to confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may be real.

Legion’s primary influence is clearly the work of David Lynch, and it shows throughout. The series is filmed through Haller’s distorted view of reality, making for an often uncomfortable and chillingly bizarre viewing experience that puts the viewer right into the mind of the lead character. Rarely has this been done so effectively and disturbingly. Not only is the delivery itself surreal and quirky but the set design and costume too. Highly stylized and described by director Noah Hawley as “a 1964 Terence Stamp movie”, Hawley wanted the show to have its own aesthetic and “internal logic”. The 1960s décor and visuals came about after Hawley decided the show wouldn’t be taking place in the world we know as such, but rather “David Haller’s experience of the world. He’s piecing his world together from nostalgia and memory, and the world becomes that”. 

Special mention should certainly go to Dan Stevens who makes this role entirely his own and steals every scene. Putting in a phenomenal performance as Haller, he absolutely reinforces the fact that this is not your usual superhero tripe. To have a ‘hero’ who is so dark and mentally twisted and exist in a world so frighteningly surreal and daring, is a very rare thing indeed. The Avengers this ain’t. Legion is often not for the faint of heart, but it is a remarkable feat of television as an art form that transcends the usual genre conventions.

I’ve never been a fan of superhero films or television. I find it all to be too samey, often cheesy and generally unengrossing. Legion is the exact opposite of all three of those traits. Bold, Lynchian and sophisticated, this is a challenging watch for even the most die-hard surrealists. But if you can get into it, you’ll find it to be a powerful and rewarding watch that reminds you what TV is capable of. 
Legion is a masterclass of television and a truly stunning piece of work from all involved. Bravo!

Sam Love

Legion: Season 1 at CeX

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