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I Am Legend
Composed and Co-Produced by:
James Newton Howard

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Conducted by:
Pete Anthony

Co-Conducted by:
Chris P. Bacon
Grant Gershon

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Jon Kull
Brad Dechter

Co-Produced by:
Jim Weidman

Performed by:
The Hollywood Studio Symphony and Hollywood Film Chorale

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
January 15th, 2008

Also See:
Lady in the Water

Audio Clips:
3. Evacuation (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

8. The Pier (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

11. The Jagged Edge (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

12. Reunited (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


I Am Legend

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Sales Rank: 187004

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Buy it... if you value James Newton Howard's accomplished melodramatic fantasy sound, one that addresses both the solitude and monumental sense of loss with orchestral and choral beauty in this score.

Avoid it... if you desire no surprises after hearing what little music was actually emphasized in the film, for the majority of compelling material that Howard wrote for the project (including its alternate ending) will be heard for the first time on the album release.

I Am Legend: (James Newton Howard) Few original stories have fascinated screenwriters as much as Richard Matheson's 1954 "I Am Legend," and while dozens of such toiling scribes have attempted to meet with studio approval in their efforts to adapt the concept for the big screen, only three feature productions have resulted. Its original premise involved a "last man alive" scenario in contemporary Los Angeles, with one average man immune to a virus that has eliminated most of humanity and turned the remainder into vampires that seek to kill him during nighttime hours. His efforts to scrounge for food and supplies during the day eventually lead him on a search for a cure for the virus, one that he famously finds but is made somewhat irrelevant by his discovery that it is he who is the ultimate monster in need of execution. After the Vincent Price and Charlton Heston movies of 1964 and 1971 had faded from memory, Warner Brothers began the process of producing another adaptation in the mid-1990's. Over the course of ten years, I Am Legend was a revolving door for directors, producers, and screenwriters, the studio shutting down production several times due to concerns about a budget that had bloated past $100 million. The initial idea was for director Ridley Scott to direct Arnold Schwarzenegger as the title character, Robert Neville, in a Houston setting. By the time Schwarzenegger had become a producer of I Am Legend (just before his run as governor of California), director Michael Bay and actor Will Smith were attached to the project. Ultimately, only in 2007 did Francis Lawrence direct Smith in a New York adaptation that was being violently rewritten even throughout its filming. The inability of Warner and Lawrence to nail down a coherent plot for I Am Legend yielded much of the disdain the film received from critics, a ridiculous action-oriented ending replacing an alternative one that had originally done justice to Matheson's concept by once again earning sympathy for the vampires and making Neville the villain of the tale. Also extremely problematic for I Am Legend was the curious decision to render the vampires almost completely with CGI, a choice that backfired when the effects were universally criticized as being lousy. Still, the film grossed more than half a billion dollars and remains one of the most successful December releases of all time in raw box office performance. For film music collectors, the score by the busy James Newton Howard was something of a casualty of the perpetual, last-minute production changes.

Coming at the height of an extraordinary period of quality production from Howard, I Am Legend was an extension of the composer's established mannerisms in the largely orchestral and choral thematic arena. Two major challenges awaited Howard's recorded music for the film, however. First was the director's affinity for silence. One of the great assets of I Am Legend is its balance of sound effects and silence in its scenes with Neville coping with life alone. As a result, Lawrence smartly limited the amount of music in the soundscape to create as foreign an atmosphere as possible. The other problem that Howard ran into was unfortunate changing of the ending of the film. Some of the composer's most compelling summaries of his thematic structures exist in ten minutes of music that was meant to accompany the alternate scene. Even outside of these circumstances, Howard's cues were often used only partially or in extremely low volumes in the final mix. Thus, there really is no way to compare the score for I Am Legend on album with what was employed in the picture. It's hard to argue with the choice of silence for the vast majority of the film, but Howard's score on album will be a revelation for those who barely noticed any musical presence while watching it. Even on the 44-minute album, the majority of music applies to the third act of the film, whether in alternate form or not. Howard essentially tackled I Am Legend from three directions. First is the pair of solemn themes for the eerie, vacant setting and for Neville himself, the former conveyed by solo trumpet and the latter by solo piano. Both themes are summarized immediately in "My Name is Robert Neville," the trumpet identity (which opens with a progression perhaps intentionally similar to the American patriotic tune "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" by Samuel Francis Smith) serving as a bookend to the score in its entirety. The elimination of "I'm Sorry" from the final cut defeats some of the purpose of using this theme in such overarching fashion. The Neville theme is developed faithfully in almost all of the thematically-inclined cues, varying tempo considerably depending on the amount of contemplation or tragedy that befalls the protagonist. The theme's somber identity inhabits "Scan Her Again," "I'm Listening," and "I'm Sorry," the highlights utilizing conservative string accompaniment to the reverberating piano performances. When the theme is broadened to represent the anguish of the flashbacks and false hope of meeting other survivors, along with the epilogue cue of uncertain hope, the score enters its second phase: the overt, full ensemble melodrama.

