Visually Legend proved to be quite a stunning little movie, there was clearly a lot of passion and effort put into the aesthetics and it has payed off enormously. Even thirty years later it looks pretty damn good. Everything from the sets to the makeup is superb, everything is so pleasing to the eye, especially Tim Curry’s extensive makeup as the Lord of Darkness puts you in awe. But unfortunately all the amazing visuals do in the end is blatantly highlight just how appallingly awful the writing is in comparison. It’s very apparent from the start that the story was largely a secondary concern when planning this movie. Ridley Scott didn’t have a very specific story to tell from the beginning, he merely had a creative drive to make some kind of an epic fantasy movie with certain key elements, and he seems to have just tried to fill in the blanks in a very straight line fashion rather than develop a fully formed, organic story. Ridley had originally tried to pitch this as an animated movie, which clearly shows, and in a lot of ways I feel the movie would have vastly benefited from being a traditional hand drawn feature film rather than a live action one. For one thing the simplistic characters and bare bones of story would have been easier to accept. There are also one or two places where, despite very good visual production, the scene would have been more striking and powerful, had it been animated. One of such scene is when princess Lili is being subtly seduced by Darkness through a shadowy figure dancing, where Lili slowly submits to the temptation and joins in on the dance, and the two dancers fuse together and form one, symbolically corrupted version of Lili. With animation, the entire scene could have allowed for far more abstract visual symbolism to be used and made it much more potent.
The main trouble with the entire movie is that while it has many very interesting ideas and elements, it never manages to even come close to putting them together in a satisfying way to tell a cohesive story. The main narrative is straight forward enough, Darkness wants to get rid of daylight and bring forth eternal darkness to the world. To achieve that goal he needs to kill a pair of magical unicorns, and along the way two humans get mixed in to the plot, Darkness then has the hots for Lili and decides to turn the princess into his bride and it’s up to Tom Cruise the woodlands boy to save the day, literally. There are also wacky side kicks tagging along to this quest because it’s an 80s fantasy story and God knows you can’t have fantasy without a dwarf or three tagging along. The storytelling is poor, so rather than feeling like an organic story moving forward logically, you’re instead merely led around blindly from set piece to set piece without any type of clear direction or pacing, introduced to several minor characters who all feel completely one note and forgettable, and at no point does it feel like you’re getting a proper, coherent story. In a cartoon movie this would be inevitably be easier to digest, but you expect better from a live action movie.
Since bombing on the box office the movie has apparently formed a cult status and I can kinda see the appeal. It’s a gorgeous looking movie, and it has that kitsch vibe to it as far as the story goes, and the fifteen minutes or so that Tim Curry is on screen are pretty rad indeed. It doesn’t tickle my personal fancy, so I didn’t get that much out of it, but it is just the right type of a movie to find its niche crowd over a long period of time.