Retro Review: Legend (1985)

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m on 30/08/09.


Legend is director Ridley Scott’s attempt at 80’s style fantasy, starring Ferris Bueller’s Mia Sara as Princess Lili and as her love interest a pre-Top Gun Tom Cruise as forest dweller Jack. In a convoluted series of events, Jack takes Lili to see some sacred unicorns – which he shouldn’t for some reason – and then she proceeds to touch one – which she shouldn’t for some reason. This turn of events leads minions of the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry, in top form) to chop off the stallion’s horn – an item of coveted power – and kidnap Princess Lili, both to be brought before Darkness in a master plan to bring eternal night to the world. Now the ‘heroic‘ Jack, aided by his misfit band of elves and dwarves, must rescue the princess and save the world from its inevitable pitch-black doom.

The massive problem with this movie, and there are copious issues, is the fact that it takes so much pleasure in being so damn dark that there’s minimal fun to be had – a crucial element of fantasy. Take similar genre films from the time – Labyrinth had the music, Willow and Princess Bride had charm and characterisation, and the one thing that they all shared was a sense of wonder. Legend is too dark and scary for children yet the plot and pacing is too juvenile for adults.

Which leads me to the plot – or lack thereof it would seem. We have some basic thematic elements such as good versus evil and all that crap, but it’s amazing that with such a simplistic storyline that nothing that is happening onscreen is ever really clear, instead it seems to rush through the motions of the plot without focus. This is partly due to the fact that these characters are just so damn one-dimensional that we as an audience simply don’t care.

The acting by the leads is really appalling. Mia Sara is just plain terrible with an accent that slips in and out constantly, and it’s amazing that the fledgling superstar career of Tom Cruise was not affected by this. The major, and dare I say only, highlight of Legend comes in the form of the Lord of Darkness. Tim Curry is super intimidating as the red-skinned demon, delivering an awesome performance with a really fantastic makeup job to boot – Darkness is one of the greatest and most iconic villains in cinematic history.

I do also need to point out the elf Honeythorn Gump, played by David Bennett – I was constantly creeped out by the fact he looks like a tween Anthony Hopkins, running around in a loincloth.

Honeythorn Gump/Hopkins

I understand that this was a troubled production – the sets located on the legendary Pinewood Studios were completely lost in fire and replacement sets were thrown together at the eleventh hour – but it doesn’t really excuse this abortion of a film. Although Ridley Scott has made some masterpieces (Blade RunnerAlien) his track record of films such as this make me sceptical of his revered status in the film community.

And I am also aware of multiple versions of this movie existing as well. The one that I have viewed does not seem to be the patented Ridley Scott director’s cut, but a 90 minute offering with a score supplied by composer Jerry Goldsmith – the original European release if I’m not mistaken.

The Lord of Darkness alone cannot save this heaping pile of unicorn crap from being one of the lamest and boring films of the genre. Legend = 100% ironic title.

Award: The Dr. Ian Malcolm

– The Lord of Darkness. Genuine badassery.

– What in the name of Austin Powers was up with Tom Cruise’s teeth back then?!
– If you like fleshed out characters in a well plotted movie, don’t see this.

– Labyrinth
– Willow
– The Neverending Story

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by:
 William Hjortsberg
Produced by:
 Arnon Milchan, Tim Hampton
Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennett, Billy Barty
Distributed by:
 20th Century Fox / Universal
Run length:
 94 minutes
Australian Release:
 2 January 1986


Note: That teaser kicks ass!

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