Sunday, 13 November 2011

Unit 2: Space - Review - Ridley Scott's Legend (1985)

Figure 1. Legend Poster Art

Ridley Scott’s debut Fantasy title which gleams away from the commercial tropes and idioms. Scott’s placate Legend is visually ravishing, dashing from one beautiful set to another in a cluster of petals, snow and fairy dust. The films sad demise is onset by its lust to be more than it actually is, with an almost insatiable need to fill every shot with something of monstrous action or floating beauty, costing the key characters what one feels could be an integral back story.

•Directed by: Ridley Scott
•Written by: William Hjortsberg
•Cast: Tom Cruise as Jack, Mia Sara as Lili, Tim Curry as Darkness, David Bennent as Gump, Alice Playten as Blix & Billy Barty as Screwball
•Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
•Duration: 94 Minutes (aprox)

Figure 2. "This place holds more magic for me then anyplace in the world"

Legend is a 1985 film directed by Ridley Scott who was at the time known for his previous works - Alien in 1979 and Blade Runner in 1982. Alien was a success with the public while Blade Runner - went unappreciated by critics and movie goers alike. One could attribute their successes to their intertwined sub genres (i.e. Alien - Haunted House & Blade Runner – Machine Action) with Alien simply being a film of human nature to survive as opposed to Blade Runners unconventional complex moral ambiguity of machines. At this point Scott was a respected director considering his next venture which took him back to Jean Cocteau’s Masterpiece - “Beauty & the Beast” where he would realise “real characters in an imaginary environment” – the birth of “Legend”.

Legend tells the story of forest child Jack who is sent to fight the devil when one of the Mythic Unicorns horns is taken by the devils minions. The Unicorns of legend are the sole force of the forests beauty and purity, which is somewhat correct in terms of medieval lore:

“The spiralled horn of the unicorns was called the alicorn, and was thought to neutralize poisons. In popular mythology, unicorns were hunted for their horns, which were said to protect one against diseases, or, if made into a cup, would protect on eform any poison that might have been added to one's drink.” (Owens: 2011)

Figure 3. "What I did is done... but I did it for love"

Tom Cruises character “Jack” is quite possibly the most interesting who looks & feels like a native rendition of “Beast” taking into account his crouched stance & gestural freedom. One could not help but feel like there were pieces missing to Jack, vital mechanics that were shrouded in the stories desire to visually encompass its viewer, thereby only leaving regret for what could have been should the film have focused more on the back story of its central protagonist.

“Performances tend to get lost in productions like this. I particularly noticed how easily Cruise got buried in the role of Jack. Here is the talented young actor from "Risky Business," where he came across as a genuine individual, and this time he's so overwhelmed by sets and special effects that his character could be played by anybody.” (Ebert: 1986)

Figure 4. "She fascinates you because her soul is pure"

Tim Curry’s rendition of the Devil (aka Darkness) is possibly the only comedic angle wrapped in strides of sickly sweet black comedy and verbal banter with his subordinates. Lili is quite possibly the most idiotic giving into the obvious temptations of evil - greed’s riches of gold as opposed to her original child like love of nature and freedom. One could not help but notice Legends way of attributing adolescence with evil leaving youth with the trope of pure and free much like J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan aka “The Boy who wouldn’t grow up”.

“In the Disney film, Peter's character is a fierce young boy who is adamantly sure that he never wants to become an adult. He is obsessed with adventure and stories. His imagination runs wild. He is careless, but courageous. He is relaxed, but resolute. He hasn't yet grown up.” (Chermak: 2010)
“The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity”

To analyse the subject matter of Legend is to consider a child’s ideal which is to say children have more vivid imaginations then adults. As we grow our imagination decays, we are told scientific truths stretching from Santa Clause to the tooth fairy. We can no longer entertain simplistic fabrication and believe it. Religion holds its own set of ideals that blur the edges of the scientific with the imaginary but it is no longer fun when a child considers it the definition of real.

Legend tries to convey too many messages, trying to appease kids with a level of reality that they are not ready for all while trying to entertain adults with trinkets of adolescent action and fear. Legend is a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be, a film that tries to be everything and nothing at the same time, plainly put - it takes itself too seriously. For the film to work Scott would have to return to the beginning before Jack leaps into the water and think to himself - “maybe this shouldn’t take itself so seriously... its fantasy after all”.

The characters seem to be pure cardboard, if that. The environment by contrast, is terrifying and there is little respite in the comedy and music that classical Disney films were so magical in supplying. A hit tune or two and a few laughs would have improved the mix. The whole enterprise seems overly realistic. (Parrill, 2011: 62)

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Legend Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on:13/11/11)

Figure 2. This place holds more magic for me then anyplace in the world (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on:13/11/11)

Figure 3. What I did is done... but I did it for love (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on:13/11/11)

Figure 4. She fascinates you because her soul is pure (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on:13/11/11)



Owens, Kevin. (2011) What is a Unicorn? At:
(Accessed on: 13/11/11)

Ebert, Roger. (1986) Legend Review At:
(Accessed on: 13/11/11)

Chermac, Tim. (2010) Never Growing Up: Spiritual Lessons Learned from Peter Pan At: (Accessed on: 13/11/11)

Parrill, William. (2011) Ridley Scott: A Critical Filmography. 3rd Edition, Manufactured in the USA

1 comment:

  1. yep - you nail the tonal problem of this film - though the bit I like is the 'dancing dress' sequence - this bit feels theatrical and somehow 'on message' in comparison to the rest of the film.