Adventure has got your back
So, this movie is a spur of the moment. The day of reviewing this is Valentines Day, and although I’m sure the originally slated movie would have worked fine, it isn’t every day that movie night falls on the same day as a holiday. Of course, of all holidays this is one that I’ve got probably the least motivation to watch the main themed movies - I just don’t dig straight romance movies. The only one that would come to mind that I’d willfully re-subject myself to is in fact The Princess Bride, but that’s already been done on here - so instead, I find another movie that has some romance at it’s core, but that despite all logic I still haven’t gotten to on here. Tonight, we get to see if a big, red, spooky devil Tim Curry is all horns and no evil - tonight, we watch Legend.
Although there was a list of different movies I could have substituted, Legend ended up winning out for a few reasons. One is that it’s highly fantasy, and that opens all sorts of possibilities for costumes, effects, and a little leeway towards the inevitably cheesy romance components. Another is that it has at least two names that I feel a lot of people should recognize - being that of Tom Cruise and Tim Curry. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also directed by Ridley Scott - yep, Mr. Alien and Blade Runner himself. Largely but not in spite of anything else, it should already be set up that the movie has tons of potential for those who haven’t seen it already. There is a cluster of version available - largely the theatrical and directors cut versions - but if you are looking for a more higher definition, it’s more than likely the theatrical that you will end up watching due to the better transfer. Both don’t go beyond bluray in quality, a bit of a shame for me looking to test out that new 4k technology above my head, but it did provide an interesting experiment for me to run - as I already own this on DVD. For those not in the numbers of things, DVD as a format only provides (mostly) 480 - what’s referred to as “Standard Definition.” This is in fact fine for most watchers, as the size of most television and the majority of owned devices being in the HD format allows for a clean enough visual that it still looks pretty decent - leading most to not notice much the difference between it and the next step up. Blurays as a format get to 1080, which matches most HD televisions. When watching a DVD on a newer monitor - say, a 2k one such as my computer is attached - you will start to notice things being slightly muddier, a bit more blurred at times. Still watchable for the older generation, but certainly the newer crowd would be appalled at the reduction in quality. When you step things up to a projector-sized display however, that’s when you start to really notice that mud, and it’s something I didn’t really get to experience on my older projector since it was at best HD. It’s just an interesting little information dump for the inquisitive, but to end a long story I ended up renting a movie I already owned so that I could have it in Bluray quality as opposed to DVD quality, and with a 4K projector spitting a 90-110 inch diagonal, it made quite the difference.
Now, for this review I watched the theatrical cut, as mentioned due to the better quality. If you have a choice between the two, I would usually say the directors would be the way to go - it fleshes out some of the scenes a bit better but also in turn makes things take longer. There’s also a bit different soundtrack to it, which in all honesty is one way or the other - the directors gets more of a generic fantasy score through Goldsmith, which fits the movie but will somewhat leave less impressions. The theatrical has a Tangerine Dream score, which is a bit more unique, although doesn’t always fit in the movie quite as well as the for-mentioned score. Honestly, most the time I watch the the directors version, but I do enjoy the audio from the theatrical - although the final song could have left and I wouldn’t feel bad about it. The rest of the audio on display here is pretty good - balanced so you can hear things as other things are happening, despite some rather quiet talking moments at times. It’s also relatively easy to tell whose talking just by hearing them, and don’t think I didn’t catch Billy Barty when his character started talking - you watch Master of the Universe once and you’ll be able to pick him out every time he shows up. Sound effects can at times be a bit interesting choice-wise, for example using whale sounds for the unicorns. Wouldn’t have chosen that personally, but it doesn’t exactly not work.
The plot can be a bit weighty while also being so simple it can hurt. Mainly, the main character’s motivations are purely from the “true love” standpoint, with often times things going completely over his head while he’s super-focused on the sole purpose of finding his love interest and saving her from whatever is going on. There is actually a funny moment when he’s confronted by the faeries of the forest as they are understandably mad about the situation he indirectly got them all into, but there is a near immediate heel-turn as soon as he states he did everything for love. Given the theme of innocence and evil, it works pretty well. Don’t be in despair though, even the female lead tries to set right things she has caused through her ignorance - even if she does end up being captured and somewhat need saving to some extent, it’s far less than the typical Damsel in Distress would ever have. The plot flow is… washy. Everything goes along fine, but you’ll be finding about thirty minutes in the theatrical (shorter) cut till anything of note beyond character building and set up really happens - a third the run time. Of course, at that point things take a turn, and more interesting moments do happen, but even then the pacing will occasionally pump the breaks to insert some more moments of either whimsy, setup, or character building. I won’t say it’s all unnecessary - even if I’d prefer that opening text scrawl be gotten rid of - but it can lead to a few moments where you might not be as incredibly engaged as in other movies.
