A tale of surreal temptation, it’s of little wonder why the studio chopped Legend apart before release. There’s an exotic suggestiveness, even in the truncated American cut, ill-suited to the mainstream audience – or at least one made of children.
Legend turns into a visual bombardment, the screen cluttered by snow, rain, or pollen. Sometimes, fire lights the foreground. Trolls appear busy and gruesome in a Halloween-esque way. No wonder Universal higher-ups saw this as kids fairy tale. Visually, Legend looks the part.
Legend found a following because of its oddball demeanor
Legend found a following because of its oddball demeanor
Considering the script effectively retells a Biblical fable, the all-audiences approach makes logical sense as well, end results be damned. What begins in a vision of Eden soon turns to gruesomeness when a rule is betrayed, and Satan – rather, Darkness (Tim Curry) – begins to infect this realm.
No matter the version, Legend found a following because of its oddball demeanor, bouncing between adulthood lust and childlike play. Each scene brings a new oddity to admire, and Tom Cruise appears wholly out of place as the heroic elf Jack. Mostly, it’s absurd.
Somewhere, Ridley Scott’s original idea exists – a palpable, mature take on fantasy filmmaking, something akin to Lord of the Rings, but with Scott’s frequent injection of Catholicism. Without question, the international edition, which runs close to 30-minutes longer, brings Legend greater context. In the 90-minute form, Legend barely establishes baseline characters, their actions, or the world they inhabit. Coherent it is not.
In a decade where this genre flourished alongside movies like Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, Legend becomes an unfortunate outlier. It’s too often jostling for position among those familiar classics, and when trying to break out, finds itself caught wrestling against its own intentions. Curry being cast as a Satan figure is marvelous, but Cruise as a Peter Pan-like protagonist doesn’t connect. Playing to romanticism and Gothic terror, the divergence should match the concept of good only existing because evil makes it so. Instead, it’s a collision, loud and hollow, where the baseline morals can’t find a way beyond the visual noise.
This new master preserves Legend’s hard, thick grain structure. While intensity varies, encoding is capable. The disc maintains a natural filmic quality even at the most challenging moments. Restoration work takes care of any damage or dust, leaving the print spotless.
Aesthetics waver between light/dark moods, shadows sometimes crushed, whites sometimes clipped. Each is intentional, and maintained here. Overwhelming sun filters through the trees when Legend is playing nice, complete with an obvious misty haze. Underground, lit generally only by fire, such light can’t penetrate most corners. It’s a minimal loss either way, and keeps Legend quite dynamic. While Arrow made a reasonable case as to why there’s no 4K release with HDR, Legend is crying for even bolder dimensionality.
Lavish color makes the forests appear dressed in neon stylings. Greens explode, and a multitude of flowers pop up everywhere. The variety is sensational. Flesh tones push out a dense, warm hue, wholly suitable for a movie like this. Even when set in darker realms, costumes or flames give Legend awesome HD energy. Much of this presentation’s color palette looks totally unnatural, and that’s the best case scenario.
While 5.1 DTS-HD is offered, stereo is preferred. Not that Legend’s surround mix is poorly done – it’s the opposite given the wide and constant split between the channels. Surrounds rarely exhibit a quiet moment, the soundstage in a constant flood. Rather, the fidelity sounds rotten, struggling when attempting to replicate the upper registers. Dialog often sounds as if played back on a compressed digital format.
While the stereo track (also DTS-HD) isn’t perfect, the issue is less severe, more in line with something from the ’80s. Legend has a more than capable front soundstage split too, so some directionality isn’t lost. It’s simply pure, accurate, and favorable overall.
Stuffed with… stuff, Arrow’s disc begins with author Paul M Sammon’s commentary, then two isolated music tracks, one for Tangerine Dream, the other Goldsmith’s music and effects. A new retrospective produced by Arrow runs a half hour and they track down numerous members of the crew. Two featurettes on the music split between the Tangerine Dream score and Jerry Goldsmith. The next is another two-parter focused on effects and pre-production. Critic Travis Crawford speaks for 20-minutes in a visual essay that breaks down the various Legend versions. Arrow also includes an early 2000s, hour long documentary on Ridley Scott. A music video and alternate opening finish disc one.
On the second disc is the longer director’s cut, and that comes with a Ridley Scott commentary. An older piece from the DVD lasts 50-minutes and is fairly standard in running through the production. An old EPK, deleted scenes, storyboards, screenplay drafts, and promo materials bulk up this department.
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Bizarre, surreal, and wholly unique, Legend stands out for its risks if not its actual execution.
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