If you love ’80s relics, none come more gorgeously artificial than Ridley Scott’s faerie-tale Legend. Darkness (Tim Curry) requires the solace of shadows and seeks to destroy sunshine by ridding the land of unicorns. Princess Lily (Mia Sara) frolics among the kingdom’s poor folk, courts a pin-up forest dweller named Jack (Tom Cruise) and turns the kingdom to ice when her mortal hands touch a unicorn. Darkness captures Princess Lily, courts her and loses her when Jack and his army of fairies and elves turn a unicorn’s severed horn against evil. Though it was poorly received at the time of its original theatrical release, Legend went on to become the most requested title in the Universal film library. Today, the film feels especially simplistic; Darkness may be wary of female fertility when the goblin Blix (Alex Playten) lets a unicorn mare live yet there’s never been any real allegorical subtext to the film’s Grimm tableaux. Still, the look of Legend is so luxuriously overwrought it merits surface comparisons to Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. In the film’s most visually arresting sequence, Jack dives into a lake in pursuit of Princess Lily’s ring, just as the forces of Darkness destroy the male unicorn. By the time Jack rises toward the now-frozen lake’s surface, his kingdom has turned into a winter wonderland. What with the film’s cotton-candy mise en the scene, rhyming goblins (“Mortal world turned to ice/Here be goblin paradise”), sexless pixies and elementary light/dark metaphors that reference the order of its universe, Legend is a gothic fairy tale brought to life.
- Ridley Scott
- William Hjortsberg
- Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert, Peter O'Farrell, Kiran Shah, Annabelle Lanyon, Robert Picardo
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