Saturday, February 6, 2010

Embrace the 'Legend'

One of the more interesting failures in Ridley Scott's canon is his follow-up to Blade Runner, the mystical and otherwordly fantasy, Legend (1986). Initially skewered upon its release, it has since found a cult following through a director's-cut DVD which adds 25 minutes to the running-time and includes Jerry Goldsmith's original score.

Essentially, the film is a classical fairy tale - no doubt inspired by the numerous family-friendly medieval fantasies of the early 80's - taking place in a world of unicorns, goblins, elves, fairies and a very evil Lord of Darkness. It takes its plot cues from the classic Disney mold, including a singing princess, a magical forest, squatty comic-relief characters and a complete and utter lack of context and scope. (She's the princess of what, the leaves?)

Tom Cruise plays the whey-faced hero who must enter evil's domain to save the princess and rid the land of darkness (and a shitload of snow). Whatever your thoughts are of the film, Cruise's performance - whimpering and puny - is a career embarrassment, there's no denying it.

Nevertheless, Legend endures because of the aces production design, the art direction, the costumes, the make-up and a strange tone of bleakness amongst the fantastical that perfectly highlights the film's central theme of duality - lightness and darkness (and furthermore, good scenes and bad scenes). Also surpassing tedium is Mia Sara, who plays the harmless and victimized princess in her screen debut.

Legend is certainly a take-it-or-leave-it kind of film, with those willing to submit to its fantastical imagery and classical storytelling reaping the benefits of an exceedingly well-made if meager and fluffy live-action fairy tale.

It's more of a curiosity than a good film, but I found it endearing enough in places to recommend and, dare I say, watch again down the road. What's happening? I'm starting to like it more and more with each passing minute. As Myrna Loy once said in W.S. Van Dyke's The Thin Man, "It's stiffling, but it's so pretty."

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