Legend Ultimate Edition Blu-ray Review
Some people had expressed concerns about how Legend was going to look given a Blu-ray transfer. That the US theatrical would probably look much better than the Director's Cut, or vice-versa. Or that the materials used would not be quite up to scratch. Well, I have to say that I was very impressed with this VC-1 2.35:1 transfer for Legend, with both versions of the film looking tremendous. This is not to say that there aren't some niggles along the way, because there are, but I really cannot imagine anyone being dissatisfied with how this extremely visually potent and arresting image looks. Of the two, I feel that Scott's Cut looks the best. It seems to boast slightly more convincing blacks, better all-round saturation and a smoother, more film-like image than that of the Theatrical Cut, which appears to have had some slight edge enhancement, as well as some noise that goes against the deeper texture of the Director's Cut. It is certainly a sharper, cleaner looking image that may well appeal to some people more than Scott's. And I would say that the contrast seemed slightly higher on the DC as well, perhaps with some very slight blooming taking place on faces in the sunlight.
There is a preface from Scott informing us of the source of the Director's Cut – an answer print from 2000, as no actual negatives now exist for this version. It does kind of make you fear that the picture will be stippled with problems … but, thankfully, this is not the case and the seams where the extra footage resides do not show. He also provides an opening statement regarding the source of the Theatrical Cut, as well. For the most part, folks, I am referring to the Director's Cut during this review.
This transfer has not been mucked-about-with by any unsightly DNR, edge-enhancement or colour-boosting or re-timing. There is no aliasing taking place and no ugly artefacts, other than Blix the goblin or Meg Mucklebones, mire the image. No banding occurs in any of the deeper shadings that often dominate the image – such as the flaming orange down in the kitchens or the sickly red that suffuses Darkness's parlour. The print is in fine, though not pristine shape. Some very small pops still appear from time to time. Clarity is excellent, detail often exquisite and the fidelity of the colour palette sublime. Contrast could have been tricky and certainly offers some tasks for the encode, but the disc comes through with impressive results, maintaining a wonderful consistency between the shadows and the lighter textures. Blacks are profound, which this film so craves, and I sincerely doubt that there is any crushing taking place within them.
Grain is present throughout, but it noticeably intensifies in some brief shots. The softening and blurring of the anamorphic lenses is apparent with some peripheral and lower-frame detail becoming slightly obscured. There is also the unfortunate effect that this has on Mia Sara's legs as she approaches the table full of treasures in Darkness's parlour – all of a sudden it looks as though she has just stepped out of an elevator that has gone down the shaft a little bit too rapidly. This sort of thing may add to the fantastical slant of corrupted physics that abound in the dark realm, but it also sticks out a mile.
The detail can be utterly amazing at times. The beautiful hair-spray-ad-like scenes in the sun-kissed meadows and woods are utterly bewitching – every stem, leaf and floating pollen moat is struck vividly across a screen that is virtually incandescent with luxurious eye-candy. I know that the shot of a gaggle of birds settling on a branch on the extreme left of the frame as we first meet Lili has always been there, but I can't be the only one who thinks that they are seeing it for the first time here. We can even see the cold-sore on Mia Sara's lip as she first enters Nell's cottage, and there are little lens-flares that aren't normally so visible, such as the one glinting off of Darkness's talon as he commands Blix at the start. We can now also see that Sara's body isn't as revealed in that black dress as we may once have thought – there is a micro-thin flesh-covered body stocking she is wearing, and we can plainly see where it ends and, well, Mia Sara begins. The initial shot of Jack finding the sword and armour may be fuzzy with the golden glow off the stuff, but closer shots reveal the intricacy of the weaponry and link-mail. The prosthetics are gorgeously rendered too. We may see Blix's impressively long pointy ears wobble on occasion, but the makeup certainly stands up to close scrutiny. More detail can be seen in the ancient structures and edifices that surround the Great Tree, as well. Now you can make out turrets, walls and entrances.
All of this good stuff is ably supported by terrific depth and some nice three-dimensionality. There are times when Alex Thompson's photography flattens or distorts. The underwater footage, for when Jack dives into the lagoon to retrieve Lili's ring, is quite wretched, as far as I am concerned, the perceived depth wrongly accented. And so are some shots of the heroes moving along the tunnels in Darkness's lair, or of Darkness, himself, charging towards Jack. Again, though, these incidents are part and parcel of how Scott and Thompson lensed their film together, and this transfer shows such things off with absolutely faithful precision. For the most part, Legend looks striking and utterly resplendent. I have no doubt that it could better again, but with the source taken into account, this is still a huge and worthy upgrade.
