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UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Ridley Scott
Cast:
Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Bill Barty
Screenplay:
Wiliam Hjortsberg

Tagline:
"No Good without Evil. No Love without Hate. No Innocence without Lust. I am Darkness."
MPAA:
Rated PG.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Makeup.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English, French, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 5/21/2002

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary Director Ridley Scott
• US Theatrical Cut of Film
• “Creating a Myth: The Memories of Legend"
• Lost Scenes
• Storyboards
• Music Video
• Photo Galleries
• Theatrical Trailers
• Cast and Filmmaker Biographies
• Production Notes
• DVD-ROM Features


PURCHASE
DVD
Score soundtrack

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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Legend (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

1985 proved to be an odd year for directors who worked at Universal Pictures. On one hand, one Universal release - Out of Africa - nabbed the Oscar for Best Picture. Another - Back to the Future - took home the crown as the year’s box office champion.

On the other hand, a couple of directors had a rough time with their Universal projects in 1985. The most extreme problems befell Terry Gilliam and Brazil. He experienced legendary battles with studio chiefs over the tone and length of the flick, among other areas; it remains one of the most famous feuds in movie history.

While it doesn’t appear that Ridley Scott went through Gilliam’s level of angst as he prepared his fantasy flick Legend, what ended up on screen in theaters wasn’t what he originally intended. After an unsuccessful test screening, the director apparently lost some faith in his vision and chopped up the film accordingly. What originally lasted about two hours dropped down to the 90-minute version seen on US screens. In addition, American audiences heard a different score than the one created by noted composer Jerry Goldsmith; they got a cheesy synthesizer offering from Tangerine Dream. (Oddly enough, Arnon Milchan produced both Legend and Brazil.)

In 2002, it’s hard to imagine that a film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Cruise would tank at the box office, but that’s exactly what happened to Legend. The movie died a quick death, though it went on to gain a passionate following via video. Because of those fans, Legend apparently has been one of the most-requested titles that awaited DVD release. In fact, the disc was delayed repeatedly before we finally got it in our hands.

In an intriguing move, this “Ultimate Edition” DVD includes both the original 90-minute US theatrical release and Scott’s 114-minute “director’s cut”. At last fans would be able to see the film as intended, complete with Goldsmith’s famous score.

Speaking for myself, I never saw Legend - at least not all of it. I recall that I tried to watch it on video back in the Eighties but just couldn’t sit through it. The movie seemed so silly and fruity that it possessed no interest for me; I think I made it through the first 15 minutes or so and then bailed on it.

When I watched the director’s cut, I did manage to last until the very end, but it remained a tough process. More than a decade and a half after my original attempt, it seems that I still feel the same about Legend: this is one bad movie.

Legend places us in a land of faeries and magic. There forest-dweller Jack (Cruise) loves Princess Lily (Mia Sara) and desires to spend all his time with her. Although it’s against the rules, he tries to impress her when he shows her the romping grounds of the unicorns, the most sacred and special of creatures. Against Jack’s warnings, Lily approaches and touches one of the unicorns, an action that messes up the world badly. Concurrently, Blix (Alice Playten), the henchman of Darkness (Tim Curry), slays one of the unicorns and steals its horn. This places the world mostly in darkness, which is what Darkness desires. He needs to kill the other unicorn to finish the job, and Jack wants to stop this.

In addition, Darkness wants to make Lily his wife and let the two of them rule the eternal night. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Jack, and he gets the assistance of a bunch of magical little folk as they attempt to save the princess and prevent the victory of Darkness.

Though not exactly an original story, I have no great quibble with the plot. After all, Star Wars featured a similarly Spartan basis for its action, and it worked awfully well. However, Legend is no Star Wars. Legend didn’t even live up to the fairly mediocre level of 1988’s Willow, a similar flick.

On the positive side, I must admit that Legend looks great. Clearly a lot of work went into the production design, and the results are excellent. The forest and other settings seem lush and lively, and they create a fine environment for the action.

