Wednesday, January 8, 2014


After Sunday’s couple hours of back-breaking (I guess more like back-twinging) work drafting my 2014 book preview post I treated myself to an hour and a half of unadulterated nostalgic fun in this great 80’s classic. Legend is a fantasy film from Aliens’ director Ridley Scott starring Tom Cruise (pre-Top Gun), the beautiful Mia Sara (pre-Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and Tim Curry. The film was one of a number of fantasy films that came out in the mid-80's, including two enduring favorites of mine, Labyrinth with David Bowie and The Neverending Story (“Artax! Fight against the sadness Artax!”; ugh, that darn horse gets me every single time). This film was way ahead of its time as far as genre given today’s hits like the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, and even with its 80’s special effects, I’d still take it over the Avatar’s of today any day.

Legend is at its heart a fairy tale; a story of good vs. evil, darkness vs. light, and innocence vs. sin. It tells of a time when light ruled the world, forcing the Lord of Darkness (Curry) to retreat into the shadows to plot for the day when he could banish light forever and roam the earth freely in his return to power. But goodness and light lives in the hearts and souls of the purest of creatures, unicorns, protected by Jack (Cruise) who is pure of heart and lives amongst the forest creatures. Jack’s only weakness is the beautiful Princess Lily (Sara), whom he loves as deeply as she loves him. Darkness knows that he can cast the land into darkness and rule for all of eternity if he can just find one of those pure unicorns and take its magical horn; with that goal in mind he sends out his trusty goblin Blix, whose heart is black and full of hate (“black as midnight, black as pitch, blacker than the foulest witch”) to track down and capture the creature.

In his love for Lily, Jack innocently but foolishly does the forbidden and brings her to see the last pair of unicorns in his care, unaware that Blix and his minions are also tracking their prey. Taking advantage of Lily’s sinful touch of one of the trusting creatures, Blix shoots a poisoned dart at the mare, trapping her and taking her horn, casting their magical world into darkness and eternal winter. Horrified that her sin has helped trap the mare, Lily follows the foul Blix and attempts to protect the second unicorn but is instead taken captive and brought to Darkness’ lair where he will take her as his bride. Redemption is in Jack’s hands though for he can save his true love and restore light by defeating Darkness and returning the unicorn’s horn and its power thereby restoring harmony to the universe once again. Relying on the help of Gump, the elf and a fairy or two, Jack sets out on a brave quest that will pit him against the vilest of beasts, bringing about a struggle between good and evil and heaven and hell.

I love this film. Is it perfect? No. There is hardly any memorable dialogue (other than one or two pithy quotes from Lord Darkness), great acting or action for that matter, but it somehow still manages to tell a memorable story and visually it’s stunningly beautiful. Each shot of the enchanted forest within Jack and Lily’s kingdom features soft hazy light and falling fairy dust or snow that gives off a dreamy, ethereal-look full of splendor. You can readily believe that a princess and unicorn could live amongst such beauty. The eternal struggle between good and evil is perfectly captured in the tale which will readily put viewers in mind of another beautiful setting (the Garden of Eden) and innocent man and woman (Adam and Eve) who fell under temptation’s spell and whose sin brings about dire consequences.

While the acting isn’t anything to write home about, the casting was nonetheless perfect in my estimation. Cruise did convey a wholesome bravado that you’d expect from a knight or fey being off to slay dragons, and while he didn’t have any soul-stirring romantic lines to bestow on his true love, he did stare very prettily into her eyes. Sara’s fragile beauty was the perfect foil to Lord Darkness’ grotesque countenance, and her winsome smiles for Jack effectively portrayed her as an innocent seductress not fully aware of the power in her hands. Curry was unrecognizable in his role as Darkness but as the more seasoned professional in the cast, he delivered his lines with such apparent relish and glee – savoring every naughty word and uttering them with such undisguised menace – that as a viewer you couldn’t help but enjoy his onscreen presence, big horns and all.

Despite the 80’s caliber special effects which are of course nowhere near those of today’s CGI laden fantasies, Curry’s make-up still stands out to this day as pretty unforgettable and frightening and don’t even get me started on the unicorns. They are breathtakingly perfect and if you were to tell me they were real, I would believe you; everything about them was magical. Check out the screen shot below to see what I mean.

Lest I forget, one of my favorite things about the film was the great soundtrack from Tangerine Dream, and in particular the final song in the film, "Loved by the Sun." It is, outdated term or not, the bomb.

Legend is a simple yet beautiful tale filled with wonder and magic. As the song says, “Legends can be now and forever. Teaching us to love for goodness sake.”