Fairy Tale Blogathon: Ridley Scott’s LEGEND (1985)

FairyTaleBlogathonPicWhen I saw that there’s a blogathon on Fairy Tale movies, hosted by Movies Silently, I jumped at the chance to participate. Alas I discovered it too late that most of the movies I wanted to review had been picked by others.

But then I remembered about Legend, which is a fairy tale/ fantasy film by Ridley Scott that I’ve been curious about. The film’s received some kind of a cult status, and the fact that it also stars Tom Cruise piqued my interest even more. Apparently there are the theatrical and director’s cut [as is often the case w/ Ridley Scott’s works] and the one I saw on iTunes is the theatrical version.

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I knew the movie would be rather campy, a la Flash Gordon, I mean it’s the 80s after all! As the film opens, we’re treated to a really wordy exposition talking about darkness and light and setting up who’s who in the movie: a girl (Lily), a boy (Jack), unicorns and the devil himself, Lord of Darkness. The visuals and set pieces are actually pretty darn good for a film of its time, there’s an atmospheric quality to it that works for this genre. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given Scott’s meticulous hand in creating an imaginative world for his films.

Tom Cruise and Mia Sara play the two lovebirds who supposedly represent what’s good in the world… Jack and Lily are innocent and pure, though we barely know just who these people are and how they meet, etc. Then the story seems to have taken the ‘Adam & Eve’ route in that Eve Lily does the forbidden thing when she touches an angelic-looking unicorn despite Jack’s vehement warning. Apparently it’s a huge no-no in their universe though the unicorns themselves don’t seem to mind it. So of course that incident propels a series of bad things, including one of the unicorn getting its horn cut off and Lily herself being kidnapped by Darkness’ minions.

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Tim Curry as the Lord of Darkness is no doubt the best thing about this film with his deep baritone voice and vivacious yet maniacal style, but he’s given so little screen time here. It’s a real shame as his devilish makeup is quite entertaining in and of itself, it’s like a combination of The Joker + Hellboy with big horns and flappy ears. It’s no wonder the makeup team got an Oscar nomination for their crafty work. The English actor relished in being an evil lord and gleefully flash his trademark Cheshire cat grin and deep hearty laugh.

Legend_TimCurryCruise seems rather out of place here and he pretty much just runs around in his hideous scale mail dress, though it’s amusing to see him looking so boyish and fresh-faced here pre his Scientology indoctrination. Let’s just say he gets better with age not just in looks but also in screen presence as he doesn’t seem at all confident or compelling here in comparison to his other heroic roles he’s played in his career. Mia Sara is just ok as the heroine, nothing special. Lily is far more interesting when she dons a very revealing outfit that’s no doubt handpicked by Lord Darkness himself, but otherwise she’s a rather bland character.

The story is inherently cheesy and predictable, but I wouldn’t have mind it so much if it weren’t so boring or worse, mind-numbingly irritating. The movie spends so much time with the silly goblins and those annoying elves/dwarves whom Jack encounter on his journey to fight Darkness and rescue his girlfriend from his possession. Their scenes are just pointless and again, hugely irritating that I actually had to fast forward past them. There’s a big fight scene towards the end between Jack and Darkness, but I wish there’s more screen time between the two of them.

Cruise_LegendFor the most part, Legend is just so cliché-ridden and absurd that it’s unintentionally hilarious. It certainly doesn’t live up to its name as I don’t think the film merits any kind of exalted status. Neither the hero nor heroine [or unicorns for that matter] really inspire anything and so devoid of personalities to make any kind of impact. The soundtrack of the theatrical cut is scored by Tangerine Dream and the synthesized sound actually fits the ethereal look and dreamy mood of the film, though after a while it also gets to be too much that it feels overindulgent. Oh and apparently Sir Ridley has sort of a fairy dust obsession here the way J.J. Abrams is with lens flare, poor Tom and Mia must’ve been engulfed in them in this one schmaltzy scene.

So overall I guess I wasn’t too impressed with this one. In fact it’s nuts to think this is from the same guy who directed the likes of Blade Runner and Gladiator! The concept of dark/light and the allegory of good & evil is intriguing, and it’s a theme that’s always timely. I just think the execution misses the mark and it’s not as entertaining nor meaningful as it could’ve been. I don’t regret seeing it though, as the visuals and atmospheric quality is wonderful and the contrast of the good vs evil is beautifully realized. As far as fantasy movies go, it doesn’t hold a candle to other period pieces in its genre like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Pan’s Labyrinth or The Princess Bride.

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Have you seen this film? I’d love to hear what you think!