LEGENDARY (also known as LEGENDARY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON)
Written by Andy Briggs
This movie has a lot that it needs to be a Pulp film, let me say that right off the bat. Unfortunately, like with anything, there are good pulp movies…and then there are bad pulp movies.
Travis Preston (Scott Adkins) is a trained scientist and cryptozoologist who works with a team of trained experts in pursuing the alleged myths and legends of mysterious creatures around the world, all in the hopes of capturing one for study. The film opens with the team on the hunt for a supposed mythical bear in Russia, hired and accompanied by big game hunter Harker (Dolph Lundgren). This particular hunt goes south when Harker tries to kill the bear and it ends up killing one of Preston’s team members.
Fast forward some unspecified time length later and Preston is at the college that employs him, essentially hiding from the world and drowning under lawsuits filed by Harker over the bear incident. An attorney visits Preston, not to sue him, but to hire him for his mysterious benefactor who wants Preston and his team to investigate sightings of a lizard like aquatic creature in China. Bringing solid proof, the attorney essentially pledges that his client will cover all fees. Preston, impressed with the evidence agrees and the gang gets back together.
Upon arriving at the location in China, Preston and his team discover that a manufacturing plant is the site of multiple attacks allegedly by this creature. And to that end, the plant has hired its own team, led by Harker, of course. What ensues is not only a clash between Preston and Harker on whether or not to save or kill the beast, but a real confrontation with the cryptid itself throughout the film, challenging Preston’s team every bit as much as Harker and his hired mercenaries manage to.
This movie irritates the holy Doc Savage out of me. You have an opportunity to do something schlocky and fun with two decently big named (at least in B movies) action heroes, setting Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren against each other. What you get, though, is Lundgren chewing scenery that he acts like he doesn’t like and Adkins totally miscast as an intellectual who also has the ability to be a pretty good hero. Adkins is so awkward as Preston that by the time we get to him playing to his strengths, it’s as cartoonish as it can be.
Lundgren is just as bad for other reasons. Harker is obsessed with killing things and shows little to no emotion for anyone else. Lundgren attempts to deliver this through gritted teeth, obviously mangling words and no editor bothering to go back and fix them. His guttural tones matched along with his obviously intentionally clamped together dental attributes makes him hard to understand and often distracts from what story there actually is.
And, going there, the story here is pretty simple and hard to screw up from a pulp perspective. There is very much a definite intended hero and, as happened often in Hero Pulps in the magazines, that hero has a team of experts to help him. There’s also a conflict, embodied in Harker and in the beastie they are pursuing. And…things happen. That’s really about all I can say. The pacing is erratic and back and forth, revving up quickly, then suddenly jerking to a full stop, apparently to add weight to the characters and not doing so.
The special effects do not help much with LEGENDARY either. The bear they confront at the first is laughable. Putting a guy in a bear suit would have likely played better. The lizard creature is somewhat better, but it still looks very Harryhausen, which CGI isn’t usually meant to resemble. I believe they actually filmed on location somewhere, but there are some scenes that feel tremendously green screen like as well.
All of the pieces are here for a pulp movie. They’re all in the film and it even ends in a way that promises more adventures in a very fun way. But the pacing of the movie, the choppy editing that is blatant throughout, and the cardboard performances of most of the cast coupled with Adkins’ and Lundgren’s trouble laden work makes this a bad, bad movie, pulp or not. And that does really bother me, because I can see so much promise for what this could have been as a pulp fan. But yeah, unless you want to see if I’m exaggerating, don’t waste your time on LEGENDARY.