Legend (1985)

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Released 10-Sep-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 89:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ridley Scott
Studio
Distributor
Arnon Milchan
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Tom Cruise
Mia Sara
Tim Curry
Billy Barty
Alice Playten
David Bennent
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, the credits begin over the last shot.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Legend was at one stage one of the most anticipated DVD releases across the globe. The last twelve months, however, has seen it roll out around the world, first in Europe as a bare-bones disc, then in the US with a lavishly appointed two-disc special edition. Finally we here in Australia have been granted the privilege of having Legend on DVD. Why was the release so anticipated? Certainly any film that stars Tom Cruise and is directed by Ridley Scott is going to garner no small amount of interest for the involvement of those two men alone, however Legend the film is more than that - it is very much more than just a simple film, it is a legend in its own right.

    Legend has always been something of a mysterious film. Not only do there exist many different versions of the film, but the speed with which Ridley Scott hacked it up before its US release, coupled with the troubled production itself (the soundstage used for production was burned down before shooting was due to complete) have given it a reputation all of its own. This reputation, in many ways, outdoes the film, for what Legend is at heart is a fairy tale. Even that, however, is not as simple as it may seem at first. Certainly it starts in a very light manner, and the first two thirds could easily be seen as a simple children's film fable. However, it veers suddenly and somewhat violently in the latter third to a rather dark place that is not at all child-friendly. While what is contained in the darker part of the film is by no means disturbing or gory on its own, especially by modern standards (this is a PG rated film after all), placed in the context of the set-up it becomes the stuff of nightmares. It is in this transition that Legend truly achieves what many films have set out, and failed, to do - create a semblance of reality from fantasy.

    The story surrounds Jack (a 23 year old Tom Cruise), a boy who lives in the forest and is in love with the beautiful Princess Lily (Mia Sara). Jack is pure, an innocent, and as such has a special connection with the forest and its creatures, including the most innocent of all - the unicorns. Any good fantasy also needs a great evil that will attempt to control the world, and this is the true strength of Legend - the evil Lord Darkness (played by an unrecognisably made-up Tim Curry). Darkness has realised that to control the world he needs to remove sunshine forever, and to do that he must destroy the unicorns. Darkness therefore sends out his goblins to kill the unicorns and along the way they happen to also kidnap Princess Lily. Jack, blaming himself for the disruption of the world, sets off to save the unicorns, to keep the world in light, and to rescue his beloved Lily. Along the way he gathers to him a collection of fairies, magicians, and other creatures of the forest.

    There is another reason that Legend is so fondly remembered - it is simply one of the most beautiful films ever made. It is also, for the most part, an outstanding achievement in the land of visual effects of the pre-computer era. The colours of the forest before the goblin raid are absolutely astounding, while the dungeons of Darkness' fortress literally ooze heat and pain. Combining the look with the signature shots of the film, such as the freezing of the pond after Jack jumps in, makes for a truly jaw-dropping appearance that is experienced as much as it is seen.

    Despite all the positives, Legend is by no means a perfect film. For starters, the drastic swing in the nature of the film can easily put people off - it is very sudden, and it could certainly have been handled better. The major problem, however, is the simplicity of the storyline. This can best be summed up by looking at the tagline for Legend: No Good without Evil. No Love without Hate. No Innocence without Lust. I am Darkness. The characters are pure fairytale stereotype - the bad guy is big and red and talks in a low voice, the good guy represents everything that is good and is completely pure of heart. The story is not much better, as it is essentially a variation on good guy goes to rescue damsel in distress from evil bad guy and just happens to save the world at the same time. Obviously these points will affect people differently - there are many who suggest that the simplicity of the story is enough to relegate this film to the derivative fantasy category, while others believe that the film was intended to be a stereotype from the beginning, so the simple story is a success and not a failure.

    The performances are also somewhat of a mixed bag. The lesser roles are generally filled by unrelenting over-actors, and while this does aid the surreal feel of the film, it can become irritating and jarring at times. Tom Cruise and Mia Sara are neither good nor bad, delivering largely what could be expected, but seeming somewhat abashed by the lines they were asked to say. The only actor who really seems at home with his role is Tim Curry who is absolutely brilliant as Darkness (and while visually unrecognisable, there is no mistaking the voice) - he is certainly worth seeing this film for, if for no other reason.

    Overall, many will look back on these first few years of DVD and wonder why Legend remained a most-wanted title for so long. Those of us with a copy of the film, however, will sit down to watch it knowing that the pure fantasy and majesty of Ridley Scott's fourth film is probably never going to be matched.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer is very good. It falls short of being excellent due more to the fact that it could have been better rather than any real problems.

    This transfer is presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is good, although not spectacular. The fine detail that is so prevalent in this film comes over well, although there is a slight softness to the image that prevents it from being able to show all that is present. There is a small amount of grain, although it only becomes obvious during the inserted shots of roiling clouds, such as between 16:58 and 17:02. Shadow detail is quite good, although the base black levels in this transfer seem to have been raised to make it "brighter", which certainly aids in the shadow detail. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are good, although highlights seem to be somewhat muted, which is a real shame, as the opening forest sequences are a little less jaw-dropping because of it. There are also a few occasions such as at 43:38 where the colour of the entire image changes for a few frames - it can be quite disconcerting, but it does only happen occasionally.

