• Legion TV Show Review

    From Allen Prunty@1:2320/100 to all on Tue Feb 21 16:13:15 2017
    I thought this post was pretty interesting from a newsgroup.



    26 Jan 17 22:17, Ubiquitous wrote in rec.arts.comics.marvel:

    Noah Hawley from 'Fargo' brings an obscure Marvel property to
    intriguing life with a visual masterpiece about mental illness and
    mutant powers.

    No one should be surprised that Noah Hawley, who masterfully imagined
    two wildly different television seasons of Fargo, would approach a
    relatively obscure Marvel X-Men character in a completely different
    way than others, and that the end result would be on FX, meshing well
    with its stable of ambitious dramas.

    But maybe the surprise is that it all came out so triptastic?

    Legion, based on the Marvel comics of Chris Claremont and Bill
    Sienkiewicz, is less about superhero-esque fight scenes and more about
    the mental mind-bleep of looking at schizophrenia as an untapped
    power rather than an illness. Hawley has essentially found an
    intellectual backdoor into the mutant X-Men concept and reimagines how
    to tell that kind of story in a riveting, off-kilter visual way.

    Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel's television division, has said that Legion
    is "a kind of show Marvel has never done before" and it's evident in
    Hawley's interpretation. While viewers will, by the second and third
    episodes, get a sense of where Legion will be going and what it will
    be trying to do in explaining the paranormal ability of David Haller
    (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey), the expanded pilot is one very different
    and trippy approach, a boldly rewarding dissociated narrative that's
    both weirdly compelling and deeply confusing while never being

    Much of that cinematic roll of the dice can be credited to Hawley (who
    directs in addition to writing and having created the show). His
    visual stamp is essential to the success of Legion because its
    non-linear, visually disorienting pilot redefines expectations.
    Meaning, the audience isn't shown what David's "normal" life is like
    before it takes a detour, as most stories like this do, with woozy
    cinematic flourishes to clue viewers into when our main character is
    off his meds, etc. No, Hawley has essentially decided to fully tell
    the narrative from the mental interior of David's brain and build out
    from there what he sees, imagines, suffers, dreams and acts out from
    that POV.

    That choice makes the first episode of Legion a visual thrill-ride of disconnected, juxtaposed narratives that are brain-bending and, at
    times, purposefully confusing. Hawley wants the audience to be
    disoriented as they wonder exactly how bad David's mental illness is (exacerbated by drug use with another friend and fellow disturbed
    mental patient, Lenny, played by Parks and Recreation alum Aubrey
    Plaza). While the second and third episodes certainly continue this
    pattern, Hawley is able to pivot at the end of the wonderfully weird
    hour-plus pilot and set up a storyline where viewers can more clearly understand what's going on, as a rogue group led by a therapist named
    Melanie Bird (Jean Smart), helps show David that he's not
    schizophrenic at all & he's one of the most powerful people alive,
    with gifts that go beyond telepathy to telekinesis and who knows where
    in the outer limits of imagination.

    But even knowing that's the idea that drives Legion doesn't actually
    mean the show settles into a rote visual pattern u viewers will
    constantly be taken aback as Hawley aggressively keeps up the optical
    hijinks and integrates myriad sound-tweaking options as well, from
    dissonance to garbled or tinny vocals to white-noise whispers. By
    framing David's mental freak-outs this way, stylized and absorbing,
    Hawley is able to essentially replace what might otherwise be rote
    action fight scenes. Keeping it away from preconceived comic book
    flourishes allows Legion to maintain a more grounded and intellectual storyline. It's a well-conceived and bold escape from X-Men or
    superhero conceits.

    David's time in a mental institute is shared with Lenny, who has been
    driven there primarily by extreme drug and alcohol addiction. While at
    the Clockworks mental institute, David also meets Sydney Barrett
    (Rachel Keller, Fargo), a patient who doesn't like to be touched (for
    reasons that become specific when she hits it off with David) and who
    becomes an essential key to keeping David out of the hands of a shady
    group known as Division 3. The fight for "control" of David's gifts
    comes down to Melanie Bird and her group vs. Division 3.

    Legion opens with a montage of David's early life, rife with drug use
    and mental instability, set to The Who's "Happy Jack," which tips its
    hat to Hawley's sense of fun around psychedelic songs (like "She's a
    Rainbow" by The Rolling Stones or the weird agitation in Thomas
    Dolby's "Hyperactive!"), not to mention that the Sydney "Syd" Barrett
    character is no doubt named after the Pink Floyd founder who had his
    own bouts of mental illness and drug use. (If there's not an
    introduction at some point of a character named Roky Erickson, I'd be
    stunned & not only because of his connection to psychedelic music in
    the 13th Floor Elevators and his own mental illness, but also because
    he's from Austin, Texas, Hawley's adopted home.)

    With its stellar cast & featuring Bill Irwin and Jeremie Harris, who
    work to help David at Melanie's hidden compound; Katie Aselton as his
    beloved sister Amy; and the future emergence of Jemaine Clement as
    Melanie's husband Oliver Bird & Legion has a lot of gifted people
    around to bring life to Hawley's vision. (Smart and Keller worked with
    him on Fargo.) Stevens, in particular, is asked to do a lot in this
    series and pulls it off convincingly. Not only is he using an
    American accent and sporting oddly cut short (and long, in flashbacks)
    hair, he has to nail the schizophrenia/mutant mind-bending stuff and
    never lets it get hokey or lose the well-earned harrowing part of it
    that Hawley instills. The audience gets its sympathy for David through
    all he's suffered as a child.

    As it turns out, that's a lot. Where Legion works best is establishing
    a whole lot of crazy in the early going, with little sense of how it
    connects or where it came from & only that it's creepy as hell (an
    oddly shaped "yellow-eyed devil" that scares the bejesus out of David
    into his adult life; a moody, evil boy that starts off as the worst
    bedtime storybook character ever and morphs into what looks like an inflatable-headed Adolph Hitler). Toss in David's varied mental breaks
    and the scary powers he doesn't understand and can't control and
    you've got a story that virtually demands an array of jarring images.

    Hawley's decision to disorient viewers by making David's unsettling
    and confusing mental landscape the visual launching point for this
    world is strategically smart u if challenging u and the skillful
    camera work has a panache that stamps the early episodes.
    Stylistically, there's nothing quite like Legion's smart take on
    mutant powers, which keeps the series more dramatic and less light or flippantly Marvel-esque, a welcome change from other projects out

    It might seem weird to have a Marvel show on FX, or to have it star
    that upper-crust Brit from Downton Abbey, filtered through the creator
    of Fargo, but somehow it all works. Three episodes of Legion & in all
    their cracked visual glory & were enough to want the rest of the
    season immediately.

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