Legend (1985)
Directed by Ridley Scott

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * *

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When Jack (Tom Cruise) shows his beloved Princess Lily (Mia Sara) a unicorn, the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) not only uses them to kill the unicorn, steal its horn, and plunge the world into darkness, but also kidnaps Lily. Jack then sets out on a quest, accompanied by a number of fairies, to free his beloved and undo the wrong he has inadvertently done.

Ridley Scott's Legend is a charming, exciting, beautiful film and is, perhaps, the director's best work.

The movie is set in a fanciful, dreamlike forest of such enchanting loveliness that it imbues the whole of the film with a strange, intoxicating magic. As impressive as this otherworldly wilderness is, however, it is made even more marvellous, peculiar, and delightful when, after the killing of the unicorn, the various fairy folk who inhabit the wood appear to Jack. Most of these fairies are as gorgeously conceived as is the forest itself, and some, especially the Lord of Darkness, are amazing. Scott's vision of a magical world is, consequently, often evocative of wonder, beauty, or horror and is occasionally absolutely stunning.

Sadly, although he does frequently come extremely close, Scott ultimately fails to infuse Legend with the feel of a real fairy tale. The film simply includes entirely too much that is adorable and quaint. Such elements render large portions of the movie excessively saccharine and cause it to lose much of the harshness folktales tend to possess. Had Scott avoided injecting as much treacle as he does, he would have been far more successful in giving his film a legendary quality. Instead, taken as a whole, the movie is an uneven mixture of beautiful, bewitching, and grating details.

Even the performances of the actors are inconsistent. Tom Cruise and Mia Sara are both, at best, utterly mediocre and unmemorable. Tim Curry, however, is genuinely wonderful and captivating as the Lord of Darkness. He endows his villainous character not only with the requisite cruelty but also with a fascinating and terrible sensuality. He is an absolute joy to watch.

While Scott never manages to impart to Legend the darkness or ferocity of an actual fairy tale, and has allowed a number of faults to creep into the movie, he has, nevertheless, created a delightful and lovely film that is well worth watching.

Review by Keith Allen

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