“Legend” (1985): Less than a Fable, More of a Tale – Or an Anecdote (Review)
Legend is an original (in relative terms) cinematic dark fantasy fairy tale from Ridley Scott. It’s the film that Scott made following Blade Runner, arguably his masterpiece, which might be a large factor in its relative anonymity. The largest however is probably that fact that it’s not a very good film.
Given that it’s a Ridley Scott film it’s almost immediately striking. Visually it’s unique and the production values are all over the screen, the giant studio built forest a testament to the fact. And everything is lathered in glitter, literal bucket loads of glitter. That certainly adds to the dreamlike quality of the fantasy but it’s distracting when everyone is still “Edward Cullening” it up, dungeon crawling in the latter half. To continue leading with the positive, Darkness’ (the demonic main villain) make up is impressive, informing the design of Satan in several mediums since, though it does bring up the question why Tim Curry was needed for the role, his visage covered and voice distorted beyond recognition, there’s very little of him in it.
The plot follows a princess and a young forest boy who, along with several other forest entities, push back against Darkness in his quest to destroy joy and happiness through the extermination of unicorns. Classic good vs. evil setup. The premise has potential but is somewhat squandered with the seriousness of the execution, without the quality to back it up. Make no mistake, this is played 100% straight. But that’s not it’s sole problem as the pacing is sloppy, with the film meandering (both individual scenes, that are almost always too long, and as a whole) resulting in a rather dull affair.
The leads, Mia Sara and a unibrowed Tom Cruise, are little more than pretty faces, their performances are anonymous and their characters lack any significant depth or charm. It’s not flat-out bad, just middling. Tim Curry is fine, but this isn’t a very flashy performance. With a lighter tone and Curry hamming it up more the film might actually been worth watching for more than its production design. That’s what this film seemingly is: An exercise in production design. Full marks to the costume, make-up, stage and props departments, their efforts deserve a much better fantasy film.
Legend just isn’t a whole lot of fun and is short on entertainment. The world and lore, or legend if you will, don’t support the somber tone and relative seriousness, with only a handful of elements that could be considered interesting. It’s kind of silly, without the full-blown fun that could’ve made it memorable. Instead it’s just mostly forgettable. Very average for all the talent involved.
The Glitter: The snow
The Glitterier: Tom Cruise’s face
The Glitteriest: Tom Cruise’s armor shorts
Fun fact: Originally titled Legend of Darkness it would go on to partly inspire The Legend of Zelda series from Nintendo, arguably a superior work of fantasy.