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Tom Cruise stars in this visually-stunning fantasy adventure in which pure good and evil battle to the death amidst spectacular surroundings. Set in a timeless mythical forest inhabited by fairies, goblins, unicorns and mortals, this fantastic story has Tom Cruise, a mystical forest dweller, chosen by fate to undertake a heroic quest. He must save a beautiful princess, Mia Sara, and defeat the demonic Lord of Darkness, Tim Curry, or the world will be plunged into a never-ending ice age. Co-starring Billy Barty and Alice Playten and directed by Ridley Scott, famed for his remarkable settings and unparalleled imagery, the incredibly realized fable is the stuff movie legends are made of.
For more about Legend and the Legend Blu-ray release, see Legend Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 12, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: William Hjortsberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty
» See full cast & crew
Legend Blu-ray Review
Both versions of Ridley Scott's divisive dark fantasy earn a long-awaited Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 12, 2011
No apologies, no hesitation, no shame. I love Legend. I always have. In spite of all the years that have passed, all the criticism that's been laid at director Ridley Scott's feet, all the Tangerine Dreams that have gone unfulfilled, my affection for Scott's dark fantasy hasn't diminished. Alex Thomson's dreamlike cinematography, Mia Sara and Tim Curry's mesmerizing performances, the film's production design and still-impressive special effects, makeup and prosthetics... I've long been taken with it all. I'm well aware that Legend isn't a perfect film -- it certainly isn't Tom Cruise's finest hour, its comedic bits are arguably endearing but admittedly awkward, and Jon Anderson's "Loved By the Sun" gets under my skin without fail -- but every time I revisit it, I find myself falling under its spell. I can't say I have the same affection for its resurrected Director's Cut though. I don't deny its value, it just strikes me as more of a curiosity than anything else; a sentiment Scott seems to share. Even so, Legend's high definition debut is as remarkable as fans have been hoping it would be and both versions of the film look and sound infinitely better than they ever have before.
Once long ago, before there was such a thing as time, the world was shrouded in darkness. Then came the splendor of light, bringing life and live into the Universe, and the Lord of Darkness retreated deep into the shadows of the earth, plotting his return to power... by banishing light forever. But precious light is protected, harbored in the souls of Unicorns, the most mystical of all creatures. Unicorns are safe from the Lord of Darkness, they can only be found by the purest of mortals... such a mortal is Jack, who lives in solitude with the animals of the forest. A beautiful girl named Lily loves Jack with all her heart. In their innocence, they believe only goodness exists in the world. Together they will learn there can be no good without evil... no love without hate... no heaven without hell... no light without darkness. The harmony of the Universe depends upon an eternal balance. Out of the struggle to maintain this balance comes the birth of Legends.
Jack, of course, is played with naive devotion by Cruise, Lily steps straight out of a storybook courtesy of Sara, and the Lord of Darkness, one of the most grandiose, intimidating, visually striking villains of cinema, is none other than Curry, delivering the best performance of his career while encased in full-body prosthetics and makeup. Cruise is constantly upstaged by his castmates -- even by the character actors who play the goblins, elves, dwarves, fairies and monstrosities that inhabit Scott's fairytale -- but the evisceration he's received at the hands of his critics borders on excessive. It's easy to forget that Jack is an innocent; an untainted soul who has little care or understanding of the world beyond the boundaries of his forest. As heroes of legend go, Jack is as transparent an archetype as they come, and Cruise doesn't attempt to make him anything more. I'd even go so far as to say it's his persevering sincerity that allows his fellow actors to indulge in such ambitious theatrics. He's an anchor point that demands nothing from his audience, reacting to everything that transpires rather than analyzing and contextualizing his character's harrowing journey. Sara, meanwhile, is given ample opportunity to bend, waver and break, raising doubts about where Lily's heart and loyalties truly lie. She's equally convincing as Jack's beloved companion, Darkness' reluctant bride-to-be and the black-clad seductress who seems all-too-willing to douse the Light of the universe with one stroke of a sword.
