Legend

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Legend (PG)
1985
42% rotten tomatoes

Here we are with hell and devils again. It’s kind of like when you’re searching for a new trashy romance novel and want something different, but all the ones without demons and shit are super boring and annoying. That’s life without Tim Curry – boring and annoying.

The man is a god among men. His face, his voice, his physicality – all flawless in any role he’s ever done. Ever. Here he is in all of your favorite movies/shows:

Dr. Frank-n-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Wadsworth in Clue
Dr. Petrov in The Hunt for the Red October
Pennywise in It
Captain Hook in Peter Pan and the Pirates
The voice of Hexxus in Fern Gully
The voice of Taurus Bulba in Darkwing Duck
The evil concierge in Home Alone 2
Sir Gawain in The Legend of Prince Valiant
He played a family (yes, a family) in an episode of Tale from the Crypt
Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers
He played several characters on Dinosaurs
He was MAL on Captain Planet and the Planeteers
He was Dr. Anton Sevarius on Gargoyles
Major Vladikov in McHale’s Navy
He was several voices on Aaahh!! Real Monsters
Gomez Addams in Addams Family Reunion
Big Brother on Johnny Bravo
A voice in an episode of Samurai Jack
Voices on Batman Beyond and Voltron: The Third Dimension
He was even on a couple episodes of Roseanne, Monk, Will & Grace, and a bunch more shows, either as an visual actor or a voice actor
Annnnnnd Darkness, in Legend

He has also done quite a few albums and plays. Looking at his body of work, I don’t think he’s ever taken a day off. His youth was spent traveling and moving around a lot, and though he was very young for much of it, I wonder if the experiences didn’t affect him in some way and aid his impressive characterizations. Also, he apparently didn’t have television until he was 10; up to that point he only had radio, which he credits for his fondness of voice acting.

The point is – he’s done everything that’s cool and awesome. Or he’s MADE everything he’s been in cool and awesome, at least as much as possible. If we’re being honest, he’s the only good thing about Legend besides the unicorns (I know, I know). An article from The Guardian, written by Toby Moses, points out that this movie, directed by Ridley Scott, btw, was an epic failure, and tells us exactly why: Jack has absolutely no depth and is impossible to empathize with, and Lili is very stupid and they make awful decisions in order to advance the plot; in other words the movie has terrible character development and very bad writing. BUT DARKNESS. He’s the bright spot in this movie, ironic since he wants endless night. From the first moment we see him on screen, we’re captivated. We know we want the happy streams and trees to survive, but as Moses points out, we kind of feel like Jack and Lili deserve annihilation, and Curry is so god damn compelling that we root for him instead because at least he’s not flat and empty.

Now I would like to point out here Toby Moses is a man. I assume. We recently had an in-depth discussion of why we women love bad guys, and also what exactly that means, so we don’t need to rehash that here. You can go listen to our episode on Hellboy for all the juicy deets. In that episode though, we never considered the effect of the bad guy on the male viewers. In this article, Moses is telling us how he not only looked to Darkness for a role model, but also General Zod, and Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys, and Christian Slater in Heathers. So it seems the gentlemenz aren’t immune to the pull either, which makes me think it has more to do with human nature and societal pressure.

He points out the same things we’ve noticed – the villains get the best lines. The villains seem to have the most realistic perspective. The villains generally look more badass. In good movies, the villains also make the most sense. In legend, the villain is just despotically trying to destroy day forever I guess because he’s Evil? I don’t see a motivation or driving backstory for Darkness, but since he looks the way he does I assume we’re supposed to just assume that he’s out to ruin everyone’s good time. The 80’s: the pinnacle of stereotyping people by their looks.

In a better version of this movie, Darkness would have some only slightly skewed reason for wanting perpetual night, something that would force us to confront our own morality constructs. This is what I love about the rebooted comic book universes. All of the villains have been elevated from cartoonish stand-ins for wartime enemies or personifications of socially immoral proclivities to surprisingly cogent guerrilla reformers.

