This is the third movie in my Ridley Scott retrospective.
Well, another older Ridley Scott movie passed before my eyes and, dare I say, what a train wreck it was. Legend is Scott’s fourth feature film and was released in 1985, right when a small resurgence of the fantasy film was happening with movies like The Dark Crystal, the Star Wars movies, and later Labyrinth, The Princess Bride and Willow being the closer in 1988. Elements of all these films can be found in Scott’s Legend and not in a good way.
Legend is a criminally uneven film that wants to be everything at once. Scott has a general idea of what he wants to show and of course how to show that, but during most of the movie he is grasping at straws to make ends meet. For example during supposedly dark scenes we are ‘treated’ to some annoying goblins clearly meant as comic relief that feels totally out of place here. Admittedly, the first half of the movie is slow, but there is still a sense of purpose, albeit muddled by terrible dialogue and acting. It is the second half where Legend truly falls apart.
The heroes end up in a spooky dungeon, the heroine is enslaved by the devil and dances like there’s no tomorrow. There is a lot of other stuff going on that is just not interesting and poorly executed. It would have helped a lot to have protagonists to root for. The young actors playing the leads, Tom Cruise (just before he hit it big) and Mia Sara, are not up to the task. Cruise looks confused a lot and Sara just looks afraid and bland. They totally drown in Scott’s lush imagination and have no clue what to make of it all.
It can be said that every successful director has his or her breaking point. A point where hubris and talent don’t perfectly match up anymore. Scott dodged a bullet with Blade Runner, a movie that was quickly embraced by a cult audience, because that is really a good movie. With Legend Scott wasn’t so lucky. He bit off more than he could chew with this one and it put him back on Earth with both his feet. I understand that there is a cult following for this fantasy epic, but that is totally unrealistic and based on people having seen the movie as a kid and still believing that the movie is as good as it was in their young eyes.
Legend is not a good movie. It is slow, boring and just not fun to watch. You can take any of the titles mentioned above (especially Labyrinth) to have a good time with a fantasy story. Let’s leave Legend where it belongs… in Scott’s imagination.
(For the purists: I watched the Director’s Cut with the Jerry Goldsmith score.)