Plot: What’s it about?
I’m a big fan of Will Smith and have been for quite some time. I liked him as a rapper back in the days of “DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince” (Smith was the Fresh Prince), which led to his television show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and his subsequent movie career which started off with a literal bang in 1995’s Bad Boys. From there it was onward and upward as Smith had starring roles in 1996’s Independence Day and 1997’s Men in Black. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the last decade, Smith like George Clooney, has been able to focus on movies that matter as opposed to those that just make money. He’s garnered a couple of Oscar nominations for turns in Ali and In the Pursuit of Happiness in which he starred with his real-life son. With his latest turn as virologist Robert Neville in I Am Legend, Smith is back to his sci-fi roots but, he’s not battling aliens this time around; no it’s just half dead zombies.
Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last survivor in New York City, perhaps in the world. The year is 2012 and the proposed cure for cancer only three years earlier has irradiated the population of the world, leaving the “survivors” as flesh-eating zombies. Neville is literally the last man standing and is determined to find a cure for whatever it was that killed the rest of the population. He’s a former Col. in the Army and uses every last resource to try and find a cure using his own blood. Naturally, this is a curse as when night falls, this is what the zombies hunt. Together with his dog Sam, the two have mapped out a nice little life, surviving in the now desolate streets of an abandoned New York City. Will Robert find the cure and be able to salvage what’s left of man-kind or is he merely living out a life that’s not really meant to be?
I Am Legend really surprised me. I’m a fan of “zombie” movies, per se but this one is actually sort of plausible (the supplemental features expand upon this and thus, scare the daylights out of anyone watching). The real shock value of the film is the backdrop of New York City of the near future. We see grass in the streets, Time Square abandoned and Smith cruising around in a Shelby GT Mustang without even a thought as to hitting someone. This has been done before, mind you, in 2001’s Vanilla Sky however the character of New York is as much a player in the film as Smith or his canine compatriot. What’s so frightening about the film is that this scenario could actually happen. There could be a biological war and it could wipe out most (if not all) of man kind. Hopefully it won’t happen, but one has to wonder if there could be a Robert Neville out there and what one would do with the resources and time with a city to their self.
Video: How does it look?
This was one of the earlier arrivals to the then “new” Blu-ray format and this was way back in 2007. A lot has changed since then and unless I’m totally mistaken (which isn’t out of the question), I think this is a title that hasn’t gotten a re-master or face life of any kind since its initial arrival on the format. That is, until now. The 2.40:1 HD image has certainly benefitted from the new 4K process which gives us a better color rendition, more detail and even a “sheen” on the movie that seems to make it smoother and flow a bit better. Then again, that could just be me. It’s been nearly a decade since I first saw this film, so seeing the ruins of New York City, the desolate buildings, the grey and black interiors of the buildings – they seem to have a different look and feel in this Ultra HD version. Putting in the Blu-ray, I was instantly reminded of how far we’ve come since this movie came out and while not “unwatchable” there are some pretty notable differences between the two – namely the color. I’m glad that Warner chose this title to give the 4K treatment – it was warranted and it’s a good upgrade.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Blu-ray featured a Dolby True HD mix, but that’s been replaced by a DTS HD Master Audio mix on the Ultra HD (the included Blu-ray is the same as before and therefore still contains the True HD mix). Listening to the two, there’s a bit more range on the DTS HD Master Audio version. I felt that it had a bit more “going on” for lack of a better term. Vocals still sound sharp and crisp and the ambient noise seems to have a bit more depth to it. The LFE, though they don’t get too many chances to make their presence known, do have a few key scenes in which to “spread their wings.” It’s not a night and day difference since many consider TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio to be parallels and I’m a bit curious as to why an Atmos mix wasn’t prepared for the 4K version. Still, it’s not a bad sounding track by any means.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The same trio of supplements found on the Blu-ray are the only ones present on this two disc set.
- Creating I Am Legend – This is actually a series of very short featurettes that range from Will Smith’s exercise routine to evacuating fifth avenue in New York City for the film’s shoot. Some of these are purely fun and others are actually fairly entertaining.
- Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend – This features interviews with some prominent virologists around the world and they embark on a journey to scare the hell out of the viewer. They tell us how plausible the scenario of the movie is and the science of an actual virus as well.
- Animated Comics – Four animated shorts shown in HD that really don’t have much to do with the film aside from the fact they were produced by Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith
- Death as a Gift
- Sacrificing the Few for the Many
The Bottom Line
“Zombie” movies have become a little more en vogue since this came out in 2007. I’d forgotten how much I actually enjoyed the film, though. While it’s nice to see this get a new 4K/Ultra HD “makeover”, the lack of any new features is a bit of a letdown and though we do technically get a new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, a next generation format would have been preferable. But beggars can’t be choosers, so if you’re looking to build a 4K library, this might be a good addition.