I AM LEGEND: TWO-DISC SPECIAL EDITION (WB, 2007) D: Francis Lawrence, w/ Will Smith, Alice Braga. Rating: NN; DVD package: NNN
Two very different but equally brain-dead versions of the same movie are way more fun than one. That’s the only reason this DVD package gets a three-N rating, because, frankly, the extras suck.
In addition to the theatrical version, disc one also has four animated horror comics based on I Am Legend’s zombie plague premise. They’re okay, but where are the making-of docs? Allegedly, they’re online, accessible via the disc. I tried. I got “page unavailable.” More to the point, why do I need to change machines at all? Making-of docs fit fine on DVD and won’t disappear when the company decides to stop supporting the site.
The disc two bonus is worse, a downloadable copy of the movie you can transfer to your iPod or whatever. Since I already own this movie and it’s rich in lovely, big vistas of a decaying New York, I’m wondering, exactly how do crappy little picture and sound enhance my experience?
The most glaring omission is the absence of a commentary track. How did they screw this up so badly? My curiosity burns.
In fact, the two movies are almost identical until the most climactic moment, when one change produces two radically different meanings.
It works like this: In both versions, a woman doctor discovers a cure for cancer that, a few years later, mutates to create mindless cannibal hordes. Doctor Robert Neville (Will Smith doing his not-bad best) stays in zombie territory so he can capture the odd fiend and shoot it up with his latest attempt at a cure. So far he’s failed.
In the theatrical cut, it comes down to this: will our hero escape the ravening hordes and will science find a cure for what science has wrought? Never mind the irony in that, and, by the way, God exists.
In the alternate version, with the identical climax happening, Neville discovers something about the zombies that radically changes the worth of his work and the meaning of the movie. Never mind that it makes gibberish of what has gone before and, by the way, God does not exist. His discovery is there in the visuals, but the story never deals with it. What a cheat.
Originally, I Am Legend was a great story. Check out the first movie version, 1964’s The Last Man On Earth, or better yet, Richard Matheson’s original novel.
EXTRAS Disc one: theatrical version, animated comics, online making-of docs. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles. Disc two: alternate version, download option. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish subtitles.