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Film / Legend (1985)

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"I require the solace of the shadows and the dark of the night. Sunshine is my destroyer."

Legend is a 1985 fantasy/adventure film directed by Ridley Scott and written by William Hjortsberg, starring Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, and Tim Curry's massive pair of horns. It is part of The '80s fantasy boom in film, sharing many of the same elements as its contemporaries. The movie was a flop at the time, but is now a bit of a Cult Classic, mainly for its creative visuals and Rob Bottin's masterful practical effects. Whatever other problems it has, this movie looks great.

The Lord of Darkness (Curry) plots to cover the world in eternal night. He sends his servant, the goblin Blix (Alice Playten), to kill the light-bringing unicorns and take their horns. The unicorns only appear before the pure of heart, so a lure must be used. Enter Jack (Cruise) and Princess Lili (Sara), pure denizens of the forest. When the stallion is killed, Jack and Lili are separated as snowstorms envelop the world. She and the mare are captured by the forces of Darkness, and he must band together with the woodland fairies to rescue her.

The direct inspiration for The Legend of Zelda, making it the second Ridley Scott film to inspire a major Nintendo franchise (the first being Alien, which inspired Metroid).

Nothing to do with the 2015 film of the same name, or the short-lived Richard Dean Anderson western fantasy dramedy also of the same name.

Legend provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Aim for the Horn: Played for Drama. Much to Jack's horror, Big Bad Blix's goblins wound and kill a unicorn by poisoning it and cutting off its horn.
  • All Just a Dream: At least, Lili thinks so when she wakes up at the end of the Director's Cut, and Jack doesn't confirm or deny it. She doesn't get to see Jack waving goodbye to the elves and unicorns after she's left. The theatrical edition changes the ending completely, and she sees them together with Jack.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: The Lord of Darkness's goblins capture the beautiful Princess Lili and take her to the dark castle, where Darkness falls in love with her and plans to marry her.
  • Annoying Arrows: Darkness takes a few from Gump and Jack and he doesn't even slow down.
  • The Antichrist: Darkness is effectively this, as he is ultimately in service to his unseen and unnamed father.
  • As Long as There Is Evil: "Big D" tries to invoke this, presumably to convince Jack not to kill him. This is likely true, however, see The End... Or Is It? below.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Is Your Love Strong Enough?" by Bryan Ferry and "Loved by the Sun" by Jon Anderson.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: The goblins feel this way. Blix compares Lili unfavorably to rotting meat (he'd prefer the latter), and the goblins also refer to the unicorns as "ugly one-horned mules."
  • Bait-and-Switch: Oona seemingly abandons the quest to save Lili after Jack refuses her affections, only to unlock the door that has them trapped a moment later.
  • Ball of Light Transformation: The fairy Oona can change into a small ball of light and fly around. She does so in Darkness's dungeon to escape a prison cell and obtain the key to the cell.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted, as when Lili is captured, she is a complete and total mess, resembling nothing like a princess, and looking more like a dirty waif.
  • Big Bad: The Lord of Darkness himself, who is the main villain of the movie.
  • Big Red Devil: Darkness is one of the more ambitious depictions of this trope in live action history, with red skin, hooves, and some truly gigantic horns. All he's missing is the batlike wings. There's a reason he's the most iconic visual element of the movie.
  • Black-and-White Morality: The heroes are an innocent Princess Classic with Virgin Power and a group of forest inhabitants trying to protect the sacred unicorns who make life possible. The villain Darkness is a demonic Evil Overlord who rules over an army of evil goblins and cannibalistic pig-men executioners and wants to create an eternal night to bring about the end of the world.
  • Blow Gun: Blix uses one to fire a poisoned dart into a unicorn and kill it so he can cut off its horn.
  • Bookends: Only in the Director's Cut. When Jack first appears at the start of the film, a myna bird flies down from the sky and lands on his shoulder. Once Darkness has been defeated and Lili returned to the castle, Jack turns away to survey the forest, and the myna bird returns, once again landing on his shoulder.
