Legend finds Ridley Scott at his worst, devoting more to lighting, setting and wafty duck down than plot and performance – proof that a lack of narrative foundations brings out his worst.
Some films you revisit hoping that received opinion is tosh. Good luck with Legend: sillier than its reputation suggests, it isn’t redeemed by the Director’s Cut included here. True, mitigating factors were involved. Pinewood forest sets burnt down – bad news for a director whose mantra is: “I create worlds”.
Blade Runner’s bad reception had left Scott shell-shocked, prompting a relapse into his pre-Alienplans to make a medieval fantasy. A “crisis of confidence” film, he called it.
And boy, did he call it… Scott drew on Cocteau’s Beauty And The Beast, Warner’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Disney’s Fantasia, but his real focus is implied when Tom Cruise’s forest boy Jack cries: “We’re going to bring light to darkness!” Legendisn’t about much more than light.
There’s a plot, of archetypal sorts: the Lord of Darkness plunges fairyland into winter by de-horning a unicorn. But only the rhapsodies of sunlight glancing through leaves and trees betray artistry – and that prettiness turns cloying as bubbles fill the screen for no evident reason other than the way they refract the light.
Scott spent more time getting the smoke right on Blade Runnerthan mollycoddling Harrison Ford. That wasn’t a problem in the end result: Ford nailed it anyway.
Cruise, alas, spends most of Legendlooking stupefied and moving like a man surprised by his limbs – an ambitious tyro in need of direction to pass as an actor.
Tim Curry, on the other hand, slices the ham thick as Darkness, resembling an accident on a tanning bed and delivering a performance so (enjoyably) OTT it makes Dr. Frank-N-Furter look like a cocktail sausage. His evil cackle goes on forever; was Scott too busy blowing bubbles to cry “Cut”?
“I kind of lost it,” Scott understated. It would be six years before he found it again. Sure, the next few years weren’t empty. Scott returned to something like the real world with thrillers Someone To Watch Over Me and Black Rain. Slickness couldn’t disguise an emptiness summed up by the latter’s national stereotyping, however.