STARRING: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert, Peter O'Farrell, Kiran Shah, Annabelle Lanyon and Robert Picardo

1985, 120 Minutes, Directed by:
Ridley Scott

Description: A demon who seeks to create eternal night by destroying the last of the unicorns and marrying a fairy princess is opposed by the forest boy Jack and his elven allies in this magical fantasy.

Thatcher. Reagan. Flock of Seagulls. These weren’t the only evil things from the 1980s. There were also Hollywood Fantasy movies — everything from Dark Crystal and Never-Ending Story to Willow and Labyrinth . . . Then there’s this 1985 effort directed by director Ridley Scott (soon after finishing Alien and Blade Runner) and Tom Cruise.

The plot: Satan (in the guise of the one and only Frankenfur — I mean — Tim Curry) tries to bring about a new reign of darkness or whatever by sending his goblin henchmen to cut off a unicorn’s, er, horn. Along the way, a princess is kidnapped and a perpetually smiling Tom Cruise as a wild forest child has to rescue her. Or something like that: the plot lacks focus and clarity.

What the screenplay does however have are some groan-worthy lines about purity, good and evil, and the like; not to mention some gaping plot holes as the chief villain succumbs to movie clichés, i.e., he doesn’t just plain kill off the princess and the unicorn at the earliest opportunity. Satan is a dumbass it would seem.

OK, OK, so the villain isn’t called Satan in the movie despite his resemblance to the biblical devil. However, someone responsible for the designs of the movie definitely had a rather strict religious upbringing as a child and the fear of hell driven into them! (Some psychological counseling might be in order!) Tim Curry is a very impressive and the make-up is suitably imposing. This is however the movie’s biggest problem.

On the one hand, Legend is essentially a movie for children. After all, it features a lot of children with fairy wings stuck to their backs. (Often it feels as if one is stuck in a primary school pantomime!) In addition, the plot is simplistic and some of the dialogue and characters quite juvenile. On the other hand, Legend is so heavy-handed in its approach that it isn’t a whole lot of fun at all. Its depiction of evil is so intense and scary, that the little ones would probably be begging their parents to please switch off the TV!

"Satan is a dumbass it would seem . . ."

Some scenes are simply too adult and scary for small children. Yet the tone of the movie is decidedly childish. At points during the making of Legend, I wondered whether the thought that “just what the hell am I doing here?” occurred to director Scott. A better sense of fun — and perhaps some post-modern irony á la The Princess Bride and Time Bandits — would have served Legend better.

If you have an aversion to generic fantasy elements — such as faeries, goblins, princesses, wood nymphs and other cutesy creatures, then it is recommended that you stay away from Legend, which turned out to be one of Tom Cruise’s few box office disappointments (it was only his second movie, and he looks particularly feminine here). If you liked any of the fantasy movies mentioned at the start of this review, you'll no doubt want to check Legend out (that is, if you haven't done so already). At least it's better than Krull . . .

In the movie’s favor are some stunning locales (apparently, the entire movie was filmed in the giant studios in the UK used for the 007 movies) and excellent photography. Also, the director’s cut features an effective — albeit at times inappropriate (it lacks that lightness of tone I referred to: it sounds more like Poltergeist than a whimsical faerie world at times) symphonic score by Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith scored a shitload of movies in his time and is probably best known for his Planet of the Apes and The Omen scores. Apparently, he composed this score for the movie before its release, but it was dropped in favor of an abstract electronic score by the synth group Tangerine Dream.

The director’s cut also restores about half an hour of running time. Not all of it is welcome however: at times, it feels like an awfully thin premise spread over an impossibly long time. However, the best thing about the DVD is probably that it is in widescreen and allows one to enjoy Scott’s sumptuous visuals. Whatever you say about Sir (harrumph) Ridley Scott, he sure knows how to frame a shot even though he won’t recognize a good script if it came up and bit him on the ass . . .



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