Junkfood Cinema: Legend

By  · Published on January 7th, 2011

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; because who wants to live past 30? This is the weekly internet column that inspired The Biggest Loser. Every Friday I shovel a hot, heaping helping of cheese into your gullet and laugh as you struggle to tell me you are lactose intolerant. I will dissect exactly what makes it a bad film but then, like a person with severe bipolar disorder, I will proclaim my embarrassingly powerful love for it. And just when you think internet film journalism has reached an all time low, I hit you with a disgustingly tasty snack food item to compliment the film and wreak havoc upon your girlish figure.

This week’s snack: Legend

What Makes it Bad?

Legend is possibly the single gayest film ever made. Now take down that noose and stow your pitchforks. I am not insinuating that gay equates to bad. It’s not the fact that it’s gay that makes Legend a bad film, but rather the fact that the intent of the filmmakers was to make a fantasy film without a sexual agenda that inadvertently arrived at fruity on all on its own. The catalyst for the entire plot is a fanciful unicorn but compared to the rest of the film, that unicorn might as well have been wearing a Lakers jersey and hosting a right-wing talk radio show. The star of the film is a baby-faced Tom Cruise…draw your own conclusions there as I’d rather not be sued for stating things that are painfully obvious. Ahem. He plays an impish forest child who prances about like an idiot and is perpetually filmed from the crotch up. I know Ridley Scott is a proponent of the “V” camera setup, but this is ridiculous. They also reference fairy magic every five seconds, the villain is first seen sporting glow-in-the-dark press-on nails, and there’s even a fancy dance sequence featuring an enchanted evening gown. I’m pretty sure even Rip Taylor would call Legend a bit flamboyant.

The score of Legend, at least its theatrical cut, is the work of none other than those dastardly sadists: Tangerine Dream. If you aren’t familiar with Tangerine Dream, simply drop seven hits of ecstasy and shove your head up the ass of that flying dog from The NeverEnding Story while playing Donkey Kong Country on your Super Nintendo…that should do it. Their music is oppressively new age and we spend 90 minutes drowning in it. Remember “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature and its pan flute intro? Imagine hearing those random notes scattered liberally throughout a major motion picture! If you’ve ever wondered what the elevator music sounds like over at Yanni Corp., Legend has got you covered. Apparently the director’s cut has a score by Jerry Goldsmith, but why bother with one of the greatest film composers of all time when you can have a bunch of stoned synthophiles put you into a deep, semi-melodic coma?

There is no shortage of facepalm fodder in Legend. It opens with a crawl of the world’s cheesiest exposition text. “Once long ago, before there was such a thing as time,” because using the word prehistoric simply isn’t magical (read stupid) enough, “the world was shrouded in darkness.” Then it talks about how light is protected in the souls of unicorns. I always wondered why Thomas Edison tried to attach the very first light bulb to his forehead! Then it goes on about how only innocents can find unicorns and about how there can be no heaven without hell. It’s basically the Bible as written by Lisa Frank. Oh, and then there’s the idea that anyone in this realm or the next would ever believe prissy, squirrelly little Tom Cruise could ever be the “champion” of anything other than frolicking. Oh, and check out the bird that Mia Sara gracefully releases directly into…the ground. It seems that scene was actually filmed in the magical world of Arkansas.

Why I Love It!

There is something fantastically weird about Legend, much as there is with scores of 1980s family films. There are elves with Irish accents, mummy children that growl like panthers, and a little wood nymph boy with Ertha Kitt’s voice? It’s like a gorgeously shot unicorn lobotomy. The goblin characters are creepy in their lusty hunt and I still can’t figure out the necessity of the head goblin to speak in rhyme. Also, they seem way too content to watch Jack and Lilly make out. It’s established that Lilly, played by an uncomfortably hot Mia Sara, is some kind of royalty and yet no one seems to notice when she goes missing? There is also this unsettling scene at the beginning of a man being hacked to pieces in the background that seems way to intense for kids, but is never really touched upon after that. So you begin to wonder if it really happened or that bag of shrooms you ate before you popped in the VHS is starting to kick in.

The Lord of Darkness is one of the coolest fantasy villains ever conceived. Played by Tim Curry, who is obviously having a ball with the part, this enormous, horned demon bears a striking resemblance to Glenn Beck Satan. What I love most about Tim Curry’s performance is that, even under all that makeup, he looks as if he’s about to orgasm, or has just finished doing so, at every moment. If you’re wondering why the makeup looks so damn good it’s because it was handled by none other than Rob Bottin; the certified genius behind the effects in John Carpenter’s The Thing. If you want to catch a glimpse of Bottin’s more recognizable style, wait for the scene in which Jack kills Meg Mucklebones (an amazing character if you ask me). The decapitated corpse flails around just as does the monster in Carpenter’s classic. Also, listen for the growl of the axe-wielding kitchen guard; should sound familiar if you’re a fan of The Thing.

As silly as it is, Legend is still a feather in Ridley Scott’s cap. It is visually stunning and there are shots in it that are absolutely breathtaking. The film looks far better than it has any right to and that may be what makes it so endlessly watchable despite its goofiness. If you look closely, you may even spot a few Scott tropes in Legend. The scene wherein the two strong female characters are running in slow motion through a long, misty hall feels remarkably like Blade Runner. And true to his nature, Scott released a director’s cut of Legend to ensure a bloated, muddled version of an otherwise streamlined and cohesive film. Sorry, I love Scott, but that Alien director’s cut is nonsense. And you have to admire the stones on the man that goes from Alien to Blade Runner to…Legend. I don’t know, maybe he was just still riding that unicorn high.

Junkfood Pairing: Unicorn Pops

To honor those creatures who know only love and magic, why not enjoy this twisted horn of sugary goodness? As long as you have this fancy sucker, no harm can come to the innocent of the world…yeah, because that logic holds up. And as an added bonus, if you find you can no longer stomach Tangerine Dream’s mind-liquefying score, these cylindrical pops will come in quite handy to stab out your own eardrums.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.