I Am Legend appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a positive presentation.
Overall sharpness looked good. Some interiors could show minor softness, but those instances remained inconsequential. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred and edge haloes appeared absent. Print flaws stayed non-existent as well.
In terms of palette, much of Legend went with a lightly desaturated look. This changed for flashbacks, as those used more vivid and natural tones. Whatever the desired impression was, the film delivered clear and well-developed hues.
Blacks appeared deep and firm, while shadows were smooth and nicely delineated. I found little about which to complain here, as the movie looked very good.
Though not as active as most Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks to which I award an “A-“, I simply thought this mix was too strong to go with a lower grade. Given the lead character’s isolation, it used theatrics sparingly, as it usually preferred a quiet sense of environment. Those scenes weren’t dead, however; they created a good feeling of place and atmosphere.
Legend didn’t stay totally subdued, though, as it presented a good collection of livelier sequences. From the various monster attacks to the destruction of the NYC bridges to other explosive moments, the soundfield rendered them in an impressive manner. The mix used all the various speakers to good advantage and formed a smooth, impressive soundscape.
The whole thing packed a nice punch, too. Effects consistently sounded dynamic and vivacious. Quieter elements were natural and clear, while louder ones roared to life well.
Music was similarly robust and full, while speech seemed distinctive and concise. Bass response proved particularly impressive throughout the film, as low-end showed tight, deep response. I enjoyed this track quite a lot.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD release? Audio showed more warmth and depth, while picture seemed more accurate and concise. The Blu-ray boasted the expected improvements.
The disc includes both the film’s Theatrical Cut (1:40:31) as well as an Alternate Theatrical Version (1:43:54). Warning: potential spoilers ahead!!!. Skip the next four paragraphs if you don’t want to hear the differences between the two cuts and comparisons of their endings.
I believe that the standard cut and the “Alternate Theatrical Version” are identical until approximately the 90-minute mark. In the edition fans saw on the big screen, Neville sacrificed himself to let Anna and Ethan escape with the cure for the virus.
In the “ATV”, Neville realizes that the monsters have evolved to feel love. He gives back the chick on whom he’s performed tests to her “boyfriend” and the creatures allow Neville, Anna and Ethan to escape.
Thus Neville lives in the “ATV” but dies in the standard theatrical cut. The latter also shows Anna and Ethan as they reach a compound of survivors in Vermont, while the former cuts as Neville, Anna and Ethan drive out of NYC to try and find such a location.
The disc provides no information about who advocated the “ATV” and its ending, but if I had to guess, I’d think it was the studio’s idea. The conclusion of the “ATV” accomplishes two goals absent from the standard cut. For one, it’s clearly a happier finale since Neville lives, and for another, it creates the ability for us to get a sequel in which Smith appears.
The ending of the “ATV” seems much more pat and silly than that of the regular theatrical cut. I maintain a little ambivalence about the standard version’s conclusion, but it beats this one. The interaction between Neville and the monsters gets goofy, and the happy ending feels trite and stale. The theatrical finish may not be as much of a crowd-pleaser, but it seems more natural and correct to me.
Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend goes for 20 minutes, 41 seconds and features Lawrence, Goldsman, the CDC’s Julie L. Gerberding, Terrence Tumpey, TG Ksiazek and Paul Rota, the University of Texas Medical Branch’s CJ Peters, the Scripps Research Institute’s Dr. Michael BA Oldstone, UCLA Professor of Epidemiology Dr. Nathan Wolfe, Harvard Medical School’s Mary Elizabeth Wilson, UCSF Blood Systems Research Institute principal investigator Dr. Eric Delwart, National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, UCLA School of Public Health Dean Linda Rosenstock, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Dean Don Burke, The Coming Plague author Laurie Garrett and actor Will Smith.
“Tale” takes a look at the facts behind the film’s fiction. It gets into details about research for the film and details of various viral infections. I don’t expect fairly serious examinations of scientific topics on a Blu-ray, but “Tale” works pretty well. Of course, a 20-minute featurette can’t become anything terribly deep, but it nonetheless offers an interesting discussion.
For the 51-minute, 58-second Creating I Am Legend, we find a collection of
21 shorter clips. These include notes from Lawrence, Goldsman, Smith, stunt double Randolph LeRoi, 2nd unit director Vince Armstrong, novelist Richard Matheson, executive producer Michael Tadross, location manager Paul Kramer, trainer Darrell Foster, weapons specialist Samuel Glen, 1st AD Jeffrey “JP” Wetzel, animal coordinator Steve Berens, special effects coordinator Conrad V. Brink, Jr., and actors Charlie Tahan and Alice Braga.
We learn about action and stunts, character/story topics and the project’s development, cast and performances, sets and locations, makeup and effects, military considerations and working with canine actors.
The main problem with “Creating” comes from its disjointed nature. Since it compiles 21 small featurettes, it doesn’t spend a lot of time with any topic and it jumps from area to area pretty rapidly. Nonetheless, we still find plenty of good details here. Some of the material feels puffy, but a lot of interesting tidbits emerge along with many nice shots from the set.
We discover four Animated Comics. These include “Death as a Gift” (3:03), “Isolation” (6:36), “Sacrificing the Few for the Many” (3:30) and “Shelter” (8:40). These live up to their description, as they offer slightly animated views of standard comic book panels accentuated with sound. They vary in effectiveness, as some are better than others; “Shelter” stands as probably the best of the bunch. All are reasonably interesting, though.
In I Am Legend, Will Smith produces arguably his finest theatrical performance, as his portrayal of a lonely, haunted plague survivor carries an entire film and makes Legend much more involving and intriguing than it should be. The rest of the flick has its ups and downs, but Smith is more than enough to make it consistently enjoyable. The Blu-ray offers strong picture and audio as well as a decent set of bonus materials. This turns into a quality release.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of I AM LEGEND