I AM LEGEND
I AM LEGEND ($35) is the third cinematic adaptation of the 1954 Richard Matheson novel of the same name. Now, like its predecessors, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and THE OMEGA MAN, I AM LEGEND isnít entirely faithful to Mathesonís work, but this third adaptation keeps many of the most important elements in place. Additionally, many other genre films have taken their inspiration from the novel; its doubtful the entire zombie sub-genre of horror films would have evolved from George Romeroís NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD without the influence of I AM LEGEND, but I digress...
2007ís I AM LEGEND stars Will Smith as Robert Neville, a military scientist and seemingly the sole survivor of a plague that mutated from a virus genetically engineer to cure cancer. After years of isolation, Neville faces an increasingly maddening existence as the single human inhabitant of the island of Manhattan. Although he hasnít had contact with another sentient being in years, Neville isnít entirely alone. As we soon learn, the plague victims arenít quite dead, but instead the virus has transformed them into rabid, nearly mindless, vampire-like creatures. Due to their aversion to sunlight, said creatures only come out after dark, when they prey on anything immune to the plague. Of course, Neville remains well hidden at night, but occupies his days by searching for a cure for the plague, with which he hopes to restore the human race.
Will Smith has to carry most of I AM LEGEND on his shoulders and does a very commendable job. There is plenty of emotional resonance in Smithís performance as Neville; he elevates the film beyond typical horror fare. Smith really delivers the goods, as he is able to bring to life a man driven to the brink of madness by loneliness, obsession, guilt and regret. The cast of I AM LEGEND also features Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith, Darrell Foster, April Grace and an uncredited Emma Thompson.
Warner Home Video has made I AM LEGEND available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Warner delivers the goods, producing another great looking transfer from that generates a sharp and very well defined image throughout. Colors are rendered a fairly natural level of saturation, although they sometimes take on a dusty quality. Human flesh tones look great. Blacks are dead on perfect, whites are crisp and contrast is excellent. The film elements appear virtually pristine and there is little apparent grain. Digital compression artifacts are generally well concealed.
I AM LEGEND comes a reasonably aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The moments of central characterís isolation are appropriately desolate. However, all of the discrete channels become fully engaged during the filmís interspersed action sequences. The bass channel is deep and adds a lot of punch to the gunfire and rumble to the explosions. Fidelity is strong and the sound effects convincing. Dialogue is crisp, clean and always fully understandable. French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Despite the fact that this is a two-disc set, there isnít a large quantity of supplements. Disc one includes four Animated Comics, as well as Previews and Trailers. Disc twoís main supplement is an Alternate Theatrical Version of I AM LEGEND, which is very similar to what was seen in the theaters. The biggest differences between the two are in regards to the ending of the film. Personally, I feel that the general release version is the most effective, but the alternate is certainly interesting. Disc two also provides access to a bonus digital copy of the film for other media players.
While I AM LEGEND is not entirely faithful to the Richard Matheson novel, and differs THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and THE OMEGA MAN, the film truly works on its own merits, the strongest of which being Will Smithís performance. Warnerís DVD provides excellent standard definition quality. Recommended.
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