The Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) is troubled as he sits in his castle. This is because there are unicorns in the forest, and they are anathema to him so he calls the leader of his goblins, Blix (Alice Playten), to send him after the creatures and destroy them. But how can they catch such things, asks Blix? They must be lured with innocence, is the reply, and there's one girl in the forest who fits the bill: the Princess Lily (Mia Sara). When her boyfriend Jack (Tom Cruise) takes her to see the unicorns, Blix and his cohorts are lying in wait...
If you thought Tom Cruise flops started with Lions for Lambs, or even Far and Away, then you would have to go back further for Legend was not a success for director Ridley Scott, a surprise after Blade Runner. The script by William Hjortsberg (who wrote the novel Falling Angel, which Angel Heart was based on) has too much of the science fiction convention about it with its parade of dwarfs, elves, faeries and demons, and the coy attempts at humour fell flat. What there was in its favour was a meticulously created other world, a world of folk tales that was undeniably captivating.
As far as the acting went, the man who stole the show was Curry, managing to perform underneath about a ton of Rob Bottin's makeup but essaying one of the best Devils in screen history. There's a lot of the Conrad Veidt from The Thief of Bagdad in his performance and is none the worse for it as he yearns for Lily while still revelling in his wickedness, but the fellow who is supposed to be his match, Jack, only meets him at the end of the film and is easily outclassed in the charisma stakes.
In fact, it's difficult to see what the Lord of Darkness likes about Lily as the lovers in this film are deeply insipid, fittingly I suppose for the shampoo commercial soft focus of the early scenes where they enjoy each other's company. Then Blix implements his blowdart on one of the unicorns, saws off its horn while it is drugged, and a great winter settles across the land. That all this is rendered in film studio is quite an achievement, and Scott's design team were rightly praised for their efforts, but the drawback is a story that never comes to life in the same way the other aspects do.
If the sprit of fairy tales is meant to be invoked, then Legend can only be judged a failure because there is nothing of the resonance of those age old tales here. Neither is there the moral element, aside from a new agey platitude about the balance between darkness and light, which amounts to very little you couldn't glean from the average Saturday morning cartoon. There's never any question about who will win out against whom, so no tension, and Jack and his band of wood folk, including The Tin Drum star David Bennent as an elf and Annabelle Lanyon as the creepiest faerie ever to grace the screen, can't make up their mind to go for comic relief or derring do. Legend is one of those films that is lovely to look at, but groans and wheezes in most other departments. You might as well be watching Hawk the Slayer. Music Jerry Goldsmith or Tangerine Dream, depending on which version you see.
Talented, prolific British director whose background in set design and advertising always brings a stylised, visually stunning sheen to often mainstream projects. Scott made his debut in 1977 with the unusual The Duellists, but it was with his next two films - now-classic sci-fi thrillers Alien and Blade Runner - that he really made his mark. Slick fantasy Legend and excellent thriller Someone to Watch Over Me followed, while Thelma and Louise proved one of the most talked-about films of 1991. However, his subsequent movies - the mega-budget flop 1492, GI Jane and the hopeless White Squall failed to satisfy critics or find audiences.
Scott bounced back to the A-list in 2000 with the Oscar-winning epic Gladiator, and since then has had big hits with uneven Hannibal, savage war drama Black Hawk Down and his Robin Hood update. Prometheus, tentatively sold as a spin-off from Alien, created a huge buzz in 2012, then a lot of indignation. His Cormac McCarthy-penned thriller The Counselor didn't even get the buzz, flopping badly then turning cult movie. Exodus: Gods and Kings was a controversial Biblical epic, but a success at the box office, as was sci-fi survival tale The Martian. Alien Covenant was the second in his sci-fi prequel trilogy, but did not go down well with fans, while All the Money in the World was best known for the behind the scenes troubles it overcame. Brother to the more commercial, less cerebral Tony Scott.