I Am Legend

by DeAnn Welker April 3, 2008 5:35 pm
I Am Legend isn't a bad movie by any stretch. Sure, it sort of falls apart toward the end, when the dynamic of the film undergoes a major shift. But the first two-thirds are not only tense and suspenseful, but also a real showcase for the acting chops that people often forget Will Smith has. The real testament to his skill is that even after the movie goes off-kilter, Smith continues to convince. The German shepherd that is Will's only companion in this post-apocalyptic New York City is also terrific in the role. In fact, it might just be the finest animal actor since Old Yeller (yes, I really just made that reference; I couldn't help it, because that's what this sad man-and-dog tale kept making me think of).

The best thing about this DVD release and the concurrent Blu-ray and HD DVD editions are the special features. There aren't quite as many as you might expect from a sci-fi/action movie starting Will Smith, but they're still pretty filling.

Saving the best for last means we'll start with ... the animated comics. These aren't really all that animated, making them sort of a let-down even if the stories were interesting (they're not). It's also not clear what they have to do with the movie, or whether they were made in conjunction with or just found randomly and added later, but they do each tell their own sort-of apocalyptic tale, set in various parts of the world. The four shorts, added together, are 22 minutes long.

An almost-hour-long documentary Creating I Am Legend is disguised on the disc as about 700 extras, but those are just the chapters of this doc, so just start on the title and you'll see it all. The way it's broken up in the menu can be helpful, though, if you're only interested in one aspect of the making-of the movie. Say you really wanted to know about how Will got in such amazing shape (and if you saw him doing pull-ups all covered in baby oil or something, you had to be wondering how he got that physique), you can start at the "Will's Physical Training" chapter. Want to know how his character acquired and maintained his weapons? Select "Neville's Weapons." Some of the chapters are a little more difficult to decipher, though, so you're better off sitting through the whole thing. Unless you know perfectly well what "Quiet Imagination" means and have been dying to find out more about it.

Next we have the 20-minute Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend, which is something sort of different, in that it focuses on the actual science the movie depicts. Along with Smith and director Francis Lawrence, virus experts and other sciency types are interviewed to assure us that what's depicted in this movie could never happen. Actually, no, they don't do that at all. Instead, they will completely freak you out by saying that this isn't that far-fetched at all. And, in fact, some of our current viruses are pretty similar to what happens in the movies. If you can't handle that viruses actually could end the world, steer clear of this one.

The highlight among the features is obviously the alternate version of the film. Not that it's necessarily a better ending (the alternate ending is the major change in the alternate version), but it ensures that those unsatisfied with the original ending at least have options. Without giving too much away (those of you who want to be spoiled, keep reading), the alternate ending is more of an open-minded, zombie-loving, peace-love-and-happiness, we-all-are-connected-in-the-circle-of-life-EVEN-ZOMBIES! type of ending. No, really. It's sort of ridiculous, but also kind of awesome.

The one thing that's far worse about the alternate version is that there is entirely too much of the zombie screaming that so pierced my ears I will never be able to watch this movie again. Because the movie's mostly quiet, it's the kind you want the volume turned up on. So every time those scary-ass zombies come out screeching, it's ear-splitting. If you've only seen the theatrical version, just imagine an extra couple of minutes of that screeching tacked on to the end, and then decide whether you really need to know what that alternate ending entails.

If you DO need to know the alternate ending, but don't want to sit through it, I'm here for you. WARNING: The following contains spoilers about the alternate ending AND the original theatrical ending of the movie

So, in one of the last scenes, when Will & Co. have locked themselves behind the bullet-proof glass with the sedated zombie woman, Will looks at the zombies outside of the glass room and then at the sedated zombie, who he's trying to turn back into a human with the potion made from his blood. He doesn't put Anna and Ethan into the fireplace for protection this time. After looking thoughtfully at the zombies, he reaches down and unplugs the zombie woman from the potion that's making her not a zombie. She instantly becomes a zombie again.

He asks Anna to open the door of the protective room. She's confused as to why he would do that, but he responds, "I'm listening" (like he does in the theatrical version), so she opens the door. He pushes the zombie woman out on her medical cart, and walks out with her. Anna shuts the door behind him. The zombie woman wakes up, sees the male zombie leader, and makes a happy screeching noise (which is SO different from the usual annoying screeching...except that it's not). Will unstraps her and she gets up and caresses and nuzzles the male zombie. Yes, that's right: It's a zombie love story.

The male zombie still looks and screeches as if he's a little mad that his woman was held captive. Will says, "I'm sorry." The zombies really want to eat Will (which they indicate by screeching A LOT), but they don't because he let the woman zombie go. The zombies leave the lab, and the next scene is Anna, Ethan and Will leaving town in a car, with the Anna voiceover (only it's a different one from the original ending, because Will is alive this time). It's a completely ridiculous ending, but goes so far into crazy that it's sort of wonderful. -- DeAnn Welker

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