WHAT I LIKED: The one word that best describes Ridley Scott's 'Legend,' is grandiose, as it really is one of the most absurd and over-the-top fantasy films of all time - both in concept, and execution.
It basically follows a young girl Lili (Mia Sara) and her lover Jack (Tom Cruise) attempting to save their magical world's last remaining unicorns from their own errors (apparently touching one makes them die or something) and an evil goblin of darkness (Tim Curry), but unlike the best fantasies, that absurd narrative seems to serve no purpose, perhaps beyond some attempts at developing a little atmosphere.
It unquestionably fails even in that department, but it's amusing to some extent watching it try so hard. Scott uses imagery and genre tropes to an almost hilarious extent; getting his cast to overact every word of William Hjortsberg's ridiculous script, introducing countless bizarre world-building concepts about 'forest children,' and 'the order of the universe,' to the confused central characters *visually* (albeit before the script kicks in with all of its meaningless babble), and indulging in the artistry of Assheton Gorton's set-design with Alex Thompson's lingering camera.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Sadly though, whilst that over-the-top stuff is somewhat enjoyable because of how laughable it is, most of the time, you'll find yourself cringing at how hard it's trying to get you on the edge of your seat or wide-eyed in awe.
It's clearly trying to do that because the script is packed with moment after moment in which Lili and Jack face apparent jeopardy or hope, and they look at everything with the widest possible eyes as though they're seeing it for the first time. Jerry Goldsmith's ridiculous score swells and the camera zooms, the script literally has them state their feelings at every turn, and Cruise and Sara approach every ridiculous word like a Shakesperean monologue. If that wasn't enough to prevent you engaging with the intended atmopshere of the whole thing, most of the time, the things they and us are supposed to be scared or amazed about make no sense. The rules of the world are constantly made up as the film goes along, so even if the atmosphere was built more delicately, it would have fallen completely flat. There's no time devoted to building fear of anything unknown; it's just a cycle of brief moments of terror and awe followed by absurd explanation, and then a quick trot along on to the next.
Of course, those huge atmospheric shortfalls wouldn't feel like such a big problem if we actually cared about the characters we were watching in those ridiculous scenarios, but they're just two-dimensional archetypes. Lili is the white-dress-wearing damsel in distress - foolishly making mistakes, looking at everything with eyebrows raised, and being viewed constantly from above as though the camera is always looking down on her. Jack is her obligatory macho hero, deeply in love and determined, but easily misled and enchanted by others. Who they are, where they come from, what their motivations are - these are all questions that the script doesn't care about answering, and that we quickly lose interest in anyway.
Couple that with the fact the whole thing doesn't even serve any moral purpose, and you've got yourself an entirely pointless exercise - a film that doesn't engage your senses with its atmosphere, your feelings with its characters, or your mind with its themes. It may only be one and a half hours, but it feels like it's about one and a half days.
VERDICT: An entirely pointless exercise in grandiose fantasy, Ridley Scott's 'Legend' doesn't even have the atmospheric qualities it shoots for because of its tiresome cycle of wonder and tension incessantly broken by absurd and meaningless explanation. It's shite.