Too bad that the events are so uninteresting. Like I mentioned, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the story itself; it’s the execution that seems problematic. For one, Legend seems to be poorly cast. Prior to Legend, Cruise made a name for himself as a cocky teen in 1983’s Risky Business. That tone of charming arrogance served him well through his career, and it would help him during his next big hit, 1986’s Top Gun. However, he was totally wrong for the part of Jack. None of his personality could emerge through this bland and semi-impotent “hero”, as Jack felt lost among the magic and wonder.

Curry does acceptably well as Darkness, though he’s totally unrecognizable beneath many layers of makeup. Sara seems less satisfying as Lily. While she appears pretty enough for the part, she lacks much charm. Frankly, I could never understand why Jack loved her so much; she came across like a total bitch much of the time. In her first movie, Sara couldn’t find any depth or heart to the role, so Lily remains a beautiful but unlikable character.

In the same vein as C-3PO and R2-D2, Legend’s sidekicks mainly exist to provide comic relief. They do so poorly. Virtually all of the movie’s gags fall flat, especially when executed by Blix and his buddies. The jokes dispersed by the various demons seem silly and pointless, and they serve to ruin any dark mood that the film might establish.

Honestly, Scott seemed like the wrong director for this project. He works better within a gritty environment, and the light airiness seen much of the time during Legend didn’t suit him. Granted, even the darker bits still fall flat, but they seem less laughable than the parts where Lily plays Snow White and croons to the forest creatures.

Actually, though I thought the Star Wars parallels seemed strong, it’s clear that Scott wanted Legend to be his version of a Disney animated flick. All of the staple elements are there, but he fails to imbue them with the charm and life seen during Walt’s best creations. Legend feels forced and cutesy much of the time, and the script saddles the actors with some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard. In one scene, Blix says to Darkness, “She’s just a female - she has no power!” To that the boss retorts, “Only the power of creation!” How did such a terrible exchange ever make it past the first rewrite?

Unfortunately, Legend offers many more groaners where that came from, and it seems like a very forced and unnatural piece. It tries so hard to dazzle us with magic and wonder that it never achieves any of its goals. The characters become buried under elaborate sets and costumes and display little positive personality, while the story can’t overcome the various flaws. Legend offers a pretty experience, but it isn’t one that I enjoyed.

Note: I also suffered through the original US theatrical cut. I’ll discuss that version and the ways it differed from the director’s cut when I get to the DVD’s extras.


The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B+ (DTS), B (Dolby Digital) / Bonus A-

Legend appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although a few minor concerns popped up, overall this was an excellent transfer that rarely belied its age.

Sharpness seemed solid. At times the movie exhibited a mildly gauzy look, but this appeared intentional and made sense within the fantasy setting. Nonetheless, the picture always remained nicely distinct and accurate, with virtually no intrusive softness. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws were very minor, especially for an aging film like this. I noticed a few specks and a little light grain at times, but these never caused any problems. Overall, the movie remained nicely clean and fresh.

Colors appeared very strong. The movie utilized a glowing tone that made sense within the fantasy framework, and the various hues came across as rich and vibrant. The colors always looked clear and attractive, and they exhibited no issues like noise or bleeding. Black levels also were deep and dense, and shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy but not excessively opaque. During some of the “ice age” scenes, the movie essentially looked black and white, and the DVD showed fine contrast and delineation. Ultimately, Legend had a couple small problems, but I found it to offer a generally positive presentation.

I felt the same way about the movie’s soundtracks. Legend boasted both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. For the most part, they seemed fairly similar, but in the end, I gave the nod to the DTS track. I’ll discuss it initially and then cover the reasons why I thought it appeared superior to the Dolby mix.

The soundfield generally exhibited a forward bias. Within the front channels, the score showed solid stereo separation, while effects created a good sense of atmosphere. Elements appeared appropriately located within that domain, and they blended together nicely. As for the surrounds, they usually stuck with general reinforcement of the front track, but they came to life well when appropriate. For example, the sequence in which Jack chased after Lily’s ring offered clear and logical activity from the rear channels that helped make the scene more effective.

Audio quality appeared erratic but acceptably good for its age. Dialogue came across as reasonably natural and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects seemed more hit or miss. Some of those elements appeared nicely clear and rich, but others sounded thinner and more dated. For the most part, however, the effects remained fairly accurate and vibrant, though high-end sounds occasionally were a little brittle sounding. Music showed positive fidelity, as Jerry Goldsmith’s score seemed bright and lively. Bass response could sound a bit loose at times, but it appeared pretty rich and deep as a whole. I noticed some light hiss at times. While the soundtrack of Legend won’t dazzle anyone, it stands as a good piece of work for its era.

