back when tom cruise was a pretty pixie

photo from imdb

I just recently re-watched Legend (1985) a Riddley Scott fantasy starring a very young Tom Cruise, Mia Sara and an already-typecast Tim Curry. I must have been in fifth grade when I first watched it with my brother on Betamax. We rented it from the corner store managed by this real nice English-speaking Muslim lady. We were drawn by the way she described it - it seemed to my brother a fantasy-adventure movie (a hero + a lord of darkness + creatures + a quest), while it seemed to me like a little-girl flick disguised as a fantasy-adventure movie (a princess + a lover + a rescue, unicorns + fairies + sparkly things).

It's got this cute early electronica soundtrack featuring Tangerine Dream; it just fits well with the pixie dust and good intentions flying around.

Watching it again as an adult, I still find it to be kinda nice. I'll leave it on my list of favorite '80s flicks. I've got to admit it's way corny though. And a bit gay.

So it's not the best of its genre - not even close - though it would be redeeming to think of it as a kids' movie. It would be easier to forgive for its all dorkiness and cheesiness that way.

Then again if you think about it, it's somewhere up there among the most well-loved geek fantasy movies of the eighties, with Labyrinth, Willow, Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, Flight of the Navigator et al. Legend must be so likeable because it's so simple, so safe and predictable and um, so decent.

I recall telling a classmate about Legend after I first watched it back then. "What?," she exclaimed, "A Tom Cruise movie without any sex?" (Yes, ten year-olds can make that observation and actually know what they're talking about). I didn't know any other Tom Cruise movies then aside from Top Gun, and i wasn't even allowed to watch that.

Twenty years since, I've seen different versions of Mr.Cruise - including couch-bouncing Tom, the hardly-palatable drug-dissing one and the meltdown variety. It's kinda refreshing to see again a young Tom as the naive, everpure Jack. A romantic role that doesn't have a single hint of sex. This was small-time, pre-Top Gun, pre-stardom, pre-crazy Tom, of course. He must have been in his early twenties then; he wasn't so hot yet, but already cute. This Jack persona is the oh-so-pleasant antihero lover-boy, a breath of fresh air from the hunky, husky hero types of that day - the kind of main character that convinces me that this is indeed a little-girl flick disguised as a fantasy-adventure movie.

How cliche can you get with "kind, beautiful princess who likes loverly things"? But hey, they formula still works. I remember thinking as a kid that Mia Sara was so pretty. I sort of became a little fan but I didn't see her again until Ferris Bueller, and never again.

Tim Curry totally rocked as the lord of darkness. It would be considered a dorky role today, but what the hey, he did it justice. There wasn't much depth to it but he managed to play up an image that would conjure nightmares in little kiddies' heads at bedtime. Some geek movie buffs would say that it was his character that made the movie so memorable. I've come across some articles that say Curry in Legend was one of film's best Satans ever.

The themes of the story? True love prevails. The stuff of dreams can be real. And well, yes, good triumphs over evil, sparkly things over darkness. Stupid as it may seem now to my cluttered, discriminate, critical adult mind, I still think it's something a child can appreciate, and the child in me still thinks highly of it.
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