  • Breakout Pop Hit: "Is Your Love Strong Enough" in the US version was high on the Billboard charts.
  • Bumbling Henchman Duo: Trio, actually. The three goblins have moments of this, being much more overtly comedic in their characterization than Darkness himself, although they can also be genuinely effective henchmen.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: All of them, though Darkness comprehends he's just one side of the coin. The others, though...
    Blix: May be innocent, may be sweet... ain't half as nice as rotting meat.
  • Character Tic: Jack crouching on his heels, which emphasizes his wildness.
  • Cooking the Live Meal: Darkness' castle has a hellish-looking kitchen in which boar-like cooks place live prisoners in giant pies to cook them and serve them up as lunch.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Darkness is advised to "woo" Lili, attempting this trope.
  • Cross-Cast Role: The swamp hag Meg Mucklebones is played by Robert Picardo.
  • Damsel in Distress: Lili, who gets kidnapped fairly early on, and whom Jack and friends must rescue.
  • Dark Is Evil: The demonic villain Darkness is a personification of the concept and wants to extinguish all life so he can subsist in the dead icebound world...
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted with Blunder, who appears to fall to his death but later appears unharmed.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Whilst running around Darkness's lair in a complete panic, Lili is briefly lulled into calm by the sight of a giant diamond necklace, part of his ploy to woo her.
  • Doomed Fellow Prisoner: Jack and his friends slide down the tunnel into a cell in Darkness's dungeons. They find a fellow prisoner, Blunder, a fairy who worked for Darkness but betrayed him and was punished with imprisonment. While they're talking to him, one of Darkness's minions enters his cell and takes him out to be baked in a pie (no blackbirds, though). They eventually rescue him before he meets his fate.
  • Easily Forgiven: Invoked. When Gump hears that Jack led Lili to the unicorns for love, he promises to forgive Jack for his part in the unicorn's death if Jack can answer a riddle. When Jack does, Gump throws a brief tantrum over it, but then he promptly gets over it and assists Jack to rescue Lili and the unicorns.
  • Eats Babies: Blunder contemplates eating a human baby in its crib. This oddly horrifies his fellow goblin, Pox.note 
    Blunder: I simply adore milk-fed meat!
    Pox: What are ya, some kind of animal?
  • Endless Winter: There are two unicorns that provide Light. When one is slain, winter ensues. If the second is killed, the winter will be made permanent.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of the U.S. version, Darkness (who was apparently destroyed earlier) is shown laughing in a dissolve shot.
  • Engagement Challenge: At first not particularly difficult—dive into a small pond and find the ring the princess threw there. Becomes much harder after the death of one unicorn freezes everything over in eternal winter. Later linked, somehow, to True Love's Kiss after the horn is restored and the pond thaws.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Lili in the Bride of Darkness outfit, black lipstick and stylized tear stains included.
  • Evil Desires Innocence: Darkness seeks to cast the world into eternal night. But he is captivated by the purity and innocence of Lili. His father recommends he Corrupt the Cutie, and she even makes it seem like it's working when she pulls a Fake Defector.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Despite his discomfort with the extensive makeup (see below under Real Life Writes the Plot), Tim Curry still turns in a marvelously hammy performance as the wicked Darkness.
  • Evil Laugh: Both Darkness and Meg Mucklebones are prone to this. Darkness's is more of a deep, gloating laugh, while Meg, being a hag, has the classic witch's cackle.
  • Evil Plan: The Lord of Darkness seeks to kill all unicorns so he can plunge the world in darkness.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Tim Curry's voice is pretty deep to begin with, but here it's even deeper and more booming than usual.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: Jack and his friends enter Darkness's lair to rescue Lili and the unicorn.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Darkness, during the ending fight with Jack, boasts about how he's been here since the beginning, because there's no Light without Darkness.
  • Faint in Shock: When she first meets the terrifying villain Darkness, Lili faints and collapses to the ground. She wakes up a few seconds later and has a long conversation with him.
