I Am Legend: Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray / DVD)
Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Will Smith pulls off an amazing performance as a man who literally watches the world slip away from his front window. What’s worse is that world believed he could save them and underscored the point continually while it met its demise. Now, his family is gone and he’s living amidst a city reclaimed by nature ... eerily silent by day ... howling with agonizing hunger by night. Robert Neville is the only human left alive ... or so he thinks!
I Am Legend is a mournful tale of what can happen when man’s aspirations move far faster than his intellect. The search for a cure for cancer brings about a plague transforming human into bloodthirsty, relentless animals. Will Smith plays opposite a dog and some Gumby-like translucent man-monsters who roar like The Mummy (modern version, natch) and burn up in the sun. I get that CGI people are not always going to look perfect, and I even concede that Legend has many moments where the monsters range from intensely creepy to eerily, otherworldly real, but why do these monsters all have unhinged jaws??!! A quick plea to Hollywood -- A human looking thing screaming with a super wide mouth is not scary. It looks fake and destroys all sense of dread. Please ... stop.
This is honestly my only gripe. Legend keeps a brisk pace with tense moments, heavy drama, a touch of Smith’s child-like humor, and enough explosions to keep Michael Bay smiling. The combo of fantastic Will Smith and the sometimes laughable gummy-creeps makes this more of a middle of the road, good time rental than anything else.
So, knowing the quality of this film and hearing that backed up by unfavorable reviews by blog blasters and forum posters across the planet ... WHY does this film get a super juicy ultimate collector’s edition a mere year after it’s release? Well, for the same reason Wanted got a souped-up box set upon its initial release. Movie fans LOVE collector’s editions. So now the only question would be, what does this boxed set bring to the table that the two-disc special edition did not? Let’s compare.
The original two-disc set included ...
• Alternate cut of the film with a new ending
• Four animated comics entitled "Death as a Gift", "Isolation", "Sacrificing the Few for the Many", and "Shelter"
• Weblink to DVD-Rom extras
• Bonus digital copy of the film
This new set contains all the extras that should have been included in the original release. I have to note, before we continue, that a good deal of this behind-the-scenes material is available online for those who would seek it out.
Disc one contains the theatrical cut of the film with optional commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer/screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. The two are very upbeat and seem very pleased with the film they’ve turned out, adding to their enjoyment in watching the end result along with you and thus, upping the entertainment value as they joke around and give very valuable insight into key plot points like the origins of the virus and the creatures it created. Very worth a listen! Also included is the trailer.
Disc two contains the alternate cut of the film with all the little bits which were cut pasted back into the film, and an ending that is more satisfying, and in my opinion, a more intelligent, dramatic and thought provoking resolution. This disk also houses the bonus digital copy of the film.
Disc three has all the goods you’ve been waiting for. Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend talks about the filmmaker’s interaction with government agencies to ensure the authenticity of, not only Will Smith’s performance as a top level virologist, but the way that the virus would spread, what outbreaks would look like and even the final look of the creatures. This is essential viewing for people who find themselves watching the Discovery channel more often than not. Creating I Am Legend is broken into twenty-one parts exploring everything from how they went about stunt driving while shooting Will Smith actually in the car and his the canine sidekick to Smith’s workout regime and creating the nightmares found in every dark corner. It should be noted at this point that a lot of the footage found in pieces in this section will be revisited in the next sections, so keep your finger by the fast forward button and keep a close eye as not to overshoot the sequences you haven’t seen yet as you watch Making-of I Am Legend, the glossier, cut together featurette.
I Am Legend: The Making-of Shots shows how pivotal scenes were constructed, de-constructed and recreated more often than not with CGI to give the city backdrop that look of over growth and neglect while the actors run through it, as well as other aspects of constructing an tale of epic proportions. Again, there will be bits in here revisited from previous pieces. It seems at times as if one hand did not know what the other was doing while gathering these sequences for this collection, otherwise, why repeat them? Padding galore.
The Animated comics from the two-disc DVD are back, in tact and just as they were. Lastly we get 12 deleted scenes with or without commentary from the director and producer. These are largely non-essential to the enjoyment of the film, or even the extended cut, as you would imagine since they were left out for pacing concerns, but they do bring a new dynamic to the film. It would have been nice to have seen all of this spliced back into the alternate cut so we could see them as one cohesive thought, as it were. The deleted pieces give more views into the fragile state of Doctor Robert Neville’s mind after living through this horror; expand on his new relationship with the new comers and gives further depth to the creatures that have taken over the city, making them more than mindless savages. That was probably the problem with most of this footage. It’s clear that the final thought was to keep the creatures purely as a constant threat… mostly mindless and unrelenting. If that were the case, why even keep in the bits with the trap set for Neville? The mind boggles.
For you Blu-ray buffs, I don't think I need to get into picture and sound quality do I? It's good. It's damned good. Some of the special features are presented here in HD (all of which are noted below) and you can access a Focus Points track to play along with the movie that allows the viewer to access picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes goodies that coincide with the onscreen action. Other than the above there are no hi-def features.
As is largely the tradition with Ultimate Collector’s Editions, you’ve got some tangible keepsakes in your big, shiny black box! First is a book filled with shots from the film made to look more artistic, including shots of famous landmarks before the outbreak ... sort of ... and after three years of wear and tear are added via computer manipulation. A plastic block encases a full motion graphic showing Neville as he throws himself at the Alpha Creature for one final clash. These things always blow my mind. Finally, we have a posh little envelope stuffed with shiny images of famous landmarks across the globe as they would appear 3 years after the outbreak. Geeks from all walks of life love the shiny things.
Is this set worth 50 dollars? Certainly for a die hard fan of the film or the rabid Will Smith enthusiast. Not so much for a film buff looking for the missing pieces from the first release. Amazon’s current 37 dollar deal is a little closer to perfect. This is a beautiful set with worth-your-while features and some drool worthy collectibles for true lovers of the film wrapped up in a slick looking package. I’ve seen lesser quality at a higher price tag, so big smiles toward Warner Brothers for giving the fans what they crave and not trying to rape them in the process!
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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