***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!
Legend: U.S. Theatrical Cut - 4 out of 5
Legend: Director's Cut - 3 out of 5
Legend not only has the honor of being a kick-ass fantasy film but also has the honor of being one of the only Tom Cruise films that I will watch (the other being Tropic Thunder). The fantastic story and, more importantly, Tim Curry's awesome performance as Darkness (his awesome makeup doesn't hurt either) makes this one of my favorite fantasy films that came out in the 80's...even with the no talent Cruise in it.
Recently, I picked up the Special Edition DVD that contains both the U.S. Theatrical Cut of the film and director Ridley Scott's original cut. Rumors state that while the film was shown at a test screening, a couple of stoners in the audience told Scott that they had some complains. The story goes that Scott took their complaints to heart and edited it down to what we saw in the theater. Honestly, after sitting through both of them, I have to say that I want to find these stoners and thank them.
Through both cuts, the story still remains the same: Light dominates the world and the evil being known as Darkness wishes to return the world to the shadows from whence it came. To do this, he must kill the two remaining Unicorns. If these creatures are destroyed, then the sun will never rise again and night will rule. The only thing stopping Darkness from completing his plan is a young forest dweller (the man who thinks acting is having 101 different smiles; Tom Cruise). This young man named Jack not only has the responsibility of saving the world but the woman he loves as well, the lovely Princess Lily (played by Mia Sara). It's your basic story of good versus evil, light vs dark. The simplicity of it all is what makes it so endearing and why I give the original theatrical cut a 4 out of 5.
The Director's Cut however, earns a slightly lower score of 3 out of 5 due to a few changes made to the film. First off, the original score was put back into the film (a score that the studio believed made the film too dark for children) and what occurs with this replacement is an entirely different feel for the film. It becomes darker and moodier, losing much of its--dare I say it?--whimsy that made it charming. It ceases being its own fairly tale and feels more like a Tolkien rip off. Furthermore, the film changes the opening and ending. I won't give away the change to the end but the opening of the film loses the scroll that opens the story. While this isn't too bad because it allows the audience to gather a feel for the world on their own without the film explaining it to you, this change to the beginning saw the lost of the establishment of Darkness. Through very poor editing (clumsy even) the film works around showing you this epic character as you only see his hand as he instructs his minion to kill the Unicorns. I understand why Scott would do this because it makes Darkness' reveal even bigger later in the film but Tim Curry's performance and the amazing makeup job done to him to create this larger-than-life character is too grand to pass up. Finally, these changes to the beginning make the film seem amateurish as, in an effort to keep the camera off Tim Curry, the shots will remain static on some random piece of set decoration at Darkness' palace. The shots will stay for such an extended period of time, it gives the film a direct-to-video from an unknown director feel other than a new epic from the guy who brought us Blade Runner and Alien.
In the end, after experiencing both versions of the film (and knowing Ridley Scott, there's probably at least another dozen versions out there) I feel that the original theatrical version is the one I want to stick with. Maybe it's just me but Scott's track record of Director's Cut remains at zero as I have yet to see one he's done that has been better than what was unleashed on the cinemas.