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I Am Legend [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Will Smith, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Alice Braga.
There are many striking sequences in this latest take on Richard Matheson’s book, I Am Legend. The most memorable? A deserted New York City, overgrown and abandoned with Smith walking right through the middle of it. The sheer logistics of staging such a scene are staggering to behold, but the film benefits enormously from moments like this. They help get across the solitude that Smith’s character faces, as seemingly the last human being left on the planet Earth.
But is he alone? It certainly doesn’t appear to be the case, even though Smith is pretty much front and centre of everything the film does. It’s a strong performance too, and it really has to be. But for at least two thirds of its running time, I Am Legend is a terrific post-apocalyptic thriller.
The film, sadly, peters out a little as it heads towards its final act, not aided by some troubling computer effects work. But for the most part if looks glorious, and proves to be a rich home cinema workout. Superb visuals dominate much of the what the film does right, and the haunting surround soundtrack is both eery and very, very effective. And while I Am Legend is clearly a film with problems, it’s an interesting project for a big budget blockbuster, and one that wins more battles than it loses. It looks terrific on Blu-ray, too.--Simon Brew
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However, as you can grab used Blu-ray copies for barely £2 I thought I'd give it another try as the benefits of HD might improve my view, especially as this movie majors on sound and visuals - but that is not to say that the plot is thin.
I have not read the book that this film is based on.
Happily, this time in HD my 2nd viewing vastly improved my opinion of this film, the image and sound presentation is first-rate and really does depict the expansive visual settings and action very well - I'm just not that sold on either of the endings...
The Amazon synopsis for the film on this webpage describes things very well and even manages to avoid spoilers !
The story is also well conveyed and, whilst we quickly know what has happened to provoke the main plot and the predicament of the 'survivor' (played by Smith), the use of flashbacks is effectively employed to bolster the effect that the issues surrounding the present situation has on you and understand more about the 'history' of the survivor and what he is up to.
I think that the film manages to convey the feeling of destruction and desolation, due to the well-presented image, high production values and effective use of 'real' settings and surroundings; this is despite the visuals clearly incorporating a lot of CGI to depict the various 'beings' that roam the remains of Manhattan (this was the aspect that I didn't like at all when I saw the film on TV, I think HD is the thing that has improved this).
The other thing that struck me was how 'quiet' the film can be when that survivor character does his own, undisturbed, 'roaming' for lengthy periods of time....
There are also many periods of heightened activity of course, where the sound-levels (and action) increase dramatically and these also come across well despite the soundtrack 'only' being of the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 variety.
I had only ever seen the 'standard' ending for this film and think that it is perfectly acceptable (despite being a little far-fetched and 'Hollywoodesque') and in-keeping with the plot. I cannot say the same for the 'alternative ending', the differing first part of which I don't think is at all consistent with the plot and was really quite ludicrous; for it to 'work' I think that more of the overall story needed to be different.
So, for a first-timer or (like me) repeat viewer but now in HD, I think 'I Am Legend' has a lot going for it as a thrilling and thought-provoking sci-fi action flick - especially as it is possible to grab the Blu-ray for a couple of quid ! The performance of Will Smith is pleasingly and sufficiently understated to convey the dramatic aspects of the story, and the production values are better presented in HD to portray the significant apocalyptic surroundings and various 'horror' aspects. I think you are better off watching the film 'unaltered' by not selecting to view it with my much less-preferred 'alternative ending'.
Of course, if you are a clever clogs, you will see this film as a damning portrayal of modern life in the big, bad city where it's all about money and the survival of the fittest and you might as well be surrounded by mannequins. I think it's a Christian movie and I'm thankful that Will Smith is on this planet and can act. Praise Be ...
I would recommend getting the 2-disk edition just for the alternative ending, which adds a layer or two to the story that the original theatrical ending didn't even hint at.
I would recommend the book strongly if you want a much more than usually thoughtful take on the vampire/zombie take-over idea.
BBC radio also broadcast a full reading of the book a while back, so look out for that being re-broadcast - it was very good.
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A great film to watch .