Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: Legend

Starring: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry
Director: Ridley Scott
Rating: PG
Language: English
Run time: 1 hour 29 minutes
Genre: Fantasy

This was a film that was plagued with issues from the start. Ridley Scott first had the idea for the film while working on another project. He was certain that it wouldn't be widely received and went on to work on Alien. This pushed the fairy tale even further behind on his schedule.  He teamed up
with scriptwriter, William Hjortsberg, and went through multiple script revisions before deciding on the final version. Scott's dedication to the project also led to building the forest sets on a sound stage. Even with trees built 60 feet tall, Scott wasn't satisfied with how the set looked.

Principal photography seemed to be going well until the entire set burned down during a break from filming. No one was injured at the time, but the production lost several days while part of the forest was rebuilt on another sound stage. The issues didn't stop there. Once in post production, the first cut ran 125 minutes long. Ridley Scott then cut the film down to 113 minutes, then 95 minutes...and finally 89 minutes. All of these changes cut out plot points and scenes that Scott felt could be shorter.

The next problem came when they decided to delay the North American release in order to replace the score by Jerry Goldsmith with one by Tangerine Dream. It was felt by Scott and the studio that United States audiences would be more receptive to a pop score. In 2002, Scott eventually rereleased Legend with Goldsmith's soundtrack restored along with the 113 minute version as a Director's Cut. This is the version that I'll be reviewing.

'A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from both destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves.' [Source: IMDB]

The story begins with Princess Lili coming to visit Jack in the forest. Their relationship is fairly playful with Lili attempting to charm Jack into showing her the ways of the forest. She wants to learn to speak like the animals the way that he does. It's much different from her life in the palace. She's quite spoiled and used to getting her way. This shouldn't be too surprising considering that she's a princess.

Jack is quite simple in comparison. He lives alone in the forest with his animal companions. This leaves him quite innocent and susceptible to Lili's charms. He attempts to make Lili happy by taking her to see something he'd been promising to show her. There are innocent, beautiful creatures living in the forest. Jack has been trusted with the knowledge of where these creatures roam. For Lili, he's willing to take the chance of exposing them. What's a Princess to do when she's faced with a beautiful unicorn? Try to touch it, of course!

The pair don't realize that they've been followed by a group of goblins led by Blix. The goblins were in search of the unicorns in order to harvest the horn for their master. Blix and company fail to get both unicorns, but succeed in plunging the world into an icy winter. Their master commands them to kidnap the remaining unicorn and bring it to his lair.  Lili has fled in fear after the forest freezes over, but overhears the goblins' plan.

The elves and fae of the forest have gathered around Jack to find answers for what has happened. No human should have ever touched a unicorn. Jack must step up and be the reluctant hero as Lili attempts to follow the goblins back to the lair. This is where the most charismatic character comes in. Darkness, the lord of the goblins and night, is a charming and seductive evil presence. He's played to perfection by Tim Curry in an impressive display of makeup effects. 

'What is light without dark? What are you without me? I am a part of you all. You can never defeat me. We are brothers eternal!'

Once within Darkness' lair, Lili begins to be seduced by the things she sees around her. There are beautiful jewels, a dancing dress and Darkness himself. What will happen to her if she remains within his grasp? Will Jack be able to save her and the unicorn? I could answer these questions for you, but I won't. This is a film that needs to be seen in order to be appreciated. It's rather light on plot when it could be much more in depth. However, that's due to the immense edits that Ridley Scott did.

The true charm lies within the visuals and Tim Curry's breathtaking performance. From head to toe, Tim Curry was covered in makeup effects. He stood 13 foot tall once he had his horns and stilts on. I've rarely seen makeup done to this scale on a single character so flawlessly. Tim Curry wasn't the only actor covered in prosthetics. The goblins were each transformed, but one other character stood out to the same extent that Darkness did. Meg Mucklebones, the guardian of the swamp around Darkness's lair was another character entirely in prosthetics. 

Ridley Scott's team didn't only put attention in the makeup effects. The massive sets aren't merely empty spaces. Every corner of the forest we see is filled with flora and fauna. Keep in mind that this wasn't simply a forest they filmed in. Each tree was crafted by hand. Each tuft of grass or bit of moss was brought and placed by hand. The scenes in Darkness' lair were filled with banquet tables and decorations. All those details help craft a living, organic film environment. These things can't be replaced with cgi to achieve the same feel.

Nostalgia isn't the only thing that keeps me coming back to Legend. I'll keep coming back for the beauty of the sets and makeup effects. I wish Ridley Scott could have left the original story in tact. It might have led to an entirely different plot and feel. However, the story we're left with has a soft spot in my heart.

Rating: 3/5

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