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Blu-ray Review: I Am Legend

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2008 4:00 PM. Last Updated on Friday, May 16th, 2008 9:18 AM by Scott Jentsch

Front Cover ArtworkI Am Legend
Blu-ray
Warner Home Video
100 Minutes (Theatrical Version)
104 minutes (Alternate Version)

List Price: $35.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

Available 3/18/2008

Rated PG-13

Additional Movie Details

 TheatricalThis Disc
Video Format:
35mm 1080p VC-1
Aspect Ratio:2.35:1 2.35:1
Audio:

Dolby Digital

Dolby TrueHD Lossless Sound
Dolby Digital

 DTS 
  SDDS 
 Other:  BD-50
BDMV

Disc Contents

  • Movie
  • Extras
    • Creating I Am Legend - 50 minutes of mini-documentary features with behind-scenes material, standard back-slapping, and interviews with the actors.
    • Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend - Documentary that talks about the history of virus infections around the world and what might be waiting for us in the future.
    • 4 Animated Comics that extend the story to other stories of people affected by the I Am Legend virus.

About the Movie

Dr. Robert Neville is a military doctor tasked with finding a way to control a virus unexpectedly created by the combination of a cancer vaccine initially hailed as a miracle cure and the rabies virus. Every effort fails, with most of the population killed by the virus, some infected with rabies-gone-mad symptoms (called "Dark Seekers"), and a small percentage immune to its effects. We meet Dr. Neville three years after the cancer vaccine is announced, and find that he is the only person left in New York City. Everyone else was either evacuated before the island of Manhattan was quarantined, killed by the virus, or killed by the Dark Seekers.

While he continues to search for a cure, he takes to the streets in a very nice Shelby Mustang to go deer hunting, picking up DVD's at the local video store, and snags an occasional Dark Seeker for human trials of his experimental drugs. His only companion is his German Shepherd, Sam, and mannequins that he's placed around the city. Is he really alone? Can he find a cure?

How Does it Look?

Will Smith and his dog Samantha out for a little deer hunting in a Shelby Mustang

I thought the quality of the picture was great. When you're in the desolate daytime streets of New York, things look as they should. The same goes for interior shots during the day and at night.

One of the most important scenes for establishing the world Robert Neville lives in is when his dog chases a deer into a dark building, and he goes after her, knowing that there are Dark Seekers inside. All he has to light his way is a small light on his rifle and he alternates from fumbling in the barely lit rooms and stairways to shining his light to assess each room he enters. The light and dark scenes increase the level of tension, and you need to be able to see what's going on in both to be drawn into what's happening. No complaints here.

The additional/alternate scenes made available for the alternate version are seamed into the movie with seamless branching. You can't tell when you are watching the original vs. the alternate version, and that's as it should be.

How Does it Sound?

This is a very nice soundtrack! Warner Bros. offers up both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD soundtrack for this release, but since I do not have suitably-equipped system for the latter, I chose the Dolby Digital track. Having my PlayStation3 play the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack downmixed did not result in any better sound, so I stuck with the DD track.

Extras

I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I'm disappointed that they omitted one on this disc. What is here is pretty good, if not a little sparse in coverage and quality. The animated comics are in HD, but the series of mini-documentaries and Cautionary Tale featurette are not. Considering the amount of space that the Blu-ray format provides, it's disappointing that all the extras were not in HD.

I found the animated comics interesting, and an extension of the storyline of the effects of the virus as it spread around the world. Ultimately, though, they are something that should have been treated as just another item to put in because there was room, or something that would be provided via BD-Live connectivity. The other two extra features are better, but they were not given the HD treatment, which is a little baffling.

How hard is it to use some HD camcorders to do the interviews and edit the sequences together? Movie studios need to improve their treatment of extras if they expect people to pay a premium for Blu-ray discs, especially those for movies they may already own (this was a day-and-date release, so that doesn't apply to this particular instance).

When you insert the disc, you are given the choice to watch the theatrical edition or the alternate edition with the "controversial ending." It is not possible to fast-forward to the alternate scenes so that you do not have to watch the entire movie to catch them.

Other Aspects

Like so many other Blu-ray discs that I have watched, this disc does not support bookmarking, which allows you to mark particular scenes for future reference. This feature is also convenient when watching a movie in multiple sittings, so that you can come back to where you left off. Most Blu-ray players (and HD DVD players before them) do not auto-resume a movie if you turn it off and/or eject the disc, but fortunately the auto-resume feature on the PlayStation 3 does work properly with this BDMV-formatted disc.

Conclusion

I didn't have huge expectations for this movie, even though it did very well in theaters. I didn't have a chance to catch it during the first few weeks of its theatrical run, and after a point, it seemed like a better choice to wait for the home video release. (Three months from theatrical release to home video release, that's fast!)

One feature omitted from this disc that I'm accustomed to with HD DVD's that I've watched is the ability to bookmark your place in the movie. Since the HD DVD and Blu-ray specs (for whatever reason) do not support automatic resume so that you can go back to the point where you left off watching the movie, discs need to provide a way to "bookmark" a place on the disc that you can return to from the main menu (often the "Scene Selection" menu).

This appears to be a common omission on the Blu-ray discs that I've watched so far. Whatever the reason, the lack of any way to resume from the last point in which you were watching is annoying. Fortunately, a firmware update in late March to the PlayStation 3 addresses the ability to resume certain kinds of Blu-ray discs (BDMV), of which I Am Legend is one.

I'm not sure what's so controversial about the alternate edition's ending, and none of the materials on the disc provide a clue as to any controversy surrounding the alternate ending. There are a few extra scenes which serve to flesh out some plot points, but there is no commentary to give us insight as to why the scenes were cut, or why the alternate ending was not used. I would also like to have seen a way to play just the alternate scenes, so that an entire second viewing would not be necessary just to catch them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie! It's not one of those movies where you come out of it thinking you want to watch it again, but you end up thinking about it after the fact, and you begin to appreciate Will Smith's performance and the elements of the story. I watched both versions, separated by about a week, and it was not at all hard to watch the movie all the way through a second time.

Being a Mustang fan, the opening scene of him tearing through the streets of New York in a brand new shiny red Shelby Mustang got my attention! The aforementioned scene of him running into the dark building to save his dog has the most tension I've experienced in an action movie in quite some time. I think this disc is worth owning, because of its ability to be enjoyed (and perhaps, further enjoyed) during repeated viewings.

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.

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