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!

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28 thoughts on “Fairy Tale Blogathon: Ridley Scott’s LEGEND (1985)

  1. If you can find it anywhere, I would still recommend the director’s cut. It gets rid of the synth Tangerine Dream score in favor of a Jerry Goldsmith score, there’s also more Tim Curry I believe. I think it helps that I’m a fan of fantasy in all forms too, and that I saw the director’s cut before seeing the theatrical cut. It does add an extra 30 mins or so so it might seem that much longer, but it feels like it’s paced a lot better.

    A couple quick trivia tidbits – the forest was built full scale in the largest soundstage in London at the time, I believe it was known as the Bond stage, and it attracted real wildlife, notably birds which caused them to re-dub most of the dialogue. There was also a fire which destroyed the entire set towards the end of shooting. Also, the voice of Meg Mucklebones – the swamp witch – was also the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager.

    1. Hi Nathan! I don’t know when I’ll get around to seeing the Director’s cut, I mean I’m not really THAT interested in it to be honest. I might check out Jerry Goldsmith’s score on youtube, I’m guessing it’s available there. Wow that’s a cool trivia about the forest. That’s one of the things I like about it, how ethereal and earthy it looked, not surprised by that as Ridley is quite meticulous when it comes to set design, I’m just not in love w/ the execution as a whole.

  2. I’ve only seen the theatrical cut which is alright though I heard the director’s cut version is better which I’m interested in seeing. I do like the score by Tangerine Dream as well as the music which includes “Is Your Love Strong Enough” by Bryan Ferry (w/ David Gilmour of Pink Floyd on guitar), which is probably known as it was covered by How to Destroy Angels for the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,.

    1. Hi Steven, yeah it seems that w/ Ridley Scott, his theatrical cut is generally thought as being better. I’m not all that enthused to check it out though I am interested in seeing his cut for Kingdom of Heaven which I heard is great also. I don’t mind the music, it fits the piece I think.

  3. My main memories of this film are as follows: Tom Cruise’s silly shorts, the large safety pin that holds his cloak together in the storm scene, Gump of the Forest. (The last one would not be funny until the mid-90s but I take laughs were I can get them.) Yeah, like you said, kitsch. Fun review! Thanks so much for joining in!

    1. The wardrobe is so silly that it’s hilarious & amusing in and of itself! I guess the casting of Cruise and Scott’s name attached to it is the main draw for me so I’m glad I finally saw it. Not something I’m keen on seeing again though. Thanks for the awesome blogathon, what a splendid idea Fritzi!

    1. It’s imaginative indeed, as Scott’s films often are, but it’s kinda boring and ridiculous in many parts, too. Wish they had more scenes of Tim Curry here who’s always entertaining!

  4. Great review, Ruth. Ahh, I remember when this came out. I LOVE Tim Curry and his crazy red Demon costume. I didn’t mind it way back then. Not as good as The Labyrinth or The Princess Bride, that’s for sure. 🙂

    1. Hi Cindy! I was wondering if you’ve seen this one. Tim Curry is always a hoot and he seemed to be having a great time as Lord of Darkness. His costume is amazing, boy those horns looked heavy. No, I don’t think it’s as good as other fantasy films out there.

  5. Ted S.

    Wow I haven’t seen this movie in years! It used to play on TV constantly when I was younger and I’d always watch it. I bought the director’s cut on DVD years ago and I think it’s better than the current version, if I remember correctly it has a different ending too. It’s funny that this film never gets mention when it comes to box office bombs, it was a huge budget for its time, it cost $30mil to make! Scott’s career took a hit after this one and Blade Runner tanked in theaters.

    1. I think it’s amusing and make for a hilarious viewing. I’m not surprised it bombed, I mean for how expensive it is, the movie is just too camp and silly to be taken seriously.

  6. I haven’t seen this, but I do want to check it out at some point, despite the flaws you mentioned. Scott doing a fantasy is a big draw, and I like the Tangerine Dream scores from films like Thief and Risky Business.

    1. Yeah, Scott as director is the reason I saw this. I’m not familiar w/ Tangerine Dream but I like what they did here. Should be worth a watch, Josh!

    1. Ahah, I might’ve enjoyed it more when I was younger maybe. I mean I loved the super campy Flash Gordon, but maybe ’cause Timothy Dalton’s in it 😉

  7. Great review! I haven’t seen this film for a long time, but it’s certainly a lot of fun – Tom and those shorts really steal the show 😉 Looking at the stills I think it might be a bit cheesier than I remembered and I agree that it’s a cliche-fest. It’s certainly not one of Ridley’s greats, is it?!

    1. Hi Miss V, welcome to FlixChatter! Ahah yeah, it’s still quite entertaining watching Tom in that ridiculous outfit. No it’s not one of Ridley’s greats but since he’s got a few misses lately, probably not his worst either though. I’m still glad I saw it, it’s not a complete bust 🙂

  8. Looks really bizarre! I tried watching the trailer, and it just kind of made me laugh. Looks like it’s probably a beautiful film to watch, but definitely not up my alley. At least you got to finally cross this film off your list! 🙂 It was so weird seeing such a young Tom Cruise!

    1. Ha..ha.. it is quite bizarre but unfortunately also quite boring. Cruise is one of the main draws, as well as Ridley Scott directing, but it’s only amusing but not really entertaining. I think Cruise gets better w/ age though, I think he’s most handsome in his late 30s-40s.

    1. Hi Joe! Welcome to FC and thanks for the comment. Well if you like both Ridley and Tim, I’d say this is worth a look. Tim Curry is still fun to watch here, I suppose if you watch it for laughs it won’t be so bad 😀

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