Microbes are evil. Theyre almost as evil as microbiology can be to your college GPA. Emma Thompson reengineers measles so it can cure cancer. But this miracle of science turns out to be mankinds downfall. The microbes transform humans into vampirish creatures. The only pure man left alive in Manhattan is Will Smith. His singular struggle is throughly explored on I Am Legend: Ultimate Collectors Edition.
Will plays an army scientist desperately looking for a cure. The lack of human contact is weighing on him. His only pal in a decaying New York City is a loyal dog. They go hunting for deer in Time Square and hide in the tub at night. Hes not completely alone. The vampire creatures want him to come out and play. They mainly want to eat him. They cant wander about during the night and no longer can talk like humans. They look like lizard creatures as they strike in the dark. After three years of this solitary life in the Big Apple, Smith is about to crack. His daily routines are wearing him out. He swears hes about to have the break through on his vaccine tests. But whats really left to save? Will anyone hear his radio broadcast and hit Broadway to party with Big Willie?
This is the third time that Richard Mathesons novel has been adapted for the big screen. The Last Man on Earth had Vincent Price roaming a deserted Rome. Charlton Hestons Omega Man bunkered down in an undead Los Angeles. Both of them dealt with humans reduced to vampires thanks to a virus. But their vampires spoke to them during nightly attacks. Vincent and Charlton knew a few vampires from their former human lives. There was a severe guilt level in the attacks. Will Smith gets easy on the emotional level. He doesnt have to worry about his relatives coming back to eat his brains. What they lose in family ties is made up in speed. Wills vampires come off as a less messy version of the 28 Days zombies. Compared to the earlier versions, I Am Legend really does an amazing job at showing what happens to a major city when all the citizens drop dead. The entropy of New York City is stunning. The urban landscape transforms into wilderness.
My big bone to pick in the film is when Will Smith shows off a copy of Bob Marleys Legend. He declares, “Best album ever made.” But its wasnt made. It was compiled since Legend is a greatest hits record released years after Marleys death. Its an amazing collection of Marleys music, but its not Natty Dread which was “made.” Youd figure a Grammy award winning actor would know the difference.
Compared to the earlier versions of I Am Legend, Will doesnt look that alone on the screen. You can believe that Vincent and Charlton would survive without human companionship. Will Smith is too much of a people person. This trait works in his favor since a majority of his big emotional moments come in his relationship with the dog. He needs an audience to charm and the pooch provides it. When the dog splits, it’s easy to see Will get self-destructive.
I Am Legend has the elements of a sci-fi blockbuster with thrills, scares and Will Smiths bare torso. The vampires are impressive and frightening as they race around Washington Square. Even with the depressing theatrical ending, the film seems more popcorn than a bleak vision of the upcoming apocalypse.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfers allow you to take in the decay of Time Square. The audio is Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. Theres also dubs in French and Spanish. You can feel the breath of the vampires around you when the lights go out.
Alternate Cut (1:43:44) contains whats known as the “controversial ending.” Not to give it away, but it doesnt quite play as controversial as desired. I figured it would feature Will Smith marrying a male vampire for health insurance reasons.
Theatrical Trailer (2:06) sets up Will Smith as the last survivor of the virus. They pack all the big bangs in here.
Digital Copy of Theatrical Cut allows you to watch the film on your iPod. Always nice to have something to eyeball while waiting in a traffic jam as the passenger. In no way should you watch video while driving your car. You need an internet connection to upload this digital copy.
Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend (20:38) has Will Smith and the director visit the Center for Disease Control. This little short will scare you with tales of killer viruses. Youll want to wash your hands after watching touching the DVD.
Creating I Am Legend (51:21) is the major behind the scenes documentary. The opening deals with how you create action car scenes without any other drivers on the road. How do you swerve to avoid CGI deer? Novelist Richard Matheson talks about his original book. Matheson is a legend with his work in film and television.
The Making of I Am Legend (25:56) is a tighter version of the Creating piece. While they talk about Omega Man, they skip Vincent Prices Last Man on Earth. They focus on emptying the streets of Manhattan to create the sense of a deserted world.
I Am Legend: The Making of Shots (26:02) breaks down how they painted out the signs of life and aged the footage shot on location. They reveal the body programs for the infected humans. The narrators sound like they are giving a scientific lecture so its less hype and more informative.
Animated Comics (21:42) features the “last survivor” tales from Hong Kong, Supermax Prison in Colorado, somewhere in Latin America and India are told in extremely limited animation. “Isolation” is the best of the batch with the worst inmate left behind to fend for himself.
Deleted Scenes (19:49) contains 12 snipped moments. They didnt go too far with these scenes in post production since you can see the blue tarps set up for the CGI folks. A majority of the scenes deal with the relationship between Smith and Alice Braga. You can listen to a commentary from Francis Lawrence and Akiva Goldsman discussing why they had to snip scenes. They speak of how Will Smith can control his tears. The dont mention how their sliced shot of Will Smith driving a new car out of a dealers window was pinched from Man With the Golden Gun.
44-Page Concept Sketch Book has drawings showing how the Manhattan locations looked before and after the mankinds disappearance. Its fun for those who contemplate entropy.
6 Art Cards show how other international cities would look after the virus. Theyre about post card size. Perfect to pin up in the office as mini-art.
Collectible Lenticular features an action moment of Will Smith going at the virus laden humanoid. This is a dynamic paperweight.
Theres a Commentary Track with director Francis Lawrence and producer-screenwriter Akiva Goldsman.
I Am Legend: The Ultimate Collectors Edition is infectious to fans of the film. You get two versions of the film and a copy you can load onto your computer to take it everywhere. The only thing thats missing is a sample of the vampire virus. There is a Blu-ray edition also available for those who want their night creatures attacking in 1080p.
Warner Home Video presents I Am Legend: Ultimate Collectors Edition. Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan and Emma Thompson. Written by Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: Dec 9, 2008. Available at Amazon.
Tags: vampires, Vincent Price, Will Smith