If movies were judged purely on how pretty they look, Ridley Scott’s 1985 movie Legend would undoubtedly be considered one of the greatest films of all time. As you’d therefore hope, it looks utterly amazing on Blu-ray, to the point where some scenes are truly mesmerising.
The plot and other aspects of the film sadly remain somewhat problematic. However, with the European Theatrical Cut included on the disc beside the more recently rediscovered Director’s Cut version, you do get a hint that Legend could have been something truly special on all counts, but whether due to the script, story or studio interference, it never quite made it. It’s almost a shame we don’t get the American version, with its electropop, Tangerine Dream score, just to show how many and how varied the different cuts of this film have been, without ever finding one that makes it completely work. The film wasn’t without its production problems either, as the sets burned down partway through shooting. Indeed, it’s one of those movies where it’s almost a miracle it got made at all.
Set in a fantasy universe, the film opens with the shadowy Lord Of Darkness (Tim Curry) being annoyed that something as pure and good as unicorns still exists in the forests. He sends one of his minions off to try and get rid of them, as he himself is so evil he can’t go out in the sun and do it himself. Meanwhile in the forest there’s nature-boy Jack (a young, slightly wooden Tom Cruise), who is friends with a beautiful princess (Mia Sara). He takes her to see the unicorns, but when she breaks the rules of the forest and touches one of the animals, it seems she may have sealed the world’s fate and that an age of darkness will soon be upon them.
This leads Jack on a quest that brings him into contact with all sorts of colourful characters, including the impish (and if you ask me slightly creepy) Gump (David Bennent), in a bid to save the world – and possibly the Princess too – from slipping into darkness.
It’s a fairly simple story and to be honest it suffers for that. The script assumes that because it’s a fantasy world, we’ll just take everything on faith. Why are the Lord Of Darkness and his minions so determined to be evil? They just are. Jack’s a forest boy, but we never really learn what that means, and nor do we ever really find out what Mia Sara is the princess of. The result is that everything feels slightly random and it’s difficult to truly care about what’s going on. It’s as if so much time was spent on the visual side of the fantasy universe that there wasn’t anything left over for making that glorious looking world feel real through fleshed-out characters and story.
It’s a great shame as it’s a visual wonder, and Tim Curry’s Lord Of Darkness is a gloriously iconic image. Sadly though the story doesn’t quite cut it. It’s always a problem with fantasy – how do you get the audience to take it seriously and just go with the flow – and Legend never quite overcomes this issue, as its fantasy world never goes much deeper than the admittedly awe-inspiring surface.
That said, the Director’s Cut is a better storytelling experience than the theatrical cut, and definitely the version to watch if you do get the Blu-ray. At the start of the Director’s Cut, there’s a message from Ridley Scott saying that because of the quality of the rediscovered print, it can’t look as good in HD as the Theatrical Cut. To be honest though, while he might have noticed a difference, I didn’t on a 60” screen and I actually thought that at times the Director’s Cut looked better than the supposedly better preserve theatrical version. And I really can’t express enough how beautiful it all looks on Blu-ray. Indeed, it’s the sort of disc they should use in electrical shops to try and sell TVs, as the quality and splendour of the images is second-to-none.
If only Ridley Scott (and the studio) had managed to sort the story out as well as the visuals, this would have been an all-time classic. Not until Lord Of The Rings did anyone manage to create such a compelling visual fantasy world.
With two versions of the movie and no second disc, there’s not much room for special features, so sadly we only get a trailer on that front.
Overall Verdict: Utterly amazing to look at, but while the Director’s Cut works out some of the film’s story issues, it still feels frustratingly illogical and underexplained. So much effort went into creating an astonishing visual fantasy world, and not enough into making it feel real through storytelling.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac