Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Am Legend (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard

I Am Legend (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard
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 it as a stand-alone listen, are almost completely divorced. Judging this score by your thoughts, just after you've watched the film, would be a disservice to JAMES NEWTON HOWARD's score as well as to yourself!

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