    There are no compression artefacts at all in this transfer, and film-to-video artefacts are limited to some minor aliasing with the only noticeable instance being on the sword at 37:22. The print used is also remarkably clean for a 1985 film, as there are very few film artefacts. Most are quite small, and while there are a few that are noticeable, such as at 25:36, and 42:40, most are easily missed.

    The subtitles are relatively accurate, missing only a few words, and those were never important to the impression of the dialogue during the time I sampled them.

    This is a single layered disc, and therefore has no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Given the restriction of a two-channel audio track, this is actually quite an impressive effort, however, it is also not without its problems which makes it slightly disappointing overall.

    There is a single audio track present on this disc, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track encoded at 192 Kbps. Do not let the lack of an embedded surround flag fool you however, as this track is most definitely surround-encoded, and if you leave it in stereo mode you will be missing out.

    Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand, although there are a few occasions on which the more thickly accented characters are a little difficult to hear. The most annoying aspect however, is that there seems to be quite a large amount of distortion present in the soundtrack. This becomes more common as time progresses, with some of the more obvious examples being on Darkness' dialogue, such as at 63:02. It is obvious enough, and frequent enough, that it easily distracts from the film.

    Audio sync is good. There are a few occasions where it seems to be very slightly out, but for the majority of the time, it is not a problem. Given that almost all dialogue in the movie was looped (the on-set audio was destroyed by the presence of thousands of birds brought in for the forests), this is quite an impressive feat.

    The score is provided by Jerry Goldsmith and is arguably his prettiest work. The princess' theme in particular is a very memorable piece of music. As for matching the action, the score does a good job, and while there are some hints that it was composed in the 80s, for the most part it is excellent. Why this score was ever pulled from the US theatrical release is still baffling.

    For a pro-logic soundtrack, the surround presence is very impressive. It can come across a little harsh at times, while being about as subtle as a brick at others, but for the most part the surrounds carry the many ambient noises, and assist the score.

    As there is no dedicated LFE channel, the subwoofer will only make use of re-directed bass, but there is enough of that present to at least give it a little work, and it does its bit to back up the effects. The score does, however, feel a little thin.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras present on this disc are extremely disappointing, especially considering the Ultimate Edition treatment lavished upon Legend in Region 1. Obviously this is down to rights issues again, as the North American rights holder for Legend is Universal, while it is distributed by Fox here in Australia, however that is bare excuse for punishing the Australian (and indeed the world's) DVD audience so severely.

Menu

    The menu is static, 16x9 enhanced, and is themed around the movie.

Theatrical Trailer (1:22)

    Presented at 1.33:1, and not 16x9 enhanced, this trailer features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, and is of relatively poor quality. Amusingly, it is the US trailer and contains excerpts of the Tangerine Dream score.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is where it all becomes a little complicated. What we have presented here is the "International" theatrical version of Legend. In the US, a version of the film was released theatrically that replaced the Jerry Goldsmith score with an electronic score by Tangerine Dream (a score which easily roots the movie in the mid 80s), and it was changed around somewhat in the editing as well (for example, Darkness' features are revealed much sooner). In Region 1, a two-disc "Ultimate Edition" of Legend has been released, and it not only includes the US theatrical version of the film, but a director's cut that includes the Jerry Goldsmith score and around 20 minutes of additional footage (as well as the structuring of the international version). So - the only way to get the non-US theatrical version of this film is via the Fox distributed discs available outside of Region 1. It really is not worth the effort however. And so for the full comparison:

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Unless you can only speak one of the four subtitle languages present on the Region 4 disc, the verdict is easy: Region 1 - and this is before a direct comparison of the transfers is taken into account. The Region 1 disc is more colourful, is sharper, and has none of the annoying distortion present in the audio. The Region 4 will only be of interest to those who do not wish to import or completists who want the international theatrical version of the film in addition to the two versions available in R1.

Summary

    Legend is a movie that is more spectacular as a visual statement than a story, although the story it tells is still elegant in its simplicity. This, for me, is one of Ridley Scott's successes.

    The video quality is good. While not spectacular, it will please anyone who has not compared it with the Region 1 disc.

    The audio quality is also good, although it does show the limitations of the pro-logic format. Additionally, there are a number of annoying instances of distortion present in the audio track.

    The solitary extra is very disappointing, especially when the feature-packed Region 1 two-disc set is taken into account.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Saturday, August 31, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
Ridiculous - Doctor (Biometric Readout)
i agree - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
Please don't let Nick Jardine review any more films - Jesus Christ REPLY POSTED
Re: Ridiculous - Jace
Fox's point of view - Bran
Crap excuse fox - wolfgirv
Stop complaining about the lack of extras, this film sucks - Jesus Christ
Commentary and 5.1 Sound 1 Tracks - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)