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From a listening standpoint, the melodramatic, sweeping cues of orchestral and choral tragedy will be the album's highlights for most fans. Some of the music in the monumental "Evacuation" was deemphasized or seemingly eliminated from the picture, a questionable choice given how moving the deliberate, harmonic minor-key transitions of grandeur are in this cue. Of particular note is the expansive expression of Neville's theme interrupted by a solo vocal rendition of that idea, an ultra-beautiful technique reprised in "Epilogue." Howard applies the same overwhelming sense of mourning to both that cue and "Sam's Gone," and one could joke that the death of a pet has never been so immensely earth-shattering in its orchestral majesty as in this recording. Extremely heavy minor-third progressions on bass strings and in the lowest octaves of the piano create a resounding foundation for these cues. Unlike many of Howard's equivalent scores of this genre, I Am Legend does afford these moments a significant amount of development time, resulting in outstanding tracks on album despite their fate on screen. The third and final aspect of the score in need to mentioning is the action and suspense material, which is easily the score's weakness. Standard loops and atmospheric, dissonant groaning are a bit tired here, from the understated, primordial tones of "Deer Hunting" to the technology-laced conclusion of "My Name is Robert Neville" and the faintly ghostly vocals and synthetic mist of the second half of "The Pier." The percussive slapping and generic symphonic hits of "Darkseeker Dogs" and "The Jagged Edge" seem rather cheap, both when considered in coordination with the thoughtful nature of the rest of the score and especially given the eventually sympathetic identities of surprising complexities that the film originally afforded the vampires (which conceivably would have informed Howard's recording for those cues). In the end, the album contains upwards of twenty minutes of tightly cohesive music that will fit nicely on a compilation of Howard's most easily digestible fantasy material. The vampire reunion and Neville apology cues near the end will be hidden gems for those familiar with only the ridiculous action-oriented ending of the picture. It's a compelling score without a true home, and it's difficult to figure why Howard and Lawrence could not have better planned the score to take advantage of the sound effects and sequences of silence from the start. Perhaps the two will get a chance to better plan the employment of music in the announced prequel to I Am Legend that was put into early production not long after the fiscal success of the concept's resurrection. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For James Newton Howard reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.35 (in 56 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.34 (in 62,085 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

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 Track Listings: Total Time: 44:21

• 1. My Name is Robert Neville (2:51)
• 2. Deer Hunting (1:17)
• 3. Evacuation (4:27)
• 4. Scan Her Again (1:42)
• 5. Darkseeker Dogs (2:17)
• 6. Sam's Gone (1:48)
• 7. Talk to Me (0:56)
• 8. The Pier (5:17)
• 9. Can They Do That? (2:09)
• 10. I'm Listening (2:10)
• 11. The Jagged Edge (5:16)
• 12. Reunited (7:50)
• 13. I'm Sorry (2:22)
• 14. Epilogue (4:13)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a list of performers, but no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from I Am Legend are Copyright © 2008, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/4/10 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2010-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved. How can a composer/conductor named "Chris P. Bacon" expect to have a shot at serious Hollywood work?