  • The Fair Folk: Even when the world is in peril, Gump tests Jack with a riddle before deciding to help him, when he finds out that he took Lili to see the unicorns. In a deleted scene he even forces Jack to dance with his magic fiddle before asking the riddle.
  • Fairy Sexy: Oona the Fairy Companion wears a very short dress.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the beginning of the movie Darkness says "I require the solace of the shadows and the dark of the night. Sunshine is my destroyer." Just in case the audience forgot, while Darkness is in the underground cave with Lili he says it again. Guess how the good guys defeat him at the climax?
    • When Lili enters Nell's cottage she sees a clock on the wall. While she looks at it, it is suddenly covered with frost, a warning of the winter that will descend when one of the unicorns is killed and has its horn cut off.
    • The heroes defeat Darkness by reflecting a beam of sunshine against him. This is foreshadowed early on when Lili uses the heart charm on her necklace like a laser pointer to shine a tiny beam of light in Jack's eyes.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Jack.
  • The Ghost: Lili's father, the king, is mentioned but never seen.
  • Gluttonous Pig: The pig-like goblin Pox wants to use the unicorn's magical horn to "turn everything into garbage, a great towering mountain of slop" for him to eat.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Lili is made to wear an Evil Sorceress ensemble after being kidnapped by Darkness.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: We never get any details, but Darkness calls out for his father for advice about Lili and calls out to him in desperation at the moment of his defeat.
  • Hidden Depths: Lili. And yes, they are hidden pretty deep.
  • Hollywood Torches: Both the goblins and Jack have one at some point.
  • Horn Attack: Subverted when Darkness charges Jack with his horns foremost as though he's planning on piercing him with them, but ends up with the horns touching a wall with Jack trapped between them.
  • Horns of Villainy: Darkness sports what is still probably the largest pair of horns in the history of costume design. They were so heavy that they had to be detached so Tim Curry could rest between shoots.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Not only do prisoners in Darkness's lair get cooked and eaten, we also have Meg Mucklebones who thinks Jack is a "juicy boy." Then there's the goblins. Blunder contemplates eating a baby, and then he and Pox discuss how they want to eat Lili's brains and bones.
  • Karma Houdini: Blix and Pox, due to the troubled production resulting in them being cut halfway through filming. One can only hope that they both died horribly off camera.
  • Large Ham:
    • Large Deviled Ham: the Lord of Darkness.
    • Small Elven-Ham: Gump. "Do you think you can upset the order of the universe, and not pay the PRICE?!?" In the Director's Cut Gump throws a massive hissy fit after Jack solves his riddle.
  • Last of His Kind: The two unicorns. After the stallion is killed by the goblins, the mare becomes, much like in that other '80s fantasy movie, The Last Unicorn. At the end, the stallion is magically revived, however.
  • Larynx Dissonance: Gump's voice is notably more restrained than his acting. See Large Ham. This is partly because he's dubbed; the producers felt that actor David Bennent sounded "too German" (technically he's Swiss), so he was dubbed over by Alice Playten (who also plays Blix).
  • Light and Mirrors Puzzle: The heroes must reflect a beam of sunshine all the way down to the bottom of hell.
  • Love Overrides the Law: Subverted where Jack takes Lili to see the unicorns. Lili's purity lures one of them to her and makes it vulnerable to attack, which leads to one of them being killed and one captured and the sudden onset of winter. Later on, a fairy named Honeythorn Gump confronts Jack and demands to know if he had anything to do with it. Jack admits everything, but says that he did it for love. Instead of forgiving Jack, the Gump tells him that he must answer a riddle first. If he can't, then Gump will kill him.
  • Made of Evil: Darkness is literally made of darkness, portrayed as the equivalent of evil. He's a Big Red Devil who wants to bring about an eternal night (even though it means the end of the world) because he needs it to thrive. Before his ultimate defeat he also taunts the hero that darkness can't exist without him.
