Image copyright of FOX 2017
A number of months ago on our radio show, possibly in the summer of 2016, I reported about how FOX was bringing two X-Men based series to TV.
One of these was going to be a live adaptation of Legion, a character created in 1985 by Chris Clament and Bill Sienkiewicz. Legion, real name David Haller, is the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier and has dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) and has the ability to consume other mutant’s abilities into his own.
The interesting switch is, that whilst characters such as Rogue have similar abilities, Legion’s split personalities control different abilities. These lead Legion to be classified as an Omega-level mutant, someone who basically has
This leads Legion to be classified as an Omega-level mutant, someone who basically has an extreme level of powers. Notable other Omega-level mutants include Jean Grey, specifically as Phoenix, Iceman, and Psylocke.
That’s the Legion from the comics, however, and we’re here to talk about the Fox TV series.
Starring Dan Stevens as David Haller, the show starts off with a quick montage of Haller’s early years, and how he winds up in the Clockwork Psychiatric Hospital under the care of Kissinger (played by David Ferry). We learn that this Legion also has dissociative identity disorder, and an extreme level of telekinesis, though he doesn’t really know this due to thinking he is insane – which you would think as much when psychiatrists tell you constantly and you keep taking drugs to stabilise yourself.
Haller falls for the new girl in the hospital, Sydney Barrett (played by Rachel Keller), a woman who doesn’t like being touched – for reasons that are explained throughout the first episode. Basically, without spoiling the whole episode for you, Sydney is also a mutant.
We also have Lenny (played by Aubrey Plaza), Haller’s best friend, who impacts on Haller’s life despite the events of the first episode. Again, not to spoil the episode too much, Haller allegedly did something to certain people in the hospital, and now is being confronted by Hamish Linklater’s character known only as “The Interrogator.”
And so sets up the events of the rest of the series.
Legion, which is a co-production between 20th Century Fox and Marvel TV, has had a lot of interest from both sides of the fence, with Marvel.com listing Legion as “the newest member of the MCU” in the summer. In actuality, whilst the show is co-produced by Marvel, its ties are quite firmly attached to the X-men Universe.
Though with that being said, there are rumours that this will operate outside of the mainstream X-men narrative altogether, meaning few, if any characters from any X-men film making an appearance.
From having thus far only watched the 1st episode, I can only say a short amount about things. From what I’ve seen this far, however, the series looks like it’s going to be all kinds of phenomenal.
The one criticism I have thus far about it is that at an hour and a half running time (with adverts) the first episode is a bit weighty. But that just means there’s more time to set the story.
When you can’t distinguish between whats real and whats a part of Haller’s hallucinations, it can be quite a trek to keep up.
There’s a slight vibe that harkens back to Stanley Kubrick’s style of cinematography, with the slash edits, and the disconnect in the normal and the surreal scenes. I like good cinematography, and this is a good thing in my opinion.
There’s a range of ’60s/’70s colour palette going on, with a retro-futuristic look to everything, but it doesn’t make the series look dated. If anything, I thought the decor was set in the future if I’m perfectly honest.
Dan Stevens plays the role remarkably well, and from his little ticks and facial nuances to the manner in which he holds eye contact, you get the feeling that this guy actually does have something wrong with him.
So, if you like the idea of mutants being on TV, this is the show for you.If you like wacky editing, this is the show for you. If you’re a fan of Dan Stevens, this is the show for you. If you like your X-men lore, this is the show for you.
If you’re not a fan of compartmentalised narratives set in a non-linear storytelling manner, complete with times wherein your ability to differentiate between real and false, then it’s probably not the best watch, especially when you realise it lasts as long as some movies.
It is slightly difficult to follow if you switch off halfway through, but if you dedicate the time to it, the payoff is a really intriguing, visually stimulating series which just so happens to feature mutants.
Whether we see the likes of the X-Men crop up, later on, remains to be seen, but the fact that Marvel and Fox have started to make a collaboration is really hopeful for the future.
Nerd rating: 7/10
Dan Stevens makes the show incredibly worthwhile viewing, but the sometimes hard to follow narrative can deter away from things. Thankfully, it’s thematic in that sense, because it makes you feel like it’s genuinely coming from the eyes of someone with a severe mental disorder.
Definitely worth a watch, but only if you can keep your full attention on it.
Legion is currently showing every Thursday on FOX in the UK, after it’s premiere on the 9th February 2017 at 9.00pm GMT.
-James Wright (22/02/17)