Found-Again Friday: Legend

Can we start a new rule that watching movies with lots of fire will melt actual snow?

Why Found-Again? Here are the things I remembered about Legend before rewatch:

  • Tim Curry as the devil (yes, technically he is “Darkness,” but if you go around with red skin and giant horns and evil schemes, these little mistakes of identity are bound to occur);
  • Unicorn maiming!;
  • Still less frightening than The Dark Crystal.

I’m not so sure about that last part anymore.

The Premise:  Mischievous (read: a jerk) princess Lili (Mia Sara) spends all her free time with half-feral forest boy Jack (Tom Cruise). When a unicorn viewing goes horribly awry and allows goblins to kill one of the beasts, winter falls upon the land, and a separated Jack and Lili try to undo the damage she caused. Jack joins in with a mob of capricious faeries, while Lili is captured and slated to become the bride of Darkness.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve become more susceptible to background music as I get older, because I was keyed up through most of Legend in a way I didn’t remember from my youth, even knowing what was going to happen. (It’s doubly odd because I could have sworn the unicorn maiming was more graphic than we actually see here; if anything, I had less to worry about.) I also didn’t remember Lili being as irritating as she proved to be, which improved the story; her temptation by Darkness, perhaps the most famous part of the film, isn’t the attack on an innocent girl I recalled so much as a logical attempt to play on Lili’s character flaws.

The movie is certainly heavy-handed in some respects, but the only real weak point in my re-viewing was the final fight…though the swordplay seems like a good, solid background for building an interest in Highlander later on. Even the music is different in those scenes, as if Jerry Goldsmith had stepped out for coffee and John Williams started doodling on his paper, and I found myself looking around for Indiana Jones when I should have been watching evil get defeated.

Legend was the first role I ever saw Tim Curry in, and I managed to become a fan without knowing what he actually looked like for a good two years. As attractive as the unicorns and candy-colored forests are, his Darkness makes the movie…and, disturbingly, no small amount of sense sometimes. In the ’80s, the parochial-school kid in me thought of him only as the devil, but the performance never lets you forget Darkness’s bullish aspect—even in the final fight, his neck is pierced with arrows like picadors’ lances.

Random Notes:

  • We have a credit at the end for “Unicorn Master”; I wonder if that’s higher, professionally speaking, than the Unicorn Wrangler for Cast A Deadly Spell. At any rate, it’s something that would never leave my resume, even if I were interviewing to become a bank president.
  • Was there any “fancy” little girl who didn’t dream of owning Lili’s evil dress?
  • It never occurred to me to make comparisons between this and The Last Unicorn, one of my favorite movies, before now—possibly 12-year-old me wasn’t prepared for a story where The Red Bull struts and talks (and the bull and Prince Lir are the same guy…and Haggard is a fireplace… Hm. Maybe I’m still not ready).
  • While this was one of my earliest encounters with the idea that faeries aren’t all Tinkerbell and flower costumes, there was also this, one of the most feared objects of my childhood:
From The Golden Book of Poetry: illustration by Gertrude Elliott for the poem "Little Orphant Annie"
From The Golden Book of Poetry: illustration by (the unintentionally terrifying) Gertrude Elliott for the poem “Little Orphant Annie”

The Verdict: Still a nice, solid fantasy film, even though the end wobbles far more than I’d remembered. It’s a movie that doesn’t seem to want to end, and maybe that’s why director Ridley Scott seems to understand Lili’s fascination with pretty things so well.

(It may also be time to admit that I’m into guys who wear a little chain mail. There. I said it.)

Might go well with: Mead; Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood books, which are myths and lore with the pastel stuff brushed off; and Cold Comfort Farm, since I spent the first three minutes of the movie thinking of Lili as Elfine.

J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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