  • Maybe Ever After: The Director's Cut leaves the door open as to the future of Jack and Lili's relationship, as she returns to the human world and he goes back to his forest and the fae, though they do kiss and she expresses a desire to visit again.
  • The Mole: Blunder, one of Darkness's goblin minions (who was a disguised elf all along).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lili's black dress has a plunging neckline and shows her bare legs.
  • Must Make Amends: Lili inadvertently lures a unicorn into position to be attacked, which leads to its death. She tracks down the other unicorn and finds Brown Tom guarding it.
    Brown Tom: You! You're the cause of all our sorrow.
    Lili: I'm — I'm so sorry. I didn't know. Please, please forgive me.
    Brown Tom: I'm not the one you should be askin'.
    Lili: Try and understand. I'm only trying to make things right. Darkness has sent the goblins back for the mare. It's not safe to stay here. You'll have to hurry! Leave now! Go!
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Lili realizes her actions have caused a unicorn to die. It gets better.
  • Mythical Motifs: Meg Mucklebones is a reference to water hag characters in folklore like Jenny Greenteeth and Peg Powler.
  • Nature Hero: Jack. He's not given a lot of context.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Lili's "Bride of Darkness" outfit. It's telling that her dress is a sacrificial dress, with her belly exposed for a dagger.
  • Noodle Incident: How Blunder ended up with the goblins. Even in the Director's Cut, there's little more than a throwaway line.
    Blunder: It's a long story. Let's just say I went looking for adventure, and found more than I could handle.
  • Nostalgia Filter: While there was nothing inherently wrong with the Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack, many of the fans who saw the American cut first found nothing wholly remarkable about it either. Most fans seem to appear attached to the American cut due to the Tangerine Dream soundtrack which they felt made the film memorable.
  • Neck Lift: Done by Darkness to Jack, but by grabbing his face.
  • The Night That Never Ends: The Big Bad Lord of Darkness is attempting to bring this trope about by killing the world's unicorns (the source of the world's light.)
  • One-Word Title: It's just called Legend.
  • Pig Man: Pox is a distinctly porcine goblin. There are also some much larger pig-like ogres in the dungeons.
  • Playing with Fire: Darkness has fire-based powers, and the unicorn horn can cause and throw fire.
  • Princess Classic: Princess Lili starts out as a quintessential princess classic, only to go through a Break the Cutie process, accumulating in an intense case of Corrupt the Cutie, only for this to be revealed as a ruse she put on in order to trick Darkness into letting her get close enough to free a captured unicorn.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Blix, Blunder and Pox.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Darkness is introduced largely in shadows because Tim Curry had injured himself while removing his make-upnote . Ridley Scott was so horrified at what had happened and came up with this technique so that Curry would only have to wear sections of his make-up while he healed and the make-up crew could redesign the prosthetics so that Curry would be more comfortable.
  • Rebellious Princess: Lili is this to a certain extent. It's implied that she frequently sneaks off into the woods to visit friends, one of whom even comments that she should be back at the palace and not hanging out with poor folks like them.
  • Re-Cut: The American version released in 1986 was about 25 minutes shorter than the Director's Cut and five minutes shorter than the European version. Many scenes and shots were dropped or reordered, and new lines of dialogue were added in an effort to emphasize the love story between Jack and Lili. In addition it had an entirely new music score by Tangerine Dream (plus two pop songs) substituting for Jerry Goldsmith's original score, which was retained for European release (not the first time his music was meddled with in a Ridley Scott film, but the last - they never worked together again). The Director's Cut became legally available with the 2002 DVD release. Details are here. According to Scott's introductory note on the Blu-Ray edition, it was believed lost until an answer print was found in 2000.
  • Redubbing
    • In English, the voice of Gump was done by the same actress who played Blix; in German, he voiced both.
    • In fact, all of the forest scenes had to be dubbed over in post-production because the noise on the set was so loud, according to Mia Sara on the Ultimate Edition DVD.
  • Red Right Hand: Blunder has a chicken foot for a left hand (explained in a deleted scene).
