I Am Legend

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 to the virus. Along with his loyal canine, Samantha, Neville hunts for other survivors by day, and in his spare time—which he has lots 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 make it work? You bet he does, and he makes this film worth watching. The first act really builds the tension, and the second act introduces us to the mutants. Unfortunately, the third act is a disappointment. I don't want to post any spoilers here, but the first two acts had me believing the world created by the film could actually exist. However, I guess Hollywood thinks that no one will sit through a movie unless there is ample use of CGI and big explosions.

The video is encoded using VC-1 at 1080p, preserving the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The overall presentation is one of the better—if not one of the best—efforts I have seen from Warner Brothers. 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 I have never noticed before, even though I've seen him in multiple movies on Blu-ray.

In what I hope is a sign of the future, a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1-channel soundtrack is the audio of choice on this disc. The track is very well done, especially in quiet sequences. The mix is well–designed, with ambient effects that effectively set the mood—for example, when birds flutter around the rear speakers. Dynamics are tested on a few occasions, and the LFE channel packs some punch, especially in the bombastic third act. What little dialog there is in the movie is easily intelligible, even in the most action-packed sequences.

The bonus features consist of material presented in both high definition and standard definition. The HD goodies include four animated comics: Death As a Gift, Isolation, Sacrificing the Few for the Many, and Shelter. Also in HD is a featurette entitled Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend, which explores the history of pandemic viral infections and the reality of life-threatening microbes that can affect humans.

In standard definition are several mini-documentaries with behind-the-scenes material. The way these are presented reminds me of the enhanced PIP content found on Warner's recent HD DVD releases, and they seem somewhat disorganized.

I Am Legend really had me hooked until the last fifteen minutes, which just fell apart with a very unsatisfying ending. The disc does offer the option of an alternate version thanks to seamless branching, which adds about four minutes to the movie, but I chose to watch the theatrical version for this review. The presentation is excellent, though, and if you are a fan of Smith's work as an actor, be sure to at least rent this one, because his performance is top-notch.

Release Date: March 18, 2008

Film: 7.0 out of 10
Picture: 10 out of 10
Sound: 9.5 out of 10

Review System

Sony PlayStation 3

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

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