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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Horror > I Am Legend (2007/Blu-ray)

I Am Legend (2007/Blu-ray)


Picture: B+     Sound: A-     Extras: C     Film: C



Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend has been ripped-off often, remains an all-time literary classic, is ever-underrated and has been made into a film officially twice before, but neither version were huge hits.  Of course, they were both interesting and even influential films and we reviewed The Last Man On Earth (1964) and The Omega Man (1971) recently in the following review:





Of course, they were issued because the third version of the book, finally using its name, had arrived at in theaters after years of failed plans to remake it again.  At one point, Arnold Schwarzenegger had the lead and Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) was to direct, but conflict with Warner Bros. caused that version to collapse.  The version that finally arrived and made a quarter-billion dollars in North America alone would star Will Smith and be directed by the one-time Music Video director Francis Lawrence, who later made the problematic Constantine (reviewed on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site) with Keanu Reeves.


More of a remake of Omega Man than the source book, this I Am Legend has Smith as a scientist trying to survive loneliness, past pain and solve the problem of a plague that has wiped out most of the human race, with those not dead turning into regressed vampire/zombie types.  (They were outright vampires in the book and first film, zombies in the second.)


With a larger budget, we see a grander-scale backstory of the government going all out to stop the virus from spreading and the human toll it takes early on.  Smith is very good as Robert Neville, following two of the better performances in the long and successful careers of Vincent Price and Charlton Heston, but in this case, it saves the film from its many problems and pitfalls.


It is enough that it shows no shame in recycling Omega Man, a film that influenced everything from The Terminator to many other knock-off so the original book.  If it had stayed on that track, it could have been an even better film.  It almost worked to have him talking to a dog versus himself as Heston did, but then, the screenplay by Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman adds a “sunrise semester/Jesus angle ending” that takes the hard irony of the original ending of the book and first films, twisting them into a highly phony conclusion that Christianity (not the Judeo/Christian ethic and potentially promoting the mindlessness of the highly scienceless Intelligent Design) and not hard science could save anyone in all this, despite the Smith/Neville scholarship that helps him to survive.


It is a pandering aspect that condescends to the audience, negates his character and in a sick twist, puts down his intelligence in a way that becomes nearly outright racist, saying his hard work and intelligence does not matter in the first place.  Race politics have mattered with this story since George Romero did its greatest take off with the original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead with one of the first African American heroes in film history, Omega Man responded with its interesting casting of African Americans and now, here is Smith the biggest African American movie star to date, but the writers and especially the director are too much on auto pilot and miss any further artistic opportunities in this matter, which is (along with that condescending veering off) stopping this from being an important film (like its counterpart, 28 Weeks Later, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) minimalizing the science, Science Fiction and Horror into a safe action package that sells out the whole film.  Too bad, because when al is said and done, this is not as smart at I, Robot and no more mature (and not as smart, ironically) as Independence Day.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in three formats: Super 35mm film, anamorphic Panavision (to the film’s great benefit) and some digital High Definition video by Andrew Lesnie, A.C.S., A.S.C., with more than its share of digital and though this transfer is about as good as it is going to get, there is just too much obvious digital to the point that it reminded me of matte paintings in 1970s genre films like Logan’s Run and Beneath The Planet Of The Apes.  This is such a problem that as compared to the transfer of the HD-DVD (also on Blu-ray) of Omega Man, it is no better!  Play the two together and see for yourself.


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is one of the top rate mixes of late, but though it was also issued in IMAX, this is not a Sonics-DDP mix.  However, it is rich, strong and though James Newton Howard’s score is not that good in this case, sound effects are good and the recording is top rate, as they had the money to make certain of that.  I just wish the mix had a little more character.


Extras include a multi-part, 50 minutes-long behind the scenes look at the film, four animated comics in HD based on the same source material, Cautionary Tale: the Science Of I Am Legend featurette looking at the science (which is very welcome) and an alternate ending they are calling “controversial” and is a bit better than what we landed up with originally.  Because it would go into spoiler territory we always avoid and require a separate essay to deal with, we will not get into it here, but watch it after you see the original cut and you’ll see what we’re talking about.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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