'80s Movie Month: "Legend" Review

Photo Credit: MCA/Universal Home Video

'80s Movie Month: "Legend" Review

Rating: PG
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: April 18, 1986
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Romance

Modern film fans know Tom Cruise for his work in action films and blockbusters, but the actor wasn't always an action star. Though he got his start in films like "T.A.P.S." and "Risky Business," "Legend" was one of the films that helped launch his career.

"Legend" tells the classic story of good vs. evil, which plays out as light vs. darkness. Darkness (Tim Curry, "IT") is a large red demon who looks more like Satan than he does a lower-level demon. He hopes to take over the world and spread his darkness over every continent, making the world over in his own image. Jack (Tom Cruise, "Top Gun") is the one man in the world who might actually have what it takes to help defeat the Darkness.

The film opens with a short story that tells the history of the world. In the beginning, Darkness was in charge of everything. Though he ruled the world with an iron fist, lightness eventually won out, and the Darkness found himself banished to a small cave with a few of his servants. While he plots to take over the world, Jack spends time with his best friend Princess Lili (Mia Sara, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"). While out with Jack, Lili flippantly tosses her ring in the water and makes a proclamation that she'll marry the man who finds that ring. This sets off a chain of events no one can explain.

The unicorns suddenly run for cover, their perfect world develops a sudden iciness, and everyone blames Lili for what happened. When a group of goblins kidnap Lili and take her underground, she learns that the Darkness wants her as his bride. As Lila struggles to find her way out of the underground caverns, Jack sets off on an adventure to track down a unicorn horn, which will bring light back to the world, and make Lili his own.

"Legend" is one of the better fantasy films of the 1980s, but few fans know the backstory behind the film. Director Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner") wanted to create a dark film that would terrify and delight fans at the same time. Disney originally planned to make the film, but the company turned it down after seeing the dark elements. Universal Pictures later produced the film but cut Scott's budget, which led to him cutting some of the darker elements out of the film. Despite those early problems, Scott eventually released a film beloved by many.

Cruise is the star of the film, and "Legend" gave him the chance to stretch his acting wings. The year after "Legend" was released, he starred in "Top Gun," which led to him becoming an action star. He does an admirable job as a man trying to save the world and the woman he loves. Mia Sara is even better in the film. She manages to have chemistry with both Cruise and Curry, which is a feat, given the prostheses that Curry wears throughout the film.

When "Legend" landed in theaters, most fans knew Curry for his work in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." As the evil and villainous Darkness, few people even recognized the actor. Hidden behind red-and-black prostheses and makeup, he embodied the perfect demon. Many fans didn't realize Curry played the demon until the credits rolled.

"Legend" required a number of skilled and talented people working behind the scenes, and Scott hired some of the best of the best. Released in 1985, the film still holds up well today in terms of setting and background elements. The only issue that some viewers might find is that the film is just a little too dark. When Scott introduces Lili and Jack, viewers want to believe that those characters live in a fairy tale world. Even though the director showed unicorns and other fantastical creatures roaming around, the film still feels dark and heavy. The scenes set around the Darkness should feel darker and a little more evil, but there are few differences between the world above ground and the world underground.

That minor issue shouldn't stop anyone from seeing the film. The 1980s brought a number of fantasy films to the mainstream, but few of those films held up as well to the passages of time as "Legend" did. Fans will love seeing how young Cruise looks in the film as they enjoy this classic story of good vs. evil.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tags: Tom Cruise