I am extremely pleased with this transfer. Legend has most certainly never looked this fine, this colourful or this detailed on home video ever before.
I must confess to being slightly underwhelmed by the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that graces Legend's hi-def relocation. It doesn't do anything that it shouldn't and it doesn't particularly lose anything that should be there, but the reach, the breadth and the dynamics are not quite what you expect from a Ridely Scott film on Blu-ray. Alien benefited from amazing clarity and pulse-pounding dynamics, as did Blade Runner. But Legend lacks a similar sort of wraparound immersion, its dynamics less overt, less pin-sharp. Of course, you have to remember that, of all Scott's films, this is possibly the most “organic”. It revels in the magical sounds of the environment, but does not necessarily seek to highlight them for the sake of placing you right in the middle of the scene. Rather, with Legend, Scott and Rawlins sought to create a definite tableau of sound that mimicked something of a theatrical, or even symphonic experience. The sounds, the music and the effects seem to come at you, rather than from all around you. Thus, the lossless track here, is no showboating whiz-bang affair that you are going to wow your friends with.
Despite what some people have said, both Cuts of the film carry a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. This said, though, you wouldn't need me to tell you which one sounds the best, the most energising and the most beautiful. If only for the score, it has to be the Director's Cut with Jerry Goldsmith's lush and achingly spellbinding music. The US Theatrical Cut is no slouch, however, and Tangerine Dream's metaphysical sampling and synthesising layers certainly shift and slide in appreciably dense tonal glaciers. But you can definitely hear more going on with the Goldsmith interpretation.
Dialogue-wise, there are no major concerns, although I will say there some instances when it dips down lower in the mix than maybe it ought to. Darkness, I should point out, is never the recipient of this – or, if he was, you probably couldn't tell – and his dungeon-rattling tones provide plenty of verbal bass to play with. Interestingly, he sounds nowhere near as formidable in the Theatrical Cut's inexplicably less refined track.
Birdsong and the creak of boughs come over well. There is a deliciously detailed impact for when Darkness stomps his hoof on the floor as he steps out of the mirror. It is not a massive thud, but a crafty padding of weight and a crunch of debris beneath that is nicely reproduced. Listen out for his subsequent footsteps too, as he slowly approaches the cowering Lili. The ominous sounds down in the dungeons – deep, sonorous and wordless chanting that has been put through a synth – is well distributed about the soundscape, creating a dread-filled environment. Bass is reasonable, but certainly not excessive. There are plenty of impacts and heavy activity, but the sub is not brought into play with too much vigour. Surround usage and directionality may not be too expressive, but we get some nice arrow-flights, the wobbling clatter of the giant plates being flung about by our diminutive heroes and, best of all, the wonderful echo of Darkness's voice, which really does reach all the way around us to fill the room with sublime demonics. There is also some massive waves of hissing steam that flood out towards us in a decent enough swelling effect. Thus, the film's audio can seem enjoyably heavy and chaotic without being too detailed or precisely steered.
So, all things considered, Legend sounds great, if a little dated in terms of dynamics. But I can't imagine too many complaints being made about the lossless mix awarded it.
There's nothing new added to this BD release that wasn't on the previous Special Edition DVD, but we do lose the script-to-screen DVD-ROM gubbins.
Scott's commentary is typically excellent. His abrupt yet engaging style is always a winner in my book. There's plenty of stuff divulged here. He is fairly scene-specific and we learn a lot about the sets, the lighting, the costumes, the narrative themes and the way that he prefers to use physical gags whenever possible rather than opticals. Although the film was troubled and didn't receive much of a warm welcome upon its release, Scott is clearly quite taken with it. He applauds the performance of Mia Sara and recites a couple of anecdotes to do with this “smaller” cast members. Technical minded, as always, he supplies lots of information regarding the effects, set construction and makeup designs, as well as offering insight and opinion about how budget concerns snubbed-out various ideas and concepts. All in all, another fantastic chat with one of Hollywood's prime movie-makers.
There is an isolated score track for the music of Tangerine Dream over the Theatrical Cut in DD 2.0. This is agreeable in theory, but when they still forget to give Jerry Goldsmith's fabulous score the same treatment, something is definitely awry. You can, however, still find the complete score available on-line if you look. And I certainly recommend that you do.
