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LEGEND
Ultimate Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennet, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert
Director: Ridley Scott
Audio: Dolby Surround (Theatrical), Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround (Director’s Cut)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes (Theatrical), 114 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
Release Date: May 21, 2002

“What is light without dark?”

Film *** (Both Versions)

Up until the recent Lord of the Rings, it seemed as if the fantasy movie genre had been lost for good, that is if you forget to include the disastrous Dungeons and Dragons a couple of years back. It was during the mid 80s that Hollywood made and endless array of adventure movies such as Krull, Willow, and The Princess Bride. Films of this type were set in either medieval times or generic mythical underworlds. Ridley Scott’s Legend is definitely a movie that takes place in the latter. This is a pure guilty pleasure as far as I can see, filled left and right with endless fantasy jargon about goblins and unicorns and ultimate darkness. It sounds as if I’m panning the film in that regard, but it’s director Scott’s sharp and atmospheric look of the film that saves it from being anything of a mess.

The movie tells of a long, long time ago, when the earth was ruled by no less than that of the unicorns and the endless battle between light and darkness. Earth itself is a sylvan place, filled with flowers and little glades and grassy clearings - but also with dread swamps and moldy fens. Young lovers can kiss for an afternoon in a bath of sunshine, but fearsome storms come up suddenly and lash the land with their fury. A race of evil little druids lives in the woods, and they spread mischief wherever they venture. Their favorite pastime is frightening the unicorns.  

In caverns far beneath the earth, a brutal prince named simply Darkness (Tim Curry) plots to take over the universe by way of blotting the sun and rule forever with the entire world engulfed in absolute gloom. Enter Princess Lili (Mia Sara), the heiress to the throne who has more in her heart for the land and the creatures than life in the kingdom. The man of her dreams is the heroic Jack (Tom Cruise), a defender of the earth’s creatures who vows to put an end to the powers of darkness and return the world back to normal. Unexpectedly, however, Lili is suddenly lured into a supernatural underworld controlled by Darkness, and is trapped in the prince’s lairs, and Jack vows to rescue her.

For Tom Cruise, this was the last film he did before his breakout picture Top Gun, which coincidentally was directed by Ridley’s brother, Tony Scott. Watching the film, you simply can’t believe that you’re watching one of today’s biggest movie stars performing at such a young age. True to say that this will never go down as one of Cruise’s strongest performances, but with a film of this scale and scope, a tremendous acting job isn’t much required from him, or anyone for that matter. It’s Tim Curry, however, who steals the show with his memorable performance as Darkness. Curry, who’s long been known for his countless villainous portrayals is completely unrecognizable thanks to make up artist Rob Bottin’s jaw dropping work. I think when looking at the character of Darkness how painful and excruciating it must have been for Curry to sit in the chair and have make up applied on, because it certainly looks as if it took long to get it all on. In the history of make up effects, Legend is nothing short of a breakthrough.

This is simply a well put together adventure, filled with endless beauty and atmosphere. Credit must go in Ridley Scott’s direction, because he is simply a master at bringing larger than life canvases to the screen. It’s not at the level of his other films Alien and Blade Runner, but it’s satisfactory enough.

Video:
Director’s Cut ****
Theatrical ***

I’m sure that many fans of this film are anticipating this disc simply because, as far as I can tell, it will finally be available in widescreen. This 2 Disc Ultimate Edition offers both the original 90 minute cut of the film, as well as the new director’s cut, with 24 minutes of restored footage seen internationally, but not in the states. Of the two versions, it’s the director’s cut version that fares much better in comparison in terms of video quality. This release was delayed numerous times, but it does look as though Universal took their time in ensuring that fans of the movie would get their money’s worth in terms of picture perfect quality. The director’s cut is virtually flawless, with no image flaws whatsoever. The theatrical version, while a mostly strong presentation, does encounter a few instances of grain and softness about midway through the movie.

Audio:
Director’s Cut ****
Theatrical **1/2

Again, with the new Director’s Cut version of the movie, Universal took their time in restoring this 1985 adventure with a furious sound that would rival that of a transfer of a fairly recent movie. Fired up with a 5.1 audio mix, the sound is consistently alive and all around with a perfected natural sense of the surroundings of the film. The director’s cut contains a new never before heard musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, whose score was replaced in the theatrical version by the synthesized sounds of Tangerine Dream. While the Director’s Cut soars in this department, the theatrical version suffers in comparison based solely on the fact that only a 2.0 channel mix is offered, while the Director’s Cut contains both a 5.1 Digital mix and a DTS 5.1 channel as well.

Features ****

Universal hasn’t resorted to an Ultimate Edition double disc in quite some time, and Legend certainly deserves title, because it’s one of the most superbly loaded discs the studio has ever put out. In addition to including the extended director’s cut, which is an extra bonus for sure, the 2 disc set includes a feature length commentary by Ridley Scott, who continues his knack for informative commentary following Gladiator and Hannibal.

Disc 2 contains much more goodies, including a lengthy documentary titled “Creating a Myth”, which includes interviews with cast and crew members who reflect on the making of the film. Those expecting an interview with Mr. Cruise will sorely be deprived, as he is nowhere to be seen in this area. Also included is an isolated score by Tangerine Dream, a gallery of deleted scenes, Bryan Ferry’s music video for the song “Is Your Love Strong Enough?”, photo galleries, 2 theatrical trailers, 4 TV spots, and a DVD-Rom feature.

Summary:

Legend may forever be something of an acquired taste, but if you’re an admirer of Ridley Scott’s work, this one very much deserves a look at. It’s one of the more extravagant looking films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing lately.