I Am Legend (DVD)



I Am Legend DVD review (click for larger imageReviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Distributed by Warner Home Video


Will Smith starring in I Am Legend?!? Richard Matheson's I Am Legend?!? As soon as the news broke, shock waves coursed through the veins of fans of the book. There was everything from outrage to intrigue regarding this happening. Would Smith "Hell Nawwww" his way through one of the darkest horror tales ever told? Thankfully the answer turned out to be no, thanks in part to director Francis Lawrence, who opted to make a true character study instead of a bombastic Michael Bay blockbuster. As for Smith ... I can easily say this was the performance of his career.

For those unacquainted with the storyline, it goes something like this: Dr. Robert Neville (Smith) thinks he's the last man on Earth. You see, he's proved to be immune to a deadly virus that has basically killed the planet and turned its remaining human residents into blood-hungry vampire-like creatures. Still, Neville doesn't give up hope. He couldn't really be the last one, could he? Every day he drives around a deserted Manhattan island looking for any signs of survivors, while broadcasting on the radio when he can, hoping that someone will get the message. Much to his surprise someone does answer the call. Someone who brings news of possibly more survivors along with them. Can they survive the onslaught of deadly mutants to see if the story checks out? That's your basic plot, and the first thing you'll notice about it is that it bears little resemblance to the Matheson classic. Let me be clear ... this is not a faithful adaptation, but it turns out to be quite an experience for at least most of the ride.

I Am Legend DVD review (click for larger imageThe first two thirds of I Am Legend is great despite the decision to use CGI creatures who look like they were left over from The Mummy movies instead of actors in prosthetics. Once you're over the way the creatures look, it's near impossible to take your eyes off the screen. Will Smith just sucks you right in. The man truly is box office money-in-the-bank, and this movie is a prime example of why. The range he shows as an actor is just incredible. But then it happens ... other people join the cast, and the movie nearly crashes into a wall. The third act is barely satisfying in any way. After a powerful opening things start taking a turn for the cliché as soon as the film's two other main characters are introduced. I left the theatre wondering how something so good nearly went so very wrong.

Luckily for us, if you dole out the extra cash to get the two-disc edition of I Am Legend, you'll get a second cut of the film with a completely different ending that -- while not great -- is much more serviceable. In fact, even though it's a tad upbeat, it made the film feel a bit more complete. Since we're not sticking to the source material anyway, why not, right? No sin here.

In terms of other bits of bonus material, I have to admit I'm a little confused by this package. Sure we get two cuts of the movie, but beyond that the extras are a bit on the sparse side. Well, sort of. Let me explain.

I Am Legend DVD review (click for larger imageOn Disc One you'll find two things, the first being four animated comics entitled Death as a Gift, Isolation, Sacrificing the Few for the Many, and Shelter. Clocking in at about twenty minutes combined, these shorts are an absolute home run. Each tells the story of what was happening throughout the world as the virus spread. The best part? A great deal of gore and mayhem is strewn throughout the tales. There should be an entire DVD out of just this stuff. Really cool! Other than the comics, though, all we get is a link to the website for DVD-Rom users to access supplements like a material databank that chronicles the making of the movie, etc. Why these weren't just included on the disc is nothing short of puzzling. Simply put, if you don't have DVD-Rom capability, then in terms of extras, you're pretty much out of luck.

Disc Two houses the alternate cut of the flick along with a special downloadable version of I Am Legend that you can rip to your computers or laptops. That's it. Kind of weird, no?

In a recent interview on the DVD for the first cinema version of Matheson's masterpiece, The Last Man on Earth (review here), Richard wondered why studios keep buying the rights to his book yet never bring his story to the screen. We're right there with ya, man. Maybe one day. In any event -- even though this is I Am Legend basically in name only, it's still a solid film that's more than worth your time.

Special Features

  • Four animated comics entitled Death as a Gift, Isolation, Sacrificing the Few for the Many, and Shelter
  • Weblink to DVD-Rom extras
  • Downloadable version of the film

    Film:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

    Discuss I Am Legend in our Dread Central forums!




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    moderator "They're monsters, they're
    Steve Barton's picture

    "They're monsters, they're evil... oh, but they just want to be left alone, sob, moan, pat on the back."

    Maybe it just appealed to my love for Frankenstein. All monsters are not evil.


    Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 5:43pm.
    moderator "Everyone has their favorite
    Debi Moore's picture

    "Everyone has their favorite book, one that's almost sacred. And no matter how great the movie is, something just feels wrong about it."

    I feel your pain, Frank. For me it's Queen of the Damned. Not only was it a crappy movie in its own right, it took everything great about the book and flat out ignored it or changed the facts for no good reason. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the filmmakers didn't give the fans of the book one iota of consideration and even laughed about it on the commentary.


    Submitted by Debi Moore on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 3:55pm.
    Terminal's picture

    The way I saw the awful alternate ending is not how it decided the climax on the book, but how it painfully ignored the consistency, and--as you described--horrible humanized these already terrible creatures. It was almost as dumb as the little silent peace treaty between Big Daddy and the leader in "Land of the Dead." They're monsters, they're evil... oh, but they just want to be left alone, sob, moan, pat on the back.