So how did the DTS track beat the Dolby Digital one? In the usual ways. The DTS version sounded a little richer and more natural, and the elements meshed together more cleanly. It also provided tighter bass response and greater dynamic range; the Dolby mix could seem a little too thin at times. Overall, the differences didn’t seem extreme, but I still gave the nod to the DTS edition.

Virtually all of Universal’s “Ultimate Editions” offered expanded, repackaged versions of already-existing releases such as American Pie and The Mummy. However, Legend breaks that mold, as it gets an Ultimate Edition with its first appearance on DVD. Based on the slew of solid extras found in this set, I can’t imagine we’ll see another version of it anytime soon, for the DVD offers a wealth of materials.

Most of these appear on DVD Two, but the first disc contributes one significant supplement: an audio commentary from director Ridley Scott. He’s a veteran of the format, and that comfort level shows during his running, screen-specific chat. Scott covers a nice range of information, from the origins of the project to various technical concerns and other production issues. He devotes relatively little time to the actors - which doesn’t come as a surprise, given the nature of the film - but he talks about his work with them at times. Scott touches on the alterations made for the release editions, but he also doesn’t get into this issue heavily; I’d like to know more about that process, as I get the feeling it was more controversial than he makes it out to be. Those minor omissions aside, I found this to be a consistently chatty and compelling track that added to my knowledge about the movie.

After this, we move to DVD Two, where we find the majority of the supplements. To start, we locate the entire US theatrical cut of Legend. Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 sound, the presentation of the film seemed good, but it didn’t match up with the picture and sound of the director’s cut. Actually, at first I thought they looked pretty similar, but the more I watched the US version, the more defects I detected. The US cut showed muddier blacks, heavier colors - especially when we saw fire - and seemed somewhat softer. I also noticed a few additional print flaws, mainly in the form of speckles. If forced to grade the picture of the US version, I’d probably give it a “B-“.

I found fewer differences between the various soundtracks, but the audio of the US edition did seem less satisfying. For the most part, they offered similar soundfields and quality. However, I found that the US cut seemed a bit less well defined and crisp, and the sound also appeared a little harsher at times. Again, these weren’t enormous variations, but they did occur. I’d award the audio of the US release another “B-“.

As for the content of the US edition, it offered a lot of changes from the director’s cut. I thought it might simply be a shorter version of the latter, but actually, quite a few differences occurred. For example, the US film started with an explanatory text that didn’t appear in the longer version, and it also revealed the image of Darkness much earlier in the flick. Some omissions meant that other parts made less sense. For instance, during the director’s cut, Gump tries to stump Jack with a riddle. This didn’t appear in the US version, which meant that a later line in which Gump mentions riddles had less effect; it didn’t “throw back” to the prior occurrence.

Of course, the two films featured different scores, which also made a big change. During the supplements, we hear discussions of the two sets of music, and people seem careful not to slam the Tangerine Dream score heard on the US version. Well, if they won’t, I will - it’s terrible! The music really dates the film, as it lacks the timeless quality of Goldsmith’s score. In addition, it includes a few New Age tunes during the flick, and those really kill it. Admittedly, I didn’t like the director’s cut, but the US version seemed even less satisfying for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, I appreciated its inclusion on the DVD, since it’ll please longtime fans of the film.

Next we find a new documentary about the movie. Called Creating the Myth: The Memories of Legend, this 50-minute and 45-second program offers the usual mix of film clips, shots from the set, and interviews with participants. Unfortunately, Tom Cruise declined to appear, but we do hear from director Ridley Scott, writer William “Gatz” Hjortsberg, producer Arnon Milchan, director of photography Alex Thomson, editor Terry Rawlings, production designer Assheton Gorton, makeup effects creator Rob Bottin, set decorator Anne Mollo, stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, key makeup artist Peter Robb King, former president/COO of the MCA Motion Picture Group Sid Sheinberg, and actors Mia Sara, Tim Curry, Alice Playten, Robert Picardo, Billy Barty, and Cork Hubbert.