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who is the father of Darkness?
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Blix. It seems that all of the goblins' dialogue (and possibly Darkness's) was originally intended to be in rhyme, but this was toned down in the finished movie.
  • Riddle Me This: "What is a bell that never rings, yet its knell makes the angels sing?" The answer is the Bluebell flower.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Jack and Lili walk off together into the sunset in one version of the film. In the director's cut, Jack walks off by himself while Lili goes to her castle.
  • Rump Roast: Blix uses the unicorn horn to set Blunder's butt on fire.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: While the protagonists are trapped in Darkness's jail, the fairy Oona tries to get Jack to kiss her by creating an illusion that she's Jack's girlfriend Lili.
  • Sic 'Em: When Darkness first summons Blix, he tells him to find and destroy the unicorns.
  • Slow Light: At the conclusion of the movie, the sunlight takes 20 seconds to reflect off all of the shields and reach the underground chamber where it blows away Darkness.
  • Storming the Castle: Jack and his friends attack the Lord of Darkness' castle to rescue Lili and a sacred unicorn.
  • True Love's Kiss: Jack does this to wake Lili.
  • Unseen Evil: The disembodied voice that helps Darkness seduce Lili, presumably the being he calls Father.
  • Unicorn: Two of them are key to the plot.
  • Unicorns Are Sacred: Killing the last two unicorns that guard the power of light would allow the demon lord to roam the world free in darkness. Also, Darkness shows just how evil he is by ordering a unicorn's horn to be cut off, which causes the world to freeze over.
  • Unicorns Prefer Virgins: Lili's "innocence" allows her to approach the unicorns. This is taken advantage of by Darkness and the goblins to lure the unicorns into the open so that they may kill them.
  • Villainous Crush: The Lord of Darkness has one on Lili, attempting to seduce her and intending to make her his bride.
  • Weakened by the Light: "The sunshine is my destroyer!"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The forest creatures are understandably upset by Lili's actions. Gump is even more upset by Oona's "secret".
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?:
    • The Lord of Darkness is "distracted" by the captured princess's beauty and innocence and advised by his mysterious 'father' to woo her into temptation. There follows probably the best (and most eloquently written) scene in the film, where the devil's seduction rather backfires when the newly-darkened Princess plays His Lovesick Evilness like a two string harp. note 
    • Implied of the fair folk, who know love exists, and is powerful, but they have no idea what it is. Which may be why Gump is upset at Oona for 1) hiding her true form, and 2) being interested in seeing what love really is by taking Lili's form.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?
    • Nell and her family. Last seen flash-frozen in their house, they're completely forgotten about at the end of the story (even in the script!). Presumably though they were thawed along with the rest of the world after the unicorn's horn was restored and were all right because of Harmless Freezing.
    • Blix and Pox:
      • They just disappear about halfway through the movie, after their encounter with Darkness, despite having had an important role until then. Reportedly, they were cut half way through filming due to budget problems following the loss of most of the sets due to a studio fire. More scenes with Nell and her family may have been cut for the same reason.
      • In one version of the script, Blix and Pox are present while Jack and Darkness are fighting, and when Pox wonders if they should help, Blix proposes they stay where it's safe and they slink off into the shadows.
  • Wicked Witch: Jack briefly scuffles with a hideous swamp hag named Meg Mucklebones.
  • Woman Scorned: Oona, although she shows her quality by not allowing it to dissuade her from doing her part to stop Darkness.
  • World Limited to the Plot: This film is set entirely in the magic forest and Darkness's castle with only one throwaway line to Princess Lili's King father and a search for a husband. Nor has there been, interestingly enough, any serious fan attempts at Worldbuilding probably due to observing the "if it aint broke.." rule.
  • Your Heart's Desire: Jack's heart's desire is his girlfriend Lili. When the fairy Oona and Jack are trapped in the dungeon of the villain Darkness, Oona offers Jack his heart's desire by assuming Lili's appearance and trying to get him to kiss her.