I’m a big fan of Will Smith and have been for quite some time. I liked him as a rapper back in the days of “DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince” (Smith was the Fresh Prince), which led to his television show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and his subsequent movie career which started off with a literal bang in 1995’s “Bad Boys”. From there it was onward and upward as Smith had starring roles in 1996’s “Independence Day” and 1997’s “Men in Black”. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the last decade, Smith like George Clooney, has been able to focus on movies that matter as opposed to those that just make money. He’s garnered a couple of Oscar nominations for turns in “Ali” and “In the Pursuit of Happiness” in which he starred with his real-life son. With his latest turn as virologist Robert Neville in “I Am Legend”, Smith is back to his sci-fi roots but, he’s not battling aliens this time around; no it’s just half dead zombies.
Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last survivor in New York City, perhaps in the world. The year is 2012 and the proposed cure for cancer only three years earlier has irradiated the population of the world, leaving the “survivors” as flesh-eating zombies. Neville is literally the last man standing and is determined to find a cure for whatever it was that killed the rest of the population. He’s a former Col. in the Army and uses every last resource to try and find a cure using his own blood. Naturally, this is a curse as when night falls, this is what the zombies hunt. Together with his dog Sam, the two have mapped out a nice little life, surviving in the now desolate streets of an abandoned New York City. Will Robert find the cure and be able to salvage what’s left of man-kind or is he merely living out a life that’s not really meant to be?
“I Am Legend” really surprised me. I’m a fan of “zombie” movies, per se but this one is actually sort of plausible (the supplemental features expand upon this and thus, scare the daylights out of anyone watching). The real shock value of the film is the backdrop of New York City of the near future. We see grass in the streets, Time Square abandoned and Smith cruising around in a Shelby GT Mustang without even a thought as to hitting someone. This has been done before, mind you, in 2001’s “Vanilla Sky” however the character of New York is as much a player in the film as Smith or his canine compatriot. What’s so frightening about the film is that this scenario could actually happen. There could be a biological war and it could wipe out most (if not all) of man kind. Hopefully it won’t happen, but one has to wonder if there could be a Robert Neville out there and what one would do with the resources and time with a city to their self.
Video: How does it look?
“I Am Legend” is one of those titles that’s just custom made for demonstration material. The 2.40:1 VC-1 HD transfer is nothing short of stellar and we can even make out all the fine print from the movie posters in Times Square. Edge enhancement is non-existent and the detail level is rock solid. Quite simply, you feel like you’re there with Neville. The movie has its share of nighttime scenes as well and I found black levels to be strong and consistent throughout. This is a big budget movie from Warner and this delivers on all levels an outstanding and perfect transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
We’re presented with a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack here and again, it’s nothing short of stellar. I don’t think it’s quite on par with the video, but there are some key scenes that really make the uncompressed soundtrack come to life (pardon the pun). A majority of the film is just Smith’s character and a dog, but the dialogue is very strong and well-centered. Surrounds do come into play at times and though the LFE aren’t too well-pronounced, they make their presence known as well. On a technical level, this TrueHD track delivers and makes “I Am Legend” all the more entertaining to watch.
Supplements: What are the extras?
“I Am Legend” contains a fair amount of supplements, yet it’s lacking an audio commentary something I think most every movie needs on a Blu-ray or DVD. That aside, we do get the choice between two different versions of the movie: the theatrical cut or the alternate version. I chose the alternate version and having never seen the movie in the theaters, I can’t really say what was added into this version of the movie. This is done by seamless branching and I couldn’t tell what was new and what was previously existing a testament to this Blu-ray disc no doubt. There’s a 20 minute featurette entitled “Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend'” which features interviews with some prominent virologists around the world and they embark on a journey to scare the hell out of the viewer. They tell us how plausible the scenario of the movie is and the science of an actual virus as well. Scary stuff. Some twenty other brief featurettes are shown in “Creating I Am Legend'” which range from Will Smith’s exercise routine to evacuating fifth avenue in New York City for the film’s shoot. Some of these are purely fun and others are actually fairly entertaining. Lastly we have four animated shorts shown in HD that really don’t have much to do with the film aside from the fact they were produced by Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.