    Ugh.


    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 3:50pm.
    moderator For me it was serviceable in
    Steve Barton's picture

    For me it was serviceable in the sense that I felt it was more solid. Yes, it was fluffier, and of course it went against the grain of the rest of the movie, but it worked for me. It garnered some sympathy for the beasts, and showed that the Dr. had it all wrong. These things didn't want a cure. They were still human in their own way. It was an interesting twist, and come on -- did it actually make any less sense than the shattered butterfly in the glass thing? The theatrical ending despite Smith's demise was just as fluffy. "We are his legacy, this is his legend" Give me a break!

    Neville's "legend" so-to-speak in the alternate cut was that he was sort of their boogeyman. The dude who goes out there to kill, trap and experiment on them. His legend wasn't what he left behind, but what he was doing all along. Yes, his blood was the cure, but he was also a killer to them. A mad scientist. He was different from what was considered as normal at this time by the majority. Something for them to fear.

    I was OK with the alternate stuff because no matter how you slice it -- this still isn't I AM LEGEND. It's almost impossible to review this as a take on that book when it only has the bare bones stuff in common with it, so I reviewed it as a film on its own.

    And yes Frank, I've had some of my favorite books raped before my eyes and it's never pleasant. I totally feel your pain there, my friend. I'd love to see a balls-out cinematic telling of Matheson's tale but I don't think anyone has the guts.


    Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 1:08pm.

    That alternate ending made the film's title make even LESS sense. At the ass end of the film they throw the idea out there that the vampires/rejected Mummy models have a society with love and such? Bullshit. How was he a legend to them or anyone else? His existance was fact.

    Face it, WB totally ballsed this one up to please the teens and action crowd. This and I, Robot rank up there with some of the worse book-to-screen translations in recent memory. Gone is the actual story and we're left with Will Smith being Will Smith in a Will Smith movie about Will Smith.

    The only thing that made seeing I Am Legend fun was the little old lady behind me who constantly yelled, "Oh Lord, Will Smith gonna do something!"


    Submitted by Kryten Syxx on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 6:39am.
    Terminal's picture

    Regardless it's STILL just comparing a book to a movie which is just the wrong approach, period. Criticize the movie on how it came across, not how it compared to the source material. "Where the Red Fern Grows" was a wonderful book growing up, then made into a sweet little movie. As a movie it's fine, because I judge the movie. So, again, people should just face that Hollywood almost NEVER faithfully adapt a book, and many times it works, sometimes it doesn't. Judge the movie, not the movie compared to the book.


    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 4:40am.
    frank_dracman's picture

    I think you may have missed my point there, Terminal. I really have no problems with book-to-movies. 30 days, Vampire$, hell, even Interview were all fair to good movies. I'm talking about my favorite book, one I have read from childhood to adulthood. Besides WWZ, think about your favorite book growing up. Has it ever been made into a movie? If so, did it live up to your almost unreasonably high expectations? Let's say its "The Tortoise and the Hare". Michael Bay made it into a movie. It's pretty, big action scenes, great acting. But the Hare won. Now in the back of your mind you gotta be thinking "how could he do that? My favorite book, one I read just last year, when will I see that vision in my head on the screen?" Everyone has their favorite book, one that's almost sacred. And no matter how great the movie is, something just feels wrong about it. Make a little more (or even less) sense now?


    Submitted by frank_dracman on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 4:32am.
    Terminal's picture

    Re: Frank_Dracman

    People should just stop bitching about the lack of faithfulness. This is Hollywood. They always trade faithfulness for commercial appeal. People should just stop crying about the bad adaptation and just decide if the MOVIE is good or not. I found it to be a fun guilty pleasure, when WWZ is turned into a movie, and it's not like the book, I'll judge the MOVIE based on how it entertained me, not on how it compared to the book.


    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 4:04am.
    Terminal's picture

    Hollywoody indeed.

    "you'll get a second cut of the film with a completely different ending that -- while not great -- is much more serviceable."

    Creepy, creepy, creepy... I don't know what to do with you. Serviceable? In what sense? That it avoided any sort of consistency to the story at all? That it was completely bubble gum safe? If that's serviceable than I'm Edith Piaf.

    And I'm not.

    That alternate ending is pure Hollywood fluff. Everything is BAD and we're given the shoehorned happy ending that makes no sense and lets us stay in our safe little bubbles where butterflies sing, and serve us coffee.


    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 4:01am.
    frank_dracman's picture

    Talk about Hollywoody- did you see the alternate ending? Oh dear Lord that was awful. Funny how Creepy thought it was a little improvment and I just sat there shaking my head thinking "give me a friggin' break". But this is literally my all-time favorite vampire story, so I may be a little harder on the flim. Just wait untill someone makes a movie out of one of your cherished books, I'm sure no matter how good it is you'll still cry foul.


    Submitted by frank_dracman on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 3:57am.
    Terminal's picture

    Fun movie, great tension, creepy set pieces, wonderful visuals, great performances... until the climax. And then it gets Hollywoody.

    Hehe... woody.


    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 3:37am.

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