Legend is one of "those" movies for me. Like many of the movies I saw when I was young, it helped define my childhood. I first saw Legend during its first televised airing in Canada at about the age of 8. My mother taped it off of television for me, and over my unicorn obsessed childhood it became etched into my memory. Strangely, the version I saw then I have never been able to find in stores.
When the taped-from-tv version finally gave out on me, my mother bought for me an official Legend release for Christmas. I watched the movie with a sense of horror as I found that scenes that I felt were pivotal or pleasureably memorable to the movie were not present. The two notable scenes missing were the scene in which Gump riddles Jack about moonbells, and the one in which Jack faces the witch on his way to Darkness. The lack of these scenes brought the movie's greatness down a few notches for me. Perhaps if I'd never seen it with those scenes I wouldn't have noticed, but knowing just what was missing, and what the movie was without them, ruined something for me. So, when I found Legend: Ultimate Edition, I decided to buy it to see if the Director's Cut was the better version. However, I was aware when I bought it that my childhood version of Legend featured the Tangerine Dream score, and not the original. So I wasn't really sure what I was getting.
Imagine my annoyance to find that the Director's Cut is no better. In fact, I think it's worse. I will pick out three specifics that bother me:
Lily: In the U.S. Theatrical release, I like Lily. She is sweet, and innocent, and a little foolish, but endearingly so. In the Director's Cut, Lily's dialogue makes her out to be much less likeable - she seems immature and spoiled, a brat. There were points where I wanted to slap her for being so irritating.
The Score: The Tangerine Dream score has an atmospheric and often shadowy feel to it; the original score is much too over-the-top and takes away from the atmosphere of the film. Really, it does not feel much as though Jerry Goldsmith was watching the same movie everyone else was. Legend's dreamlike fantasy world grows into a dark nightmare, and this is served quite well by Tangerine Dream's interpretation; the original score is comical and clumsy in comparison.
Added Scenes: The scenes left in the Director's Cut were cut from the U.S. Theatrical release, with the exception of the scenes I mentioned previously, for a good reason; in addition to Lily becoming an irritating brat, most of the uncut scenes serve only to make parts of the film drag, or disturb the sense of flow. Some of them seem pointless or silly, as when Jack does a sudden flip in the air for no apparent reason. Perhaps if the score was more suited to the movie, certain scenes (such as the flip) wouldn't seem so comical or out of place, but when his flip is accompanied by a wild clashing of instruments, one has the urge to laugh at the clumsiness of the scene.
Now, back to those two scenes missing from the U.S. release. Why am I griping about two little scenes? Without the riddle scene, there seems a rather uncomfortable transition between Gump's rage at Jack for taking Lily to see and touch the unicorns. Not to mention it's a great scene! Also, Gump's riddling Jack is important to the story - Jack can't simply claim that love is the reason he did something stupid and then not have to answer for it. The riddle is a moment in which Jack can prove himself worthy, worthy of Gump & company's assistance in righting his wrongs, and worthy of the quest itself.
The scene with the witch is just cool. And, yes, Jack again proves himself. Jack's youthful inexperience needs to be tested a few times before he reaches Darkness. The U.S. Theatrical release leaves these out and Jack reaches Darkness untried. It goes against the whole idea of the quest. Silliness.
To be perfectly honest, I would not buy Legend: Ultimate Edition again if I had known the Director's Cut would annoy me so much. I would dearly love to find out why and how I saw a version that came somewhere in between the U.S. Theatrical release and the Director's Cut, and even get my hands on an official copy, but that will likely never be. Needless to say, Legend *is* a beautiful movie, and if you must have it, stick with the U.S. Theatrical release, cut scenes not-withstanding. I think my viewing of it is simply sullied by my memory and from knowing that my first viewings were of a superior version to the ones actually available.