[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/photopost/data/500/IamLegendCover.jpg[/img]Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Sallie Richardson and Willow Smith (Will's real-life daughter)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Studio: Warner Home Video
Production Year: 2007
Media Year: March 18, 2008
Length: 101 minutes
What if you were the last man on Earth? That’s the seminal question presented in what is easily the best version of this classic science fiction/horror novel thrice turned movie.
Another film version of I am Legend (since Omega Man) has been rumored for decades. A new movie that stays true to the original 1954 science-fiction novel by Richard Matheson was at one time going to star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead the legendary project was handed down to Screenplay Writer - Producer Akiva Goldsmith who managed to obtain the services of super-star du jour Will Smith.
The novel, I Am Legend was one of the most influential science fiction/horror stories of modern times. It gave birth not only to modern the vampire story but also the zombies that inhabited Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later and countless others. The book’s two previous film adaptations resulted in The last Man on Earth 1964 and the Omega Man 1971 starring Charlton Heston.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/photopost/watermark.php?file=1098[/img]This time it’s Will Smith who finds himself the last man on Earth. Smith plays his affable every-man opposite his faithful dog Sam, a beautiful German Shepherd. It’s Smith’s likeability and sense of humor, as he quips to his four legged companion, that really drives the horror home. The scenes of an abandoned New York City are shocking as Smith and his pal go about their routine, raiding stores for canned food and renting DVDs - all the while being sure to get home before dusk. The movie taps into universal anxieties as common as the fear of falling: Fear of being left behind and of course fear of disease.
Punctuated with the classic elements of things that go bump in the night and a lot of sudden frights – I am Legend is one of the best new horrors (let alone science fiction films) I have seen in a very long time.
BD-50 Dual Layer disc
The disc presents excellent high definition Blu-ray video quality just as the film’s material demands. The panoramic yes nightmarish landscape shots of New York City look highly detailed under a crisp blue sky.
In stark contrast at night you’ll see dark shadows that will test your display’s blackness. The film will descend into shadows so dark you’ll expect them to issue forth the very fetid hand of the Crypt Keeper himself.
G-g-gosh! What's that!
There is a lot of CGI and although the static landscapes looked great the prancing deer looked awfully fake. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the movie but it seems CGI animals in fast moving action always look rendered. Another scene has a lion pouncing on a deer and it screams CG!
Ten years ago maybe we would have marveled at the amazingly realistic animals in the movie. Perhaps it’s just a jaded part of modern cinema that we so easily identify the technology used to render certain images.
It makes me wonder, did viewers of previous generations say things like:
“Oh yeah, that car chase scene with Cary Grant in North by Northwest looked so fake! You could totally tell that wasn’t really what he was seeing out his rear window.”
My guess is it was just accepted that it was an effect of some sort and it’s only our modern spoiled by technology nature that has us complaining about such minor quibbles.
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/photopost/data/500/IamLegend2.jpg[/img]The TrueHD soundtrack is easily the one to use if your system supports it. While not an obvious workout for your sub with blazing surround effects, this soundtrack does a lot of very subtle atmospheric ambient effects very well.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of action in this film with car chases, fights and explosions that all sound excellent. The helicopter in the flashback sequence is very well done and used all my speakers at once to convince me an army chopper was landing in my living-room.
The film is also surprisingly musical with a Bob Marley sequence that reminded me how much I really liked Bob Marley. The front speakers and sub balanced out beautifully to render several seconds of a punchy calypso performance. Guess what lossless ripped CD I called up on my audio streamer after finishing I am Legend?
Special Features :3stars:
I am Legend is an example of special features done right! How many times I’ve written reviews moaning that the only special features were exercises in celebrity ego-stroking, I will never know. This one actually delivers some interesting extra content that is sure to appeal to a variety of viewers.
On the downside: The only feature in high definition is the animated comics but my biggest complaint is the menu system. It looks like it was pieced together by a committee that voted on how each option should be positioned.
When I load a disc I want to get into the audio options as quickly as possible, load the one I want and start the movie without having to think. This time I had to stop the movie because I loaded it several minutes before I could start watching and had to figure out how to get it start from the beginning with my audio option of choice.
I ended up watching the alternate version of the film.
Featurette: "Cautionary Tale: The Science of 'I Am Legend'" (standard definition - 20 mins)
This was the highlight of the special features for me. It’s an amazing documentary on humanity’s relationship with disease. Sure, it’s a bit too alarmist and dramatic but that’s you get in documentaries these days.
It goes into detail about how the Center for Disease Control tracks viruses, even animal viruses and assesses their probability of posing a danger to mankind. I found it fascinating. The CDC is one of those unsung benefits the world enjoys thanks to the United States of America. Thanks America!
Documentary: "Creating 'I Am Legend'" (standard definition - 52 mins)
I found it interesting to watch a few of the chapters but there are far too many. It’s nice they’re divided because you can cherry pick the topic you want to hear about relating to the movie. The only complaint I have about them is too often you’ll get repeated information and footage from one chapter to the other. It’s as if they didn’t have a plan to make all the chapters and just tried to make a series of standalone mini-features. But, they do work as independent mini-features.
Animated Comics (HD - 22 mins)
If you’re a comics geek you’ll love this feature. I don’t know about anime geeks because they’ve changed a lot in the years since I was a fan of Akira and some of the old school anime, it seems anime has gone insane in the last decade while I wasn’t watching and I have no interest in 99.9999% of it anymore.
But in the spirit of fantastic drawn artwork used to tell a story with narrative and voice-overs that aren’t completely cheesy this is a great addition to the disc. Four separate stories that imagine how other parts of the world dealt with the events Will Smith and his dog had to endure. They have almost to do with the I am Legend story except that they take place as parallel stories.
Alternate Ending: Be warned, the alt version of the film just refers to the ending, so you could watch the last chapter or two to compare. The alternate ending was corny if you ask me. Yeah, I can see the tie-in with what Will Smith said earlier about love etc. Without giving away the ending, I can see why the alt ending ended up on a disc rather than in the theaters.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/photopost/watermark.php?file=1100[/img]If you’re a fan of horror or science fiction or even Will Smith for that matter, I recommend buying this disc. It is at least a must-see rental, set aside whatever you thought you were doing tonight and go rent or buy this disc on Blu-ray. If you buy it you’ll have plenty of time to digest all the extra goodies. And the best thing about owning it is that you can have your friends over anytime to re-live the film.
It’s not always the best films that I recommend to buy. This film has enough replay value that I would suggest buying if you’re building a Blu-ray disc collection. It’s got enough wow factor for both your audio and video rig. It’s especially handy if you have a date over for a movie - whenever you want to escape into a world of chills and thrills I am Legend makes your choice very easy.