Warner Home Video
Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok
Extras: Alternate Version, Featurettes, Animated Comics
"I Am Legend" is a remake of the movie based on Richard Matheson's novel of the same name. Many viewers are probably familiar with its previous movie incarnation "The Omega Man" starring Charlton Heston as the last man on Earth. Now, updated to fit modern day tastes and featuring Will Smith in the lead the material resurfaces. My hopes for the film were fairly high and my disappointment in the result was all the bigger when I finally had the chance to see this film as it just arrived on Blu-Ray disc from Warner Home Video.
A plague has wiped out mankind and the world's population is down to one man, Robert Neville (Will Smith), a virologist who is for some reason immune to the plague and has survived watching the world around him fall to pieces.
The rest of mankind has either been wiped out by the plague or has been turned into "Darkseekers," monstrous creatures that come out at night only as the sunlight kills them. If anyone had survived the plague and had not been turned into a monster, they were most likely killed by the creatures in their violent rage as they got hungrier and hungrier. Careful to cover his traces so that the monsters cannot follow and track him down, Neville barricades himself in his home at night and comes out only during the daylight hours.
Seemingly undeterred by the bleakness around him, three years after the plague struck, Neville still continues his lab work, desperately trying to find a cure for the virus. His hope is to bring mankind back to earth and so he runs experiments on infected rats and the occasional Darkseeker he catches. Only one day, he encounters a Darkseeker who seems to be more intelligent than the others. A monster that seems to hunt him instead. Could it be that they slowly develop from the primal state they had reverted to?
I have always loved the premise of the story itself. There is something to the apocalyptic scenario of the last man on Earth surrounded only by hostile creatures. The pandemic plotline makes sense as the means to wipe out mankind entirely, and as such the film is off to a good start. However not two minutes into it the brakes are on and the film comes to a grinding halt when two computer animated lions walk across the screen. I don't know about you but I have pretty much had it with the cheap-looking CGI effects that ruin way too many movies these days. The lions in this film do not even remotely look or move like the real deal and to make matters worse, given the shot setup, real lions could have easily been used to complete the scene. Very clearly someone needs to tell director Francis Lawrence that CGI should be used for actual special effects when needed and not as a universal band aid for any shot requiring a bit of preparation or thought.
So with the illusion completely shattered – and my hopes for a decent movie destroyed – I continued watching the film only to be confronted with more and more of these ridiculously inept CGI shots. The worst of the bunch are the Darkseekers themselves. I am at a loss for words to describe them, really. They might have worked in a movie 15 years ago where people accepted shoddy CGI effects and lived with them as a gimmick – but that time has long gone and someone should have told the filmmakers. Not only do these creatures look ridiculously unnatural and unreal with their plastic-y skins, overdone texturing and anatomically impossible animations, they simply turn into laughing stock when they open their mouths so wide they could accommodate a fridge in it. These are simply some of the most ridiculously pathetic CGI creatures in any film for a long time and to make matters worse, when you look at it, it is easy to see that "old school" live action prosthetic and makeup effects would have done a much better job for these creatures.
So, again and again the film sadly falls flat on its face by the hapless CGI work that ruins the entire movie. Add to that some plot holes that are bigger than mount Vesuvius' caldera and a complete disregard for logic and you have a movie that is an overall embarrassment for the filmmakers and more so for Will Smith to be in. Not surprisingly, Smith's acting is also flat and unconvincing in the movie as he simply is not the cool machismo kind of guy the story needs, even when he disguises his voice to make it more raspy.
Arriving on Blu-Ray from Warner Home Video, the transfer is absolutely stunning, of course, with a print that is free of any blemishes or defects. Presented at 1080p, the transfer has an incredible level of detail and richness in many shots that is beautiful to behold. The inner city shots with the empty, abandoned streets of Manhattan are particularly impressive as they have nice depth to themselves that is perfectly reproduced in the transfer. Black levels are extremely good, creating an image that is incredibly deep and has solid shadows throughout. Though many of the shots are desaturated to give the film its desolate atmosphere there are occasional shots where the colors are vibrant and rich and they come through nicely on this transfer, too.
Audio is extremely aggressive on the release, as you would expect. A TrueHD Dolby Digital track will rock your house with its amazing bass extension and the super aggressive use of directional effects. There is quite a bit of action on the film and these are the moments where the track plays its muscles. But also the more subdued moments of suspense are wonderfully rich and directional as the scene builds. Complemented by cool songs by Bob Marley and a score by James Newton Howard, the film's soundtrack is atmospheric and highly effective.
As a goodie, Warner has included two cuts of the film on this release – the original theatrical cut and an alternate cut with a controversial ending – I think the biggest controversy surrounds the fact that it is completely illogical because it does not make any sense at all.
Your typical making of featurette is also included featuring behind the scenes footage and plenty of shoulder-padding congratulatory interviews by cast and crew members.
"The Science of I Am Legend" is a pretty cool featurette discussion the medical and biological background of the story. In interviews with scientists and virologists viewers can get a feel for how they conduct their work and how serious the issue of pandemics has been historically and will be in the future. I found the featurette very interesting as it covers many aspects of virology in clear, understandable terms.
Also included on the release are four animated comic books, a few minutes each, telling other stories surrounding the film's scenario. These are great add-ins to the film itself and well worth a look – though they are a bit slow.
Sadly, I found "I Am Legend" to be a sore disappointment. I had high hopes for the film but there is so much wrong with it that it simply turns into a pointless experience. You have been cautioned, so make sure to make this a rental if you're unsure and you feel you have to watch it nonetheless.