During those slower moments though, the movie does take the time to at least give you things to look at. Plenty of practical things abound in this movie, from goblins to faerie-folk to straight up giant Satan-looking Darkness - because the character isn’t technically Satan, despite the easily drawn attachments. We get a nice variety of costumes beyond that as well, from fancy gowns to no-pants wilderness, and even shiny armor and revealing darkness-themed gowns. Sure, not all of it looks great - there is a substantial amount of wiggling on the unicorns horns as they gallop and horse around. Most the faerie folk aren’t super elaborate outfits, despite being good, and the occasional optical effects are noticeably dated. That said, Darkness looks great, and the plethora of contacts getting used all add for some interesting looks on closeups. The sets are also filled with plenty of things to look at and manage to be plenty diverse considering as well - from lush forest to depressing winter-scape to straight fire-filled hell dungeons.
Part of it is all held together in such a way thanks to the way the movie is put together. Even in the shorter cut, where the occasional scene will feel rather a bit rushed or out of place (particularly if you’ve seen the directors version), most the construction is still there. If we have a somewhat bland talking segment - such as the lament of Darkness at the start - it tries and do something with it still, changing angles, swapping between close and wide shots, getting plenty of that detail of items on display. There’s a few moments of handheld camera in there as well, giving these great tracking shots that give a reveal as though we are running the same motions as the character intended except on the other side so we can still see them - an earlier “frozen” scene does this. We’ve also got what looks to be a different lens type towards the end, where the main is sneaking through the dungeons. It largely knows when to cut, and when to move, and outside of a moment or two where something might bounce that perhaps shouldn’t or the occasional continuity mess up (such as a necklace swapping directions between cuts), it’s all pretty well put together. They also do some fun things with angles whenever showing Darkness, making him look quite tall and menacing. The movie also takes time to use Chekhov’s gun, usually coming back to even some minor details that you wouldn’t have thought would make a difference.
And of course, as if all that fantasy and the likes wasn’t enough, there’s also the absolute bloodbath of things you could deep-thought into about the movie. The nature of good and evil and it’s constant flux is even spelt out for you in the opening text scrawl. There’s a bit of coming of age and growing into an adult undertone thrown in there as well, particularly on the female lead’s end of things, which is also somewhat laid out bluntly by a side character earlier on. There’s the thought of making up for wrongs you’ve committed on both regards, although largely on the female lead’s end - as she seems to be the one more willing to user her brain as opposed to the male lead who can feel like a two year old at times. You have those power of love threads splaying across - which also somewhat come to a head towards the dungeon scenes and sort of push it home. All of that, that’s all just surface level stuff too. If a person really wanted to deep-dive in here I’m sure they could pull all sorts of things out of it - but I’m not the writer or director, so it’s not like I’m the one whose intended any meaning in this, nor am I one to think super long and hard about movies with giant dark-spawn, unicorns, goblins, and a whole bunch of people that don’t know what Pants are.
I don’t find this to be a bad movie, and indeed moments of it are something that everyone should see at some point - but I can’t quite decide if it’s something for everyone. The longer cut is the better one as far as story presentation goes, but the shorter one is easier to get into and has somewhat more unique music without being at too much of a loss. The actors do a decent enough job, with Curry stealing the scenes as much as anyone would expect. Perhaps one could say that it might be a bit too bleak for some, or that some of it certainly doesn’t hold up as well as others, but again I largely find the movie enjoyable to watch. Oddly enough, the movie is barely above mid-ratings when it comes to reviews on IMDB, so perhaps there is some lair of nostalgia in there. Perhaps instead it’s just my penchant to enjoy a movie for what it is - even if that’s a thinking fantasy flick that’s romantic at it’s core but somewhat bleak in appearance, goaded on by one big, horned, goat-footed Curry.