My only complain about “Myth” related to the use of behind-the-scenes footage. We see too little of this, as movie snippets and interviews dominate. Nonetheless, the program offers a terrific look at the making of the film. It covers a wealth of topics, from the original script to the creation of the sets to working with the horses to makeup to the fire on the Bond stage to the different versions, and it adds much other material as well. Particularly enjoyable are Hjortsberg’s comments, as he’s consistently funny and informative; his impressions of Scott seem particularly hilarious. Overall, this is a fine documentary that should be compelling ever for folks who don’t like the film.

For those with a high threshold for pain, they can listen to the Isolated Music Score By Tangerine Dream. This includes a mix of elements, as it provides unused music cues as well as the final score. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, it doesn’t work any better on its own than it does when integrated with speech and effects, but fans should be happy to have it, I suppose.

More interesting to me are the two Lost Scenes. One of these shows an “Alternate Opening”, and it runs for 10 minutes and 35 seconds. Taken from a video copy of the film, this expands the existing start to the movie as it focuses on the quest of the four goblins, one of whom didn’t make the final cut. Next we get “The Faerie Dance”, a two-minute and 45-second piece. No film footage remains for it, so instead we hear the scene’s audio played over a combination of production photos and storyboards. All I can say is that I’m glad this obnoxious little piece didn’t appear in the finished movie; it looks terrible!

After this we get three sets of Storyboards. One of these - “Lily and the Unicorns” - basically hews to material seen in the finished film, but one of the others - “Jack’s Challenge” - was never shot, and the other - “Downfall of Darkness” - shows an alternate version of existing footage. The areas include between 69 and 159 boards for a total of 300 drawings.

In the Trailers area we see both the US and International promos; they looked very similar to me. We also find four TV Spots for the film and the Music Video for Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough”. That clip lasts five minutes and 20 seconds and mostly uses the standard combination of movie snippets and lip-synch shots, though at times it appears to place Ferry in the action. It’s pretty lame.

The Photo Gallery breaks down into three subdomains, all of which appear as running video programs. “Publicity Photos” lasts two minutes and 45 seconds as it presents 40 posed pictures used for promotional purposes. “Images of Legend” takes four minutes and 48 seconds to give us 71 shots from the set, some of which include unused concepts; for example, we see how Darkness would have looked if they’d made Tim Curry wear contact lenses. Lastly, “Continuity Polaroids” also runs four minutes and 48 seconds to display its 71 images, all of which show the actors in different stages to ensure they’d look the same from day to day. I’m not wild about the running video presentation - Disney does still galleries best, as they offer thumbnailed collections - but the material seems interesting.

A few minor pieces complete the DVD. The Production Notes offer a brief but reasonably useful overview of the film’s creation, while Cast and Filmmakers gives us some short biographies. We find listings for Scott as well as actors Cruise, Sara, Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, and Cork Hubbert. These are standard Universal fare: good but unexceptional.

Within the DVD’s booklet, we locate “A Message From Ridley Scott” that discusses the reasons for the creation of the new director’s cut. It also includes the usual chapter listings as well as a chart of the package’s extras.

Finally, for DVD-ROM users, a few addition materials appear. Most significant are the Original Screenplay and the Shooting Script. These can be viewed as you watch the US cut of the film. They’re a cool addition to the package. Finally, the DVD-ROM area includes a few Weblinks. It gives us connections to Universal Home Video, Universal Pictures, Universal Theme Parks, and Universal Studios. You can also sign up for Universal’s DVD Newsletter.

It’s the eternal dilemma for a DVD reviewer. Bad movie, terrific disc - what recommendation do I offer? Make no mistake: Legend is a terrible flick. It shows good visual imagination but wastes those efforts on a bland story that seems poorly executed. However, the DVD itself is a terrific piece of work. It provides very good picture and sound as well as a fine collection of supplements. Ultimately, I can’t fully endorse the DVD simply because I strongly disliked the movie. Nonetheless, fans of Legend should be absolutely delighted that the flick finally got such an excellent DVD release, and those who think it might be their cup of tea are firmly encouraged to give it a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2798 Stars Number of Votes: 243
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