Creating a Myth: The Making Of Legend is a compelling and brilliantly informative documentary that charts the production and its inventive, exhilarating, creative and ultimately troubled and blighted genesis from fantastical pitch to eventually cack-handed distribution and release. Scott takes the lion's share of retrospection, with the ever-zany Rob Bottin, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, Billy Barty, Alice Playten, Terry Rawlings and Jerry Goldsmith chipping-in with highly worthwhile memories and anecdotes. There is footage from the set and some candid talk about the ruinous test screening and the subsequent alterations that led to the two cuts of the film. Tom Cruise? Zilch, folks. He might as well have not existed. There's another story there … just waiting to be told. I also doubt that Scott and Rawlings are being totally truthful about the reasons why the film was changed for the US. It definitely did have something to do with Sidney Sheinberg's braindead stance. But this is a terrific chronicle that fills in a lot of blanks and tells a wonderful filmmaking story, with lots of great stuff about the inferno that engulfed the set and led to Scott improving his tennis game!
In Lost Scenes, we get to see the long-winded Alternate Opening which definitely needed replacing, and a reconstruction via artwork and storyboards of the infamous “Faerie Dance” sequence in which Gump attempts to dance Jack to death with his fiddle. Goldsmith scored this sequence with a wonderfully crazed blend of orchestra and synths that builds and builds in ferocity. Rightly left out, this would have changed the complexion of the good guys a little too much and led to some unneeded ambiguity and a lack of empathy. There are also storyboards for three other sequences.
We get a Photo Gallery of publicity shots, images from Legend and continuity polaroids and a music video for Bryan Ferry's “Is Your Love Enough” which figures over the credits at the end of the Theatrical Cut. I like Bryan Ferry and loved the Roxy Music days, and this song isn't bad at all … but it doesn't belong anywhere near Legend.
And some theatrical trailers and TV spots round-out the package.
This disc is also BD-Live and Pocket-Blu enabled.
Ridley Scott takes his fascination for unicorns to another level in 1985's lavish fantasy Legend. He lets his visionary powers come to the fore with a flamboyant, sumptuous and sensual telling of William Hjortsberg's story of good and evil, light and darkness. With superb cinematography, a purpose-built enchanted forest set that is truly out-of-this-world, excellent creature effects from monster-master Rob Bottin and one of Jerry Goldsmith's most ambitious and lush scores, the potential for creating one of the genre's treasures was so tantalisingly near. But Legend was fundamentally flawed with a screenplay that was tinkered-with, dumbed-down and ultimately compromised in a foolish attempt to please the imagination-bereft masses in American multiplexes.
It is such a shame considering the absolute majesty of much of the talent on display here. Mia Sara is tremendous and it must be remembered that she was only fifteen when she danced with the Devil here. The creature performers, headed-up by the great Tim Curry, are uniformly excellent and the ambience they create convincingly otherworldly. Only Tom Cruise lets the side down with a bland and confused performance that reveals he was purely there to act as human product placement. Clearly he is still embarrassed by his involvement with the film as he is nowhere to be seen in the supplements and receives practically no mention from any of his co-stars or the crew.
Yet despite its problems, Legend remains wonderfully atmospheric entertainment that rewards, many times over, with its mood-swings from faux medieval enchantment to ethereal splendour to grandly gothic operetta. Personally, I love the film, warts 'n' all … and there are a lot of warts on show in this one. Universal put a package that mimics the previous SD Ultimate Edition, including both the Director's and the truncated, re-scored US Theatrical Cuts on the one disc. Ridley Scott's commentary is gold, as is the fifty-minute retro making-of, and it is nice to see the ideas behind one of the pivotal deleted scenes.
The transfers are very good, with the Director's Cut possibly having the edge with a more film-like image and a superior-sounding audio track, if only because of Jerry G's phenomenal score. Whichever cut you opt for, you won't be disappointed with the AV quality.
Despite a raging inferno, anxious studio execs, re-edits and a complete score-change, Legend is remains wonderful dream-like experience that acts like a drug. There is an addictive quality to it that is very much in-keeping with the story's theme of giving in to temptation. I know that I, for one, cannot resist it. And, as dangerous as it might be, I can't help coercing others into sampling its rare and wonderful delights, also.
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