B-Movie Inspirations: Legion (1998)
B-Movie Inspirations is a series of articles I write where I watch really bad movies and draw RPG inspiration from them.
Yet another little gem I found while browsing Youtube, this one caught my eye because of who was in it – Parker Stevenson, Terry Farrell, Corey Feldman, and Rick Springfield. Another notable is once again, Gretchen Palmer – an actor who has stared in other movies I have used as inspiration. This is a fairly big cast (10 team members) for a RPG party, but I will break it down into main characters and disposables
In the year 2036, we are introduced to a little world building. The world is at war – two unidentified factions gripped in a massive world spanning battle that has expanded into the space colonies of known space. Both sides are desperately seeking a means to end it. The first character we are introduced to is Captain Aldrich (a very thin haired Stevenson), who is in a military prison for whatever reason – later identified as insubordination – awaiting his execution. You get the vibe that this is a totalitarian regime that has no tolerance for thinking for one self. The soldiers later are wearing American military uniforms and flag patches, so I guess that makes us the bad guys (typical 1990s movie) The penalty is incineration as we watch the death of another guy just before him.
Aldritch’s execution is interrupted by a Colonel Flemming who intends on forming a sort of Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich/Lee Marvin reference) for a specific mission. All are special forces soldiers on death row and the team led by Major Agatha Doyle (Farrell, fresh off getting kicked off and killed in DS9). Anyone that takes on a mission and survives is offered a pardon. They are two infiltrate an enemy facility located in some unknown location and are told very little else other than getting out alive is going to be difficult.
Here is the breakdown of the characters – I like to list them in this detail in case someone wants to make characters based on them.
Captain Aldritch – First in his class at the Point (West Point or some other Point?), youngest recipient of the Congressional Metal of Valor, served under Fleming as one of his most promising officers. He lead something called Phobos raid and went against orders, pulling his team out.
Major Agatha Doyle – Lead of the team and the only non-prisoner in the group. Following Flemming’s orders to the letter.
Corporal Ryan – Demolitions expert, he blew up his commanding officer. Notable Quote: “I told my CO to cut the red wire. How did I know he was color blind.“
Private First Class Siegal – Corey Feldman plays him like a scared weasel who can hack into anything. He is a major character because this adventure (based on the movie) would need a tech of some kind. He tried to hack into the system to forge discharge papers.
The Secondary characters are:
Private Po – The brute of the group, he apparently killed an entire Luna Village. He’s a shock trooper, whatever that means in this universe.
Corporal Carlson – Mechanized infantry engineer, she sold top secret plans to the enemy. She is the rogue and her skills in the movie are under-utilized. She is established as the horny harlot willing to do anything or anyone to get what she wants. Notable Quote: “What good for me is right, what’s bad for me is wrong…”
Jones – Field medic that was captured by the enemy and forced to work on enemy soldiers. She is also a religious zealot and felt that her duty to God was to cause the death of eight enemy soldiers under her care. Notable Quote: “I am soldier of God. I just acted on command…“
Cargo Pilot Koosman – Not much is known about this guy except that he wanted time off and wasn’t given it, so he went AWOL and was imprisoned for it. Notable Quote: “Should have given me that weekend pass when I asked for it.“
Corporal Goodis – Special forces soldier skilled in covert operations, martial arts and acrobatics, she is mute after being raped by several soldiers. She hunted them down and killed them and that landed her in prison and on death row. Notable Quote: “…”
Private Cutter – Point-man and scout, Cutter killed and raped fellow soldiers under the influence of drugs. He is a druggie and a wildcard. He does not last long. Notable Quote: “I am the original party animal.“
Mission: The target is an enemy fueling processing plant, key in their ability to launch missiles back to Earth (implying that it is not on Earth.) There are constant and storms (Mars?) that make it difficult to land. Each solider is supplied with a “black box” which monitors their progress. The combat landing craft is called The Manta Ray.
The black box concept – something similar to a modern body cam worn by cops – is interesting but could have been more. Once the main characters are given guns for this mission, I am wondering the whole time what was keeping them from taking over the ship themselves and escaping. It is sort of a trope but they could also make those black boxes explosive controlled by the command ship, in case the prisoners got any funny ideas.
The low budget of this movie appears in places like the drop ship. The bay in which the soldiers wait for their landing looks like the inside of a moving truck. Shots are made tight and close so you can’t see a lot of detail. The EVA suits are cheap HAZMAT suits. The guns are overly decorated modern weapons. The cinematography and the sound editing for the entrance into plant is a total rip off from Aliens. It builds the tension in much a similar fashion. It just ends up falling flat later as we enter into the heart of the second act.
The set for the plant is basically some abandoned industrial plant they found in San Diego. They didn’t do a lot of work to make it futuristic. It’s dark and gritty with lots of pipes and panels, with lots of steam and flashing lights to make a creepy. Easy set up for a simple movie.
The team does not encounter any enemy resistance at all, and all are getting weirded out. There is no one to be found in the plant until they find a room full of dead soldiers, all mangled and bloody. They are their own soldiers and not enemy. This leads them to believe there is something in the plant killed people.
This is where the movie really falls flat. They spent a lot of time going over everyone skills only to take advantage of a few of them. Instead of building some intelligent story, raising the stakes as new challenge they have to overcome with their skills, they simple find excuses to split them up and hunt down whatever is killing them. For example, make something mechanical go wrong down in some lower level of the plant and they have to send Carson and someone else to investigate. It was disappointing that the best they could do throughout the middle of the movie was go on a wild goose chase while the killer stalks them one by one.
The movie devolves into a 10 Little Indians (Hitchcock reference) type plot where it does pretty well masking what the killer is but leaves clues all along the way. You spot the clues after the fact, once you know what the killer is. It’s not a bad bit of writing until the end, when the reveal is somewhat disappointing. In the end, one of the ten little Indians is actually a genetic experiment the military is testing. Everyone else are test subjects in a game the creators are watching. I have done this plot before but not quite this cliched.
There are a lot of missed opportunities in this movie. The creature is a genetically engineered super soldier that appears like a meek human at first, but can transform at will to a savage demonic looking creature that reminded me of Rawhead Rex (Clive Barker reference). The make-up was actually pretty good once you saw it. But it’s called Legion, as in the Bible verse My name is Legion, … for we are many (Mark 5: 9). But it was just one! I am sure due to budgetary reasons, they could not really make it many but for an RPG adventure, here is what I would have done.
We are many
The creature is already sort of a werewolf type in that it transforms into a creature, why not take that a step further. I am sure they considered it when they had a room full of bodies and I was expecting it at some point during the movie (again, being disappointed when they didn’t go there). Have the creature pass on something to its’ victims through its claws and/or bite that, when the creature needs it’s many, he can call on his Legion – resurrecting these victims and transforming them into a Beta version of the demonic creature and attacking the protagonists as if under the command of the Alpha.
Then I would take it further and let the protagonists assume that if they take out the Alpha, the rest would die or be rendered inert in some fashion. However, the twist is that the Alpha was the only thing keeping them under control and once he is dead, it is chaos. They attack the players, attack each other, attack inanimate objects.
Demonic or Occult Connection
The creature mentions something about splicing human and reptile genetics to make a perfect soldier but the makeup looked nothing like reptilian anything. It was more demonic to me. And that brings in an even better story point. Perhaps the military was experimenting not in genetic manipulation but rather, occult and demonic possession or some kind of occult magic to create super soldiers.