Legend (1985)

A long, long time ago, unicorns, goblins and fairies roamed the Earth. Legend wants to tell as story about Light vs. Dark, evil vs. good, and all that awesome stuff. It wants to, and it largely succeeds. This is a rather fun fairy tale, even if it is fairly dark at times. And even if the story isn’t necessarily the freshest thing out there, at least the film’s visuals will enchant you and make you want to see more.

We begin with a problem, or perhaps it isn’t a problem depending on which side of the light spectrum you’re on. If you’re a human, elf or fairy, you’re going to be disheartened by this news. Conversely, goblins or even the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) himself, you’ll be happy. Unicorns are dying out. There are only two remaining on the planet, and if they go extinct, darkness will consume the Earth. The Lord of Darkness instructs one of his minions (who speaks almost solely in rhymes, for some reason) to go kill the remaining unicorns. The bait: Two idyllic young lovers who haven’t a care in the world.

We then head to a forest, where Jack (Tom Cruise) and Lily (Mia Sara) are prancing around like the innocents they are. Jack decides to take Lily to see the unicorns, because that’s a good way to show that you love someone. She decides to ignore the rule of “don’t touch the unicorns,” and before you know it, one of them has lost a horn, the sky has darkened, snow begins falling in heavy quantities, and chaos is everywhere. Lily runs away and Jack begins to search for her. (I use the term “run” very loosely when describing Lily’s method of moving quickly from place to place, as she doesn’t move her arms and never seems to be in too much of a hurry.)

Before you know it, Lily and the remaining horned-unicorn have been captured, Jack is found by a few elves (the most prominent one is played by David Bennent), and we have ourselves a save-the-princess quest. You wouldn’t initially think that Jack would be capable of defeating the Lord of Darkness, but you’d be surprised what acrobatic stunts he can pull.

Legend plays out like an adventure film located in a place that wants to look like a dream. There’s so much snow, glitter or bubbles floating around everywhere that it’s sometimes hard to make out just where we are. I wanted to appreciate the set designs, but I couldn’t because most of the time, they looked too similar to one another to seem different. The forest looks great before it’s overtaken by snow, but afterward it looks like the budget didn’t have room for it. Darkness hides shoddy production values, right?

Anyway, apart from a couple of less-than-spectacular action scenes, we’re mostly just here to watch Jack and his friends try to find and rescue the woman. She, on the other hand, has become the main desire of the Lord of Darkness, explained away because her soul is pure. His plan: Make her join the dark side. Seemed flawed to me, as the reason he has such a lust in the first place is because of her purity. If he converts her and makes her do things like kill the unicorn, won’t that purity, and his reason for affection, be lost? Regardless, it provides solid reason to care about her, and we really hope Jack will save her. They’re both just so sweet!

Despite the different sets being hard to discern from one another, the costuming is top-notch. I can only imagine just how much work went into the costume design and makeup for this film. Every time a character not named Jack or Lily was on-screen, I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Tim Curry’s Lord of Darkness is especially impressive, although the work done on the goblins and elves was also stunning. Like I said, even if the story doesn’t particularly fascinate you, there’s something else to keep you engaged or interested.

I liked the story. I thought it was sweet, charming, and dark enough to not seem too much like your generic “everyone’s happy all the time” fairy tale. Tone and atmosphere are both set — sometimes almost too well; seriously, we get the time-lapse shot of clouds rolling by so often that calling it “redundant” would not be strong enough of a word — well, while the pacing of the film is quick and rarely gives you time to catch your breath. Legend enchanted me.

Actors got lost in this film. It wouldn’t matter if Tom Cruise was in it, as he doesn’t really stand out. Tim Curry is buried beneath so many gorgeous prosthetics that it’s difficult to tell that it’s even him. The elves are all just background characters, while Mia Sara (in her first major role) is just sweet enough to make her character work, even though she doesn’t get a lot of time either. The pacing is so quick, in fact, that Legend feels over well before it needed to be. I wanted to see more from everyone in the production, as I felt their characters had more to offer us.

I had a really fun time with Legend. While it feels more like a passing dream than a staple in the adventure genre, I can’t deny that it was really enjoyable to watch. When you can see the sets, they’re gorgeous. The costuming and makeup are both top-notch, and the story, while not being very original, is enjoyable and quite sweet when you think about the characters within it. It likely could have used more character moments, and on the whole felt a bit short, but it’s still a great film that I would recommend to anyone.

1 thought on “Legend (1985)”

  1. You mention the film’s visuals but nothing of the director behind them…a shame. Ridley Scott was truely a visionary and I feel that the most interesting aspect of Legend was that it came after Blade Runner. Totally different genres but still Scott managed to inject his visual style into both, successfully.

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