But Legend is Curry's film. Curry fuses his Lord of Darkness with near-biblical malevolence, twisting what could have been lifeless prosthetics into the primordially bestial, eternally tortured face of the Devil himself. Scott doesn't hem him in or pull him back. The bigger and grander the better. He isn't a brute; his all-consuming hate and deep-seated bitterness is too rich and complex. He isn't a fallen angel divorced from God's grace; his very nature is entwined with fear, the night and the unknown beasties that lurk in the dark. If Darkness were anything less than a fully realized creature, the entire film would come crashing down. If he were anything less than a terrifying force of nature, Jack's quest would seem like child's play. If Darkness' castle were anything less than a grim, fiery hellscape, Lily's trials and the Unicorns' peril would simply sit on the screen with listless indifference. Like Wolfgang Petersen's The NeverEnding Story, Legend doesn't dilute its high fantasy with flights of frivolous fancy. It weaves an oppressive, foreboding tale of malice and menace with only the faintest hint of hope to guide its heroes toward their goal.
For those who insist Legend represents an early-career misstep for Scott, I can offer little solace. Like Kubrick and other legendary filmmakers, Scott wasn't (and isn't) interested in being a mere genre director. His fascination with a variety of genres has sent him careening from one corner of cinema to the next, searching for whatever tale captures his imagination and inspires him, regardless of where that tale takes him. While Alien and Blade Runner are clearly superior films, Legend shares the same meat, marrow and tendons as Scott's previous productions. The world he creates is exceedingly immersive, the story he shares is gripping, the balance he strikes between music and imagery is entrancing, and the sets and creatures he designs are unlike anything else from the period (even rivaling those in more recent fantasy epics like, dare I say, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings). I'm not about to pretend my own nostalgia isn't coming to bear on my love of Legend. But I've revisited plenty of childhood favorites, only to walk away disheartened and disillusioned. Legend is one of those rare films that continues to lure me in, year after year, defying its age with every swamp demon, dying unicorn, dungeon escape, dark seduction and crown of horns it has to offer.
Legend Blu-ray, Video Quality
If only every Blu-ray presentation opened with a brief message from the filmmakers or technicians involved in approving or creating its transfer. Imagine the confusion that would be alleviated, the light that would be shed on problematic aspects of a transfer, the educated discussions and debates that would spring up in forums. Oh, what a world that would be. I know, I know... wishful thinking. Thankfully, director Ridley Scott has penned not one but two messages that greet filmfans immediately after choosing which version of Legend they'd like to watch.
Legend: Original Theatrical Cut
Of the film's 1080p/VC-1 encoded theatrical cut presentation, Scott writes: "The final theatrical version of Legend was transferred by Universal in 2006 directly from the film's inter-negative. Although I was not involved in this transfer, it displays a much more detailed and refined image than the Director's Cut. Considering the significantly different source elements and transfer processes involved, it is safe to say that each version of Legend has its own strengths and I leave it to you to decide which one you think is best."
"Each version has its own strengths." Of course, the implication is that Scott is mostly -- but not entirely -- pleased with the theatrical cut's Blu-ray presentation. As to what weaknesses he may be subtly referring to? Minor print specks and nicks appear on occasion (most noticeably when Oona tries to lift the last mirror into place during the film's final confrontation), vertical lines slice down through the image here and there, color and contrast inconsistencies aren't exactly uncommon, and some instability and wobble affects a number of shots. Seeing as Scott is intimately familiar with what can be done to correct these issues (ahem, Blade Runner), I would imagine it's these sorts of things that kept him from offering more glowing praise of the theatrical cut transfer.
That said, Legend has never looked as good as it does here, and it's easy to identify the many, many strengths Scott is alluding to in his comments. Cinematographer Alex Thomson's dark fantasy palette is awash with lush, vibrant color and rich, primal power. Black levels aren't exactly consistent but, for the most part, they're inky and ominous; skintones are lifelike and altogether pleasant, even though faces are a tad flushed here and there. And detail? Scott wasn't exaggerating. Edges are crisp and clean, fine textures are intact and true to Thomson's photography, grain has been preserved (even if it grows unruly at times) and overall clarity is excellent (barring several soft shots, all of which trace back to the source). Suffice it to say, the Blu-ray presentation puts the standard DVD to shame. It helps that artifacting, banding and aliasing never claw their way into the image, and ringing and crush, though present to some degree, aren't distracting. All things considered, Universal's faithful presentation will entrance filmfans and delight videophiles alike.
