Title: I am Legend
HTS Overall Score:
“I am Legend” was one of 2007’s most hyped movies of the year when it was released in theaters. Will Smith was still running on the tail end of his career peak and this was a giant $150 million dollar blockbuster film that was playing EVERYWHERE that a commercial could play. Sadly it had a rather lukewarm reception with the original theatrical ending (people thought it was too dark) and the resulting home release was given a nice sappy and cheesy alternate edition that gave us unicorns and rainbows and great big hugs for the ending (can you tell I’m not a fan of the alternate ending?). That being said, the theatrical run was rather successful. A grand total of almost $329 million pretty much assured Warner that they weren’t going to be losing any money on this sucker. Still, “I am Legend” is by no means a perfect adaptation of Richard Matheson’s titular novel in any way shape or form.
Will Smith is Robert Neville, a brilliant Army scientist who is probably the last man alive on earth. Living in New York City scrounging and scavenging to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, he is searching for a cure to a virus that was unleashed 10 years ago. It seems that some scientist (played by Emma Thompson) came up with a cure for cancer. However this “cure” turned everyone into mindless creatures that crave blood and have to stay in the dark. Basically a hybrid of the rage monsters from “28 days Later”, the Vampires from every vampire movie ever, and zombies. These monsters have pretty much taken over the planet and right now Robert is pretty sure that he’s the last man alive on the planet. However that doesn’t stop him and his dog Sam from roaming the streets during the day and holing up at night while Dr. Neville performs experiments on the creatures due to his natural immunity to the virus.
Things change a bit when he captures a female test subject. He notices aberrations in the monster’s patterns and soon he finds out that these monsters aren’t as mindless as he thought. After they actually come out and trap Neville with one of his own traps, the man and his dog are food for the bad guys. That is until an unknown stranger comes out of nowhere and saves his life. This unknown happens to be Anna (Alice Braga) and her son Ethan (Charlie Tahan) who are just trying to do the “Resident Evil” thing and follow a radio broadcast to a supposed safe zone. A safe zone that could promise freedom for the man who has been trapped here at ground zero since the infection began.
I like to joke that “I am Legend” has one star, and it’s not Will Smith. It’s that gorgeous cherry red striped GT 500 that he rides around in. A car I’ve had the pleasure of riding in (not the exact same one mind you) and lusted over for many a year. In actuality, Will Smith really carries the movie. Besides the last 40 minutes when Alice Braga joins him, Will is the only real actor on screen (besides the beautiful German Shephard that is his companion). He gives one of the better performances of his career and has tamed down his normally flamboyant and charismatic personality to a level 7 instead of level 11. There’s a few times he gets a bit kooky and off the wall, but those are overshadowed by the more poignant and stoic persona that he gives off the rest of the movie. The scene where Sam gets infected still tears me up to this day as a dog person, and the emotion on Will’s face is so real, so palpable that I usually end up snuffling along with him even though I know it’s not real.
I’m a HUGE fan of the novel that this movie came from. Richard Matheson’s novel was the basis for our entire vampire mythology, our monsters, and our creatures from the dark that have come out in the last 60 + years. Many a filmmaker has been caught sighting the novel “I am Legend” to be instrumental in their creative process for a beastie. And the plot itself is really well crafted. “The Last Man on Earth” is a great adaptation, but slightly weak in the execution, and “I am Omega” is a pure Charlton Heston vehicle with some 70’s cheese along the way. It’s fun, but it’s heavily flawed. This latest adaptation feeds into the need for a more action oriented take on the source material and thus gives up some of deeper moments in the novel. More time is spent on cgi that hasn’t stood the test of time and battling monsters with an M4 Carbine and that tends to make the movie lose some of its appeal after the machine gun fire as stopped. I really do like the movie, but it’s more of a mild like vs. downright love. I will say this. After watching it for the first time since the Blu-ray came out in 2008 I have to finally admit that I way prefer the darker theatrical ending compared to the more emotionally “happy” ending that got foisted on us with the alternate version of the film (which is really the same movie with a tweaked ending, it could have been accomplished as a deleted scene just as well).
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence
“I am Legend” sported a REALLY nice 1080p encode for the Blu-ray, but it was encoded in the slightly less efficient VC-1 codec and while it was stellar back in the day has aged just a slight bit when compared to more “mature” Blu-rays that have come out. Shot on 35mm film and given a 2K DI, it was a stunner for sure, and while I have no confirmation one way or the other, it looks like the same 2K DI was used for the 4K UltraHD disc as well. However, even though it is an upscale, the use of a more modern codec and the extra space allow for a spectacular looking 4K experience with finer details along the face and better defined textures along objects. Blacks are deep and inky, with slightly more shadow detail than its 1080p predecessor, and there is almost NO artifacting at all on the disc. For a 2K upscale this is by far the best the movie is ever going to look unless they go back and do a new DI from the source, and even then I’m not sure much more detail could be eeked out of the film. Well done Warner.
Back in the day “I am Legend” was labeled as having perfect audio mix, it really IS just about perfect. Back then Warner was putting out their lossless titles (and not everyone had lossless sadly) in Dolby TrueHD, but for this new release it was remixed for DTS-HD MA in the same 5.1 format. Comparing the two back to back I have to say that there is very little differences (if any) once the two tracks are level matched. The Dolby track on the Blu-ray is recorded a few DB’s lower than the DTS-HD MA version, but once that is matched equally all things are pretty much on the same level. The dialog is always strong and clean, and the surrounds get an amazing workout with the monsters crashing through walls and screaming at great distances and echoing off city buildings. The subs are delicate when necessary, but also give forth a punishing assault with powerful gunshots, thudding fists on walls, explosions as car defenses go off. The whole works. This was one of the big demo tracks 9 years ago (well almost 9) and it still can run with the newer, more aggressive mixes with ease. One of my favorite audio experiences of all time.
• Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend
• Creating I am Legend
• Animated Comics
After a much needed moratorium from the film, I come back to “I am Legend” with a greater appreciation for the original theatrical ending (back when it came out I really preferred the sappy alternate ending instead), and have to say that the movie grows on you. It’s not a feel good movie or a heroic adventure flick, but it has some great acting by Smith and amazing audio and visual scores on the technical front. I of course would have liked to have seen an Atmos or DTS:X track for these new 4K titles from Warner, but the audio used is in no way an inferior product. While the CGI and story is nowhere as good as “Omega Man” or “Last man on Earth”, I am legend is a more modern and “fun” remake of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. Definitely worth a watch at least.
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Mark Protosevich, Akiva Goldsmight
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French, DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 104 minutes (Alternate Cut) / 100 minutes (Theatrical)
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 6th, 2016
Buy I am Legend on 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Decent Watch
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