Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Thursday, June 27, 2019 — Houston, TX 90°

‘Legion’ refreshes the superhero genre

LEGION -- Pictured: Aubrey Plaza as Lenny "Cornflakes" Busker. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

By Michael VerMeulen     3/29/17 7:04pm

In the recent glut of comic book entertainment to be released on both the big and small screens in the last decade, new material is hard-pressed to stand out and make a cultural impact. Audiences have seen these types of stories so much that they have become desensitized to what once awed them. Though FX’s legion involves mutants and is part of the X-Men Universe, the series sidesteps this problem altogether by crafting the most different, trippy comic book property to date. Its first season has been thought-provoking, entirely original and absolutely must-watch.

One of the series’ strongest qualities is its mastery of cinematic devices. The show is one of the most audio-visually creative pieces ever put on the airwaves. The directors utilize all the tools at their disposal from the color scheme to the music to the aspect ratio. One memorable scene in the latest episode even paid homage to classic silent films with the dialogue on title cards. The camera and editing choices aren’t the show’s only superbly executed filmic techniques though, as the production and costume design is also remarkable. The sets are almost Kubrickian in their elegant simplicity, and the ’70s inspired clothes that the characters wear help in mystifying the show’s unknown time period.

The performances are excellent across the board. Dan Stevens plays the main character David, who oftentimes doesn’t know whether he is exceptionally powerful, crazy or both. Stevens has to show a number of conflicting facets while simultaneously remaining likeable, and he pulls it off marvelously. Rachel Keller is quite good as David’s girlfriend Syd, who cannot touch him due to her body-swapping mutation. Supporting turns from Jean Smart, Bill Irwin and Jemaine Clement also aid in providing the show both gravitas and quirk. However, the biggest revelation is Aubrey Plaza. Plaza, who normally portrays droll comedic characters, delivers the wildest, creepiest and most intense performance of her entire career. To say anything about the character she plays would ruin certain surprises, but it is definitely the most complex role she has ever had.

The show’s most fascinating feature though is its writing, led by creator Noah Hawley of “Fargo” fame. The plot constantly keeps the audience on its toes, not letting you in on its mysteries until the time is right. While most shows, especially superhero shows, attempt to keep the viewers in the loop with heavy exposition scenes and relatively simple plotting, “Legion” goes the other way by almost never explaining itself. Weird things happen and it is up to the watchers to figure out why. The story is much more a metaphysical, character-based tale than the action-heavy, valiant ones of other superhero shows. In many ways, “Legion” is barely a superhero show. It’s simply a great television show with great characters who just happen to have superpowers.

“Legion” is intelligent, bizarre, scary and all-around entertaining. It takes more risks and is weirder than almost anything else on television at the moment, and it’s all the better for it. If you’re a fan of superheroes and especially if you’re a fan of great cinematic art, the show is one of best things you could possibly be watching right now.

More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 5/9/19 4:00pm
Vampire Weekend expertly packages insight and maturity on new album ‘Father of the Bride’

The second half of the album departs from the sunshine of the first half by evoking more somber, contemplative tones. Tracks “Sympathy” and “Sunflower” experiment with electronic synth and funk influences. As a result, Vampire Weekend’s effort to synthesize different genres with their trademark indie rock at particular points in the album is highly appreciated, and saves Father of the Bride from becoming a sidekick to Modern Vampires. 

A&E 4/22/19 9:45pm
Ktru Outdoor Show delivers eight hours of sunny entertainment

On Saturday, the Central Quad came alive as a multitude of students and community members gathered on picnic blankets for the 28th annual ktru outdoor show. The show, lasting eight total hours, featured a diverse mix of acts from the quirky indie duo Coco & Clair Clair to the intimidating performance of Kilo Kish. 

A&E 4/20/19 2:35pm
Identities laid bare at senior art show

Nineteen visual and dramatic arts students, most of whom are double majors, presented their work at the senior art show last night. Their passion bleeds out into sculpture, painting and film but also through these other academic and cultural aspects of their lives — all on display in Sewall Hall. 


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.