Okay, The Telegraph did this whole thing on Legend. I’m not sure it’s the greatest source, however, because the article describes Ridley Scott as moving away from sci-fi and fantasy after Legend… and going on to direct Alien and Blade Runner… now I’m no genre expert, but…

Okay okay okay, but according to The Telegraph, Legend was the final nail in the coffin of sword and sorcery movies. The articles says that Legend, following such FAILURES (ugh, really???) as Conan the Barbarian, The Dark Crystal reinforced the idea that this kind of thing had no place in the movies – it brought an end to the era of 80’s fantasy. It wasn’t until Peter Jackson hit mega-success with the LOTR trilogy that this idea was overturned (the first of which came out in 2001, so that’s 15 bleak years). I spent some time racking my brain to see if this was true, and I can’t think of anything to refute it. I feel like the 80’s and 90’s were full of science fiction, and some magic, but usually witchy stuff or curses and hexes. Like board games that take on a life of their own.

Was it really that bad? I have always had – and will always have – a ‘weird kid’ sensibility, so I’m probably not the best judge. I loved Xena Warrior Princess and Hercules, I loved Hey Dude and Salute Your Shorts and the Adventures of Pete and Pete. I love Star Trek and Disney movies – I kind of loved everything except the popular stuff. I didn’t get into John Hughes movies until I was in college. I didn’t get all the teen romances – I just didn’t understand the dynamics and the politics in those. The prime directive is super easy to understand. Going on a quest to save humanity is a very understandable motive. A teen boy trying to get laid who has the whole community behind him is very confusing. And I was too young to truly appreciate 80’s action movies.

Let’s take a break from this upsetting allegation  and talk about genre terminology. Here is the nerd trifecta: sci-fi, fantasy, and sword and sorcery.

Science Fiction:

  • Heavily features technology and scientific understanding, computers, robots, machines, space/time travel, aliens, genetic manipulation. Can include fantasy elements. Can be plausible or wildly imaginative. Many sub genres: Apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, Hard sci fi, soft sci fi, space opera (space-faring lifestyle), Punk/cyberpunk/postcyberpunk/retropunk/dieselpunk/steampunk/clockpunk/biopunk ETC.

Fantasy:

  • Uses magic or supernatural forces feature heavily. Can include sci fi elements as well, especially if it’s a modern setting. Subgenres – urban fantasy (fantasy in an urban setting), dark fantasy (elements of horror), fables, fairy tales, epic/high fantasy (highly developed – like LOTR), heroic fantasy (King Arthur), science fantasy (scientifically explainable magical elements (equal hybrid of sci fi and fantasy)
    • Sword and sorcery – subgenre of fantasy, blends heroic fantasy, adventure, and some light horror. Usually has a barbarian warrior pitted against supernatural and human adversaries

Back to this guy’s review. Here is a direct quote: “…something in the way [Jack] elongates his words suggests a fleeting intimacy with the English language. Throw in unicorns, wisecracking goblins, tittering fairies and a chair that bleeds black puss and the result is a carnival of queasiness.”

I don’t get it. All of that sounds awesome to me. AND APPARENTLY – we didn’t even get the best version of the movie. The original vision Scott had for Legend was even more sexually charged. Here’s another quote: “In the first draft, one of the unicorns is shot with a crossbow – it jumps up and scratches the princess on the shoulder…later, she notices hair sprouting out of this nasty wound in the shoulder. She wanders to a pond and sees her reflection in the moonlight. She turns into a beast. Darkness looms behind her and basically seduces her. They are coupling frantically when Jack and the fairies break in to save her.

… THAT SOUNDS LIKE A WAY BETTER MOVIE. A frigging producer nixed it. Clearly they don’t know what they think they know about the female demographic. AND ALSO in the US, Fox cut an amazing orchestral soundtrack for a frigging LSD sounding hippie band – Tangerine Dream. Also a really big important set burned down before they were done using it, so… it’s safe to say that this is not the movie that Ridley Scott first envisioned. Our movie is 89 minutes – there’s a directors cut out there that’s 114 minutes. Supposedly all that was cut was by the production company and made little sense to people actually working on the film.

But you know what – lots of movies from the 80’s that were critically dissed have become nerd canon. So poo poo. And I think it’s hard to make a serious fairy tale movie. Disney is aiming for kids – that’s different. But look at Alice in Wonderland – Red Riding Hood – Snow White and the Huntsman – Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters – Jack the Giant Slayer – Cinderella etc. All not great.

So now for something really, really exciting…. IT’S SUPPOSEDLY THE INSPIRATION FOR THE LEGEND OF ZELDA – NO WONDER I LOVE IT SO MUCH and the first Zelda game was released in 1986, so that’s totally plausible.

legend-zelda-breath-wild-gold
Le sigh… so much world-saving to do… so little time…

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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