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I Am Legend by James Newton Howard

I Am Legend

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I Am Legend (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard

I Am Legend
Composed by James Newton Howard
Varese Sarabande (2008)

Rating: 8/10

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Listen to this soundclip of I Am Legend (Soundtrack) by James Newton HowardEvacuation (358 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of I Am Legend (Soundtrack) by James Newton HowardDarkseeker Dogs (353 kb)


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“The musical score for I AM LEGEND is a rarity in that the experience of it within the film versus the score as a stand-alone listen are almost completely divorced.  Judging this score by your thoughts just after watching the film would be a disservice to JAMES NEWTON HOWARD's score as well as to yourself!”

Seen But Not Heard?
Review by Christopher Coleman

The end of 2007 found the name of JAMES NEWTON HOWARD being seen over and over again in movie credits.  Already having released the surprisingly popular MICHAEL CLAYTON score in October of 2007, December would see three more projects from James Newton Howard:  THE GREAT DEBATERS, WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP, and perhaps the most highly anticipated of the bunch, I AM LEGEND.

As with so many recent novel adaptations of recent memory, I AM LEGEND came under great scrutiny due to the number of changes made to the original story.  The casting of actor Will Smith as the story's central figure, Robert Neville, was met with both cheers and jeers.  In the end, I AM LEGEND was, as described very early on, a combination between the original novel and OMEGA MAN (a film with Charleton Heston that scared this little kid quite badly) from 1971; another adaptation of author Richard Matheson's novel.

Hollywood's propensity for reliance on 100% CG-characters is starting to bug audiences and critical and popular reaction to the the film seem to reflect this. The freedom this technology offers directors is certainly to be marveled at, but, as real it can seem at times, its use to portray significant characters, especially humans or humanoids, in a film can call too much attention to itself - taking the audience right out of the movie.  Still, even with this being a pretty large negative of the film, there remained plenty to like in I AM LEGEND to make it an enjoyable flick.  Will Smith's portrayal of Col. Robert Neville was much more dynamic and well-rounded than one might expect for a sci-fi/action film.  Additionally, JAMES NEWTON HOWARD'S score, when present, stealthily provided just the right ambience and emotion...and maybe too well.  There were very few moments in the film where I was even aware of the score (and I'm always listening for it).  The musical score for I AM LEGEND is a rarity in that the experience of it within the film versus the score as a stand-alone listen are almost completely divorced.  Judging this score by your thoughts just after watching the film would be a disservice to JAMES NEWTON HOWARD's score as well as to yourself!

Varese Sarabande's 42 minute-release would seem to be every note that was in the film...if not more.  Truthfully, I don't know how much score was actually in the film, but I know this.  I was conscious of musical score for perhaps 5 minutes while watching it - leading me to believe that there was hardly a need for any sort of soundtrack release.  I was wrong.  Listening to the score as released by Varese is an altogether different experience and causes a rare feeling of wonder, "How did I miss all this in the film?" Whether missing so much music is a good or bad thing, in terms of how "good" or "effective" the score was, I'm not quite sure. Somehow within the story and intensity of the film, JAMES NEWTOWN HOWARD's score seems to get buried and that's something that rarely happens with one of his works.  Rarely overbearing, Howard's scores usually play their role within the film successfully but, at least for those of us are mindful of film music at all, his scores are also distinctive enough to be noticed and appreciated while enjoying the film.  So I AM LEGEND is a strange case.

One thing that continues to amaze me is JAMES NEWTON HOWARD's ability to weave so much emotion into his music without becoming repetitive.  He continues to maximize his talent for mesmerizing music in I AM LEGEND.  A sad, but heroic theme for the story's central character is established right off in track 1, "My Name is Robert Neville."  It's another lush and wondrous piece that can sit right along side his excellent work in LADY IN THE WATER or KING KONG.  Howard works this theme to near perfection in "Evacuation" (3) where strings, choir, and deep electronic percussion weave a menacing tapestry yet without sacrificing beauty.  The fact is whenever he employs this main theme, the score really takes off.  Check out: "Sam's Gone" (6) and "Epilogue" (13) for further convincing. Of course I AM LEGEND is not all about beautiful, little diddies underscoring a man and his dog trekking through the wilds of Manhattan.  There some serious baddies out there in "the city" and JAMES NEWTON HOWARD is able to indulge his appetite for a good action sequence too.  Among the most thrilling of the short bunch is "Darkseeker Dogs" (5) and "The Jagged Edge" (10), where we hear some other Howard-staples:  low-freq. electronics, driving percussion, blaring brass, and dissonant strings.  By the end of the soundtrack, you should feel like you have had a pretty balanced listening experience.  There's beauty and there's beast well represented in this score and, if you are like me and didn't quite catch the brilliance of this score in the context of the film, don't make the mistake of missing it again on the soundtrack release.


Rating: 8/10

 

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 May 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  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 45 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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