I’m such a sucker for ’80s fantasy flicks. They can be cheesy, campy, adventurous, and romantic, but they all take me away to another world in a way that modern day CGI flicks can’t. Back then actual sets were built instead of the use of green screens so you felt as if these faraway places actually existed, that you could go there and live. With CGI I usually get the sense that something isn’t quite right.
Legend is one of those films with beautiful otherworldly sets. When the film opens we are in the depths of Hell, where Darkness reigns. The fire, demons, and the piles of rotting bodies make this one disturbing place. Up above, on the surface, there are gorgeous meadows and forests filled with fairy folk and unicorns. Darkness wants to rule the world, but as long as the unicorns exist he can’t because the unicorns hold the power of light, which keeps Darkness confined to his dark domain. Unicorns are attracted to innocence, and the human Jack (played by some unknown actor named Tom Cruise) is an innocent forest dweller who can get near them. A girl, Lily, loves Jack, and he takes her to see the unicorns. Unfortunately Lily wants to get close enough to touch one and this turns into disaster. Darkness has sent goblins to follow Jack, knowing he can lead them to the unicorns. When they find the unicorns hanging with Lily they shoot one and remove its horn to send back to Darkness. The land turns from summer to winter instantly.
Lily, feeling responsible for her stupid idea of wanting to touch the unicorns despite being warned not to, tries to protect the remaining live unicorn, but the goblins return to trap it and in doing so Lily also gets trapped and taken down to Hell. Darkness falls in love with her and wants her to be his wife. He bestows her with gifts and a outfits her in a bad-ass black dress that really looks stunning on her. Will she fall for Darkness? Will Jack be able to save her and rescue the unicorns?
It’s a simple plot, but this movie is just so visually stunning. And glitter. Why is there so much glitter in the air? At this point who cares? I love it. It’s a very dark fairy tale and it works.
The other element that sets Legend apart from other films is its incredible makeup effects. If it weren’t for the credits would one even know that it was Tim Curry who played Darkness? Seriously, this is still to this day one incredible feat in makeup artistry. And then there’s the character of Meg Mucklebones. That’s one scary looking swamp hag. It’s a character shown so briefly, but it’s so memorable.
Maybe green screens and CGI are more cost effective, but movies like Legend really display the true artistry that goes into the creation of the land and the characters. Sure it took 5 hours to get Tim Curry into his character makeup and at one point he tore his own skin off trying to remove the prosthetics, but I think it was worth it. Darkness is still to this day one of the best fantasy characters displayed in film.
With Darkness defeated, does light and innocence remain in this world? It’s hard to tell. At some point, Jack falls to other evil forces, which is conveyed in the stunning film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Hopefully Lily is doing her job of making sure goodness still remains.