I Am Legend—Ultimate Collector's Edition I Am Legend—Ultimate Collector's Edition

In the year 2012, virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last human survivor in New York City. An outbreak of a lethal virus in 2009 wipes out 99% of the human population, leaving most of the remaining 1% as mutants, with the exception of Neville, who is immune. Along with his loyal canine, Samantha, Neville hunts for food and other survivors by day, and in his spare time—which he has a lot of—he works on an antidote for the virus utilizing his own blood as the source.

It takes a powerful actor to pull off a role with no supporting cast. Much like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Smith spends over 90% of the movie alone with only his dog. Does he have the acting chops to pull this off? You bet he does—he makes this film worth watching.

The first act builds the tension, and the second introduces us to the mutants. Unfortunately, the third act is a big let-down. I'm trying to remain spoiler-free here, but suffice to say the third act shows that Hollywood thinks no one will sit through a movie unless there is ample use of CGI and big explosions. An improved alternate ending is included, which almost makes the third act bearable, but even with the additional four minutes, the conclusion doesn't measure up to the first two acts.

The previously released Blu-ray of I Am Legend included both the theatrical and alternate versions on the same BD50 disc, whereas each receives its own BD50 disc here. The added space doesn't improve the picture appreciably, but I didn't have any complaints about it the first time around—in fact, I gave the encode a perfect score. Depth and clarity are both outstanding, with only occasional softness in the farthest backgrounds. Black levels are inky with three-dimensional shadow detail, and close-ups are extremely detailed—I could see a scar on the back of Smith's neck that hasn't shown up in previous Blu-ray releases featuring the action star.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1-channel soundtrack is very well done, especially in the quiet sequences. With ample ambient effects, the track sets the eerie mood of a deserted New York City—for example, when birds flutter around in the rear speakers. Dynamics are tested on a few occasions, and the LFE channel packs some punch, especially in the bombastic yet unsatisfying third act. What little dialog there is remains easily intelligible, even in the most action-packed sequences.

As expected from a "Collector's Edition," the supplements are a big improvement over the previous Blu-ray release. As I stated earlier, each version occupies its own disc with its own set of goodies. Disc one includes the theatrical version with a commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer-screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. A HD featurette, "Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend" (available on the previous release), explores the history of pandemic viral infections and the reality of life-threatening microbes that affect humans. Rounding out the disc are some animated comics, a documentary called "Creating I Am Legend" (HD), and "Focus Points" (HD)—a branching feature available while watching the film.

Disc two includes the alternate version as well as two featurettes, "Making I Am Legend" (SD) and "I Am Legend: The Making of Shots" (HD). The first is a standard marketing piece, while the second explores some of the visual effects. Finishing things off are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes (SD).

The "Collector's Edition" packaging also includes a digital copy of the film, a 44-page concept sketch book, a lenticular-lucite commemorative piece featuring imagery from the film, and six collectible art cards showing international cities devastated by the virus.

I Am Legend had the makings of a great film, but unfortunately it fell apart in the end. I chose the alternate version this go-around, and I liked it better than the theatrical version, but the improvement is minimal. Still, Will Smith is outstanding in his portrayal of the lonely scientist, the presentation is top-notch, and the plethora of supplements will surely please fans.

Release Date: December 9, 2008

Movie: 7/10

Picture: 10/10

Sound: 9/10

Review System


Source

Panasonic DMP-BD55


Display

JVC DLA-RS1 projector

Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)


Electronics

Onkyo Pro 85 pre/pro

Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier

Belkin PF60 power conditioner


Speakers

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)

M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)

SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer


Cables

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)

Best Deal analog-audio cables

PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

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