Twitter Plot Summary: Tim Curry wants to destroy the world and, typically, marry an Earthling. Tom Cruise has to stop him.
Director: Ridley Scott
Key Cast: Tim Curry, Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Kiren Shah, Robert Picardo,
Five Point Summary:
1. Was Tom Cruise really that young once?
2. Practical effects for the win, especially when it’s used in a 1980s fantasy film.
3. Green goblin thing in the swamp is like Yoda on steroids.
4. So… is he supposed to be Lucifer then?
5. SLOW MOTION TIME!
If you can’t appreciate the 80s for music, fashion or giving us Neighbours, then you can at least appreciate the decade for giving us a huge number of really good fantasy films. Not just aimed at kids either, proper fantasy films for all ages with almost universal appeal. Some are more child friendly than others (Labyrinth, for example), and others lean more towards the adult end of the spectrum – Legend is a case in point. For younger viewers it’s shady territory, there are some sequences that are likely going to be too much for the under 5s market, in particular when Tim Curry shows up on screen.
Tim Curry is the Lord of Darkness, locked away somewhere near the centre of the Earth where he plots to destroy it and bring about eternal night. How will he accomplish this, you might ask? Well, by sending his minions out to kill a couple of unicorns of course. You know, that standard evil plan that’s always used in films…
Tom Cruise is ridiculously young in this film, however much like Michael Palin I think he reached adulthood and then aged no further. As is always the case, Cruise is a reliable performer and embodies the role, even if half of it is running around looking startled. Mia Sara, in her first major screen role, is fortunately rather good, at one point essentially having to play two opposite characters and pulling it off with aplomb. It’s unfortunate that she didn’t seem to make it any further with her acting career than she did, I’m sure there could have been bigger roles available to her based on this performance alone. Instead the highlights appear to be Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and er, Timecop. Oh well.
Ridley Scott takes the lessons he learned from Alien and puts them to good use. It’s almost two thirds of the way into the film before we see the Big Bad, and it’s well worth the wait. The Lord of Darkness cuts an imposing figure and is visually arresting, so it’s no wonder that much of the promotional material features him. His appearance is part of the vast tapestry that is the film’s visual design, where everything is at once realistic yet otherworldly. Adding to the otherworldly feel is the frequent use of whale song to represent the thoughts of the unicorns. Either that or it’s channelling Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home which, as it happens, wasn’t released until a year later, so that point’s probably moot… If anything it channels Time Bandits story structure, if not Terry Gilliam’s twisted visual style.
The practical effects, oft-missed in this day and age, are fantastic, no pun intended. 80s fantasy films always had a certain something extra to them because of the lack of CGI, and this is no different. In fairness Ridley Scott’s CGI work in the past has been most impressive, so I can’t tar him with the same brush as the rest. This is what’s missing from modern fantasy – passion and heart. It might be deemed bad form to do anything practically in a modern fantasy film, but that’s what makes the 80s films stand out by such a great margin. Practical effects are tangible, you can almost reach out and touch the world that has been created. Except you can’t because it’s a film, of course.
There are several cuts of the film including an 89 minute cut with a soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, a 94 minute cut with Jerry Goldsmith on soundtrack duties, and the 2002 director’s cut with more footage and Jerry Goldsmith on soundtrack duties. There’s a director’s cut because Ridley Scott always likes to make change to his films years down the line. Give it 10 years and he’ll probably do a director’s cut of Prometheus even though he said he’s happy with it. Hmm. Anyway, back to this film – I’ve only seen the 94 minute cut with Goldsmith’s orchestral score, so I’ll be seeking out the 89 minute cut as well as the 2002 edition later in the year and likely providing an addendum to this review at that time. Apparently the director’s cut is a far superior film, so bearing in mind how much I liked this version, it bodes very well indeed.
Favourite scene: The fight where the banquet is being prepared. Giant metal platters for the win!
Quote: “What care I for human hearts? Soft and spiritless as porridge! A faerie’s heart beats fierce and free!”
Silly Moment: Deflecting arrows with a frying pan. For a bit.