Legion of Doom

Legion Of Doom is not a superhero or comic book movie. Philip (Gerry Galli) is discussing how much he hates film school for teaching him things he already knows and therefore putting him into debt for no reason at all. He goes on to describe that once he finishes this, whether Philip drops out or graduates, he is going to get any job at all, just to have enough money to have a premium SoundCloud account. He and his best friend Frank (John Palonka) are working together on a film project together, but they only ever intermittently work on finishing the movie. Instead, they drink and smoke too much, inexplicably play their bellies like drums so often it might as well count as a recurring theme, and talk a big game but utterly fail to deliver on anything or accomplish much more than waking up and not dying before sleeping again.

The tagline is “A Film School Farce,” and that is part of the issue with the movie. Galli co-writes and co-directs along with Oscar Frederick Welsh, and it would seem they have demons they are exorcising from attending film school. If the intent of the filmmakers is to send-up the ridiculous projects helmed by pretentious film school students than Legion Of Doom simply does not go far enough. Very little about the dialogue or the directing style suggest much more beyond the traditional turgid artists they aim to take down. Farce by its nature is absurdism, playing with caricatures and actively mocking its target. The direction is often point-and-shoot with a few shots from the back of a car to break up the nonexistent style.

“…Philip hates film school for teaching him things he already knows and therefore putting him into debt…”

The only part of the movie that lands is Philip’s self-assertion that he knows all there is to know about filmmaking, only to turn around and not care if he gets a job making movies. When Frank’s girlfriend dumps, as he is sleeping and farting in bed, it is an awful attempt at potty humor versus a proper parody of the simple romances movies sell. Kids are forced to go to school for 14 years before being told that if they don’t go for at least another four, optional though it is, they won’t land good jobs. These children would, naturally, very much like to let off steam. Therefore, the constant drinking, drug taking, and slapping of bellies (I really don’t get this at all) doesn’t humorously take down the idea of partying while going into debt. Essentially, had I not seen the tagline for the movie on its poster, I would have been unable to deduce that the goal resembled anything like a parody. At least for the first, black-and-white half.

At slightly over the hour mark, during a party, the main characters take acid, and now Legion Of Doom is in color. With this comes a hyperactively edited sequence with lots of trippy patterns folding in on themselves and a weird guy laughing. It jolts the audience awake and the preceding 50 minutes, with its more pointed, droll attacks, seem to have a purpose. Philip has been freeloading on Harper’s (Jessica Laight) couch and returns after the acid trip to tell her that Frank is dead and Danish (Breanna Peesker), a friend working on the movie, is in jail and they all dropped out of film school. This sets up the aspirations of would-be Hollywood big shots after school and the harsh reality they brush up against in an excellent manner. Harper gets fed up with Philip and confronts him about how his mess is slowly encroaching over the entire apartment. Again, this scene nicely punches a hole in the starving artist stereotype, depicting the cliche more as unmotivated than actually concerned with the meaning of their art.

“…needs a clearer, steadier voice…”

Galli and Frederick’s take on how the world reacts to and affects film students is more pointed than anything about actually attending film school. I don’t know why this is, I just know that at near two hours, Legion Of Doom needs a trim. Slice out a party or two from the first hour, as they are repetitive and blend together. Take out a few takes of the repeating dialogue and get to the real world stuff sooner.

The actors all do an excellent job, given what they have to work with. Galli and Palonka have good chemistry and are believable as friends. Laight as the put-upon but understanding Harper has a tricky role, but she is the character that resonates the strongest with the audience and never comes across as mean-spirited, even when talking down to Philip.

The ideas at play and the target for its humor are great in theory. But Legion Of Doom needs a clearer, steadier voice to steer it towards the nonsensical realm it aims for. It feels plodding with a number of its supposed over the top sequences never going far enough to leave an impression. The second half picks up considerably, but it is too little too late by then.

Legion Of Doom (2018) Directed by Gerry Galli, Oscar Frederick Welsh. Written by Gerry Galli, Oscar Frederick Welsh. Starring Gerry Galli, John Palonka, Brenna Peesker, Jessica Laight.

Grade: C-

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