Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"As a piece of art it offers quite a bit to admire, but it's not ultimately very successful as a viewing experience."

Remember the little origami unicorn in Blade Runner, and the longstanding rumours that the film was intended to contain a unicorn dream sequence? Whilst he was making that film, Ridley Scott was working on the script for another, the fairytale known simply as Legend. He'd already struggled to adapt the story of Tristan and Isolde, finally abandoning it, but he remained intrigued by the idea of creating a fantasy film and decided it would be easier if he developed a story of his own.

The story, such as it is, is formulaic and not terribly interesting. An evil demon kidnaps a princess and a unicorn, and a young man must set out to rescue them, accompanied by various fantasy creatures. But Scott knows his fairytales well enough to understand that theme and style are more important than plot per se. Legend is primarily a visual film, with gorgeously designed sets and spectacular costumes. It also has a strong soundtrack - or, rather, two alternative strong soundtracks, by Jerry Goldsmith and by Tangerine Dream. As a piece of art, then, it offers quite a bit to admire, but it's not ultimately very successful as a viewing experience.

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Much of this is down to the dullness of the characters. Mia Sara's princess is one of those celebrated visions of loveliness who seem to have no personality at all, though she does undergo a shift into something more interesting toward the end. Tom Cruise's earnest young hero is sweet but bland, memorable mostly for his skimpy gold miniskirt. Tim Curry gets the plum role, hamming it up gloriously as the demon Darkness, but he's hampered by a ludicrous rubber suit that undermines the impressive imagery elsewhere.

Ultimately Legend is a bit of a wet squib, appealing in small doses but struggling to maintain audience interest for the full running time. It's a bit too mystical for its own good, with a sentimental streak that will do little for anyone over eight. Despite all the romantic rhetoric there's an emotional emptiness at its core. It feels like an android's dream.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2011
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Legend packshot
A forest boy strives to save his girlfriend and an imprisoned unicorn from an evil demon.
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Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: William Hjortsberg

Starring: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry

Year: 1985

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US, UK


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