Legend: Director's Cut
Of the film's 1080p/VC-1 encoded Director's Cut, Scott writes: "For years before its release on DVD, the Legend Director's Cut was thought to have been lost forever. However, in 2000, it was miraculously located in the form of a pristine answer print, which was later transferred for DVD. Answer prints by their nature offer limited latitude in the transfer process, commonly resulting in less-then-optimal picture quality. Such is the case with Legend Director's Cut. Newly re-transferred in 2011 for this Blu-ray release, the limitations of the answer print are now even more apparent in high definition. However, given its one-and-only source element, the Director's Cut looks as good as it possibly can and I am pleased to include it on this Blu-ray release as both an archival curiosity for fans and a digital preservation of my original vision for the film."
Inherent flaws notwithstanding, I can't imagine the Director's Cut impressing any more than it does here. The theatrical version certainly boasts greater detail, but the Director's Cut is no slouch. Some may even prefer its less intrusive grain and somewhat softer image. Scott's color timing is different -- sometimes drastically so -- but the hues that adorn the Director's Cut are generally strong and vivid (minus a variety of problematic shots). Blacks are comparable as well, even if the quality of the answer print occasionally produces muted shadows and less-than-revealing delineation. And even though detail is less refined, it's still more than suitable for the task at hand. Universal's encode is also sound; no digital anomalies, no compression issues, no eyesores to report. (Well, other than those native to the answer print.) Ultimately, appropriate expectations are the key to enjoying the Director's Cut transfer, even as an archival curiosity, and crucial to understanding the source of its weaknesses. A comparison of the two versions, while far from indicative of the full experience offered by either transfer, can be found here and here.
Legend Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Both the theatrical version and Director's Cut of Legend features a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and the results are quite satisfying. LFE output lends notable ferocity to the raging infernos of the Lord of Darkness' lair, thunderous resonance to Tim Curry's voice, and tremendous weight to the film's already formidable atmosphere. The rear speakers are engaging, despite the fact that they're typically relegated to supporting Legend's music. There are some problems though, even if the majority are tied to the film's original audio elements. Dialogue, while clear and intelligible on the whole, is muddled at times, growing thick and pulpy. Effects, while decisive and uncompromising, are also heavy, coarse and, in the case of the theatrical cut, somewhat overwhelmed by the score. When Tangerine Dream's synthesized melodies surge, they tend to drown out the rest of the soundscape. Moreover, as howling wind, roaring fire, hissing steam, pouring rain, chilling screams and swelling music try to cram into the same space, they seem to overwhelm one another. That said, it actually makes the resulting soundfield -- full and enveloping as it is -- that much more haunting and unsettling. Taken on its own terms, Legend's lossless audio tracks aren't flawless, but they do complement the film's video transfers nicely.
Legend Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray release of Legend offers the same special features as its 2002 2-disc Ultimate Edition DVD counterpart, among them two versions of the film, an excellent Ridley Scott audio commentary, a Tangerine Dream isolated score, a 51-minute production documentary and several other goodies. There isn't any new content to be had, but it hardly matters. Fans will be extremely pleased with the supplemental package as is, even if the extras are still presented in lowly standard definition.
Legend Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Legend remains one of my personal favorites and, while it hasn't weathered the ages as well as other films of the era, it stands as both a fantasy classic and a memorable Ridley Scott production. Honestly, it's worth the price of admission for Tim Curry's performance alone. Universal's Blu-ray release doesn't disappoint either. It not only delivers two versions of the film, each one is backed by an excellent video transfer, a solid DTS-HD Master Audio track and a generous helping of supplemental materials. Like the film itself, Universal's Blu-ray edition isn't perfect, but it thoroughly trounces its DVD counterpart and earns its stripes as a worthwhile catalog release.
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Legend Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Buy Two Select Universal Blu-rays at Amazon, Get $8 Off (Expired) - May 9, 2011
Amazon is currently offering customers who purchase two select Universal Blu-ray releases $8 off their total purchase price at checkout. The deal is notable in that five of the fourteen eligible titles are upcoming releases: American Graffiti, Legend, Billy Madison, ...
• Legend Blu-ray Announced - March 28, 2011
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced Legend for Blu-ray release on May 31. This Ridley Scott fantasy film starring Tom Cruise as a forest dweller who must defeat the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) will be presented in an Ultimate Edition BD, featuring ...
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