Not Quite Legendary by Michael Longstreet (January 29, 2008)
James Newton Howard’s tragic score to “I Am Legend” is a great match to a fantastic film. He opens things off with the soft track “My Name is Robert Neville.” This track sets the tone for the rest of the album, as well as the rest of the film. Robert Neville is alone and sad, and so is this piece. Howard uses great cues, similar to the ones he used in “The Fugitive,” to sprinkle throughout this track. He ends it on a high note as the tempo and mood changes, perhaps giving Neville some hope in his new bleak world.
The quiet driving music from “Deer Hunting” lets the listener in on Neville’s misery at not catching the day’s meal. The track drives from the start as the hunt gets to its climax, and then proceeds to give the listener a big let down, since there was no deer to be killed. He quickly gets the listener back into the music with the sad flashback piece “Evacuation.” I believe this is the music used when Neville is escorting his wife and child to the helicopter. This is combined with the next track “Scan Her Again,” when Neville’s wife is thought to have been tested positive for the illness. Both of these are tragic, sad pieces that leave the listener wishing a happy would be on its way.
Though I’ll give Howard credit, he does the sad, melodic tracks better than anyone. If you listen to some of his music from “King Kong,” “The Fugitive,” and “Signs,” you can tell he excels in the sad themes.
One of the few action pieces is “Darkseeker Dogs,” where Neville and Sam are attacked by the infected canines. It starts as a soft building piece, and then takes off into a driving drum-beating action piece. The end of the track crescendos and then quickly goes back down, as we realize that Sam has been infected and his fate is doomed. Howard follows this up with the track “Sam’s Gone.” This is by far the most heart wrenching part of the film, and the music reflects the sad nature of Sam’s death, with Robert Neville now realizing that he’s all alone. Just before the tears dry up, Howard immediately follows that up with “Talk to Me,” where Neville is in tears over Sam’s death, talking to the mannequin the video store. This soft piece is entirely done with strings and continues to bring the listener down with Neville’s sadness.
He gets his revenge in “The Pier.” In vengeance for Sam’s death, Neville attacks a group of the infected at the pier with his car. It starts with soft strings, accompanied with a beautiful choral backdrop. The piece turns from melodic, seeing the New York cityscape at night to mysterious as Neville’s trap for the infected is hatched and his attack begins. It ends on a quiet, sad note, as Neville goes unconscious and is rescued. The use of the lone singer at the end of the track lets the listener ease out of the tense scene.
One of the few happy spots in the album is “Can They Do That?” At the end of the track though, it quickly turns to the quiet and mysterious yet again. This is followed by the sad piano solo in “I’m Listening,” where Neville and Anna talk about God and what their plan is for survival.
Neville’s showdown at the house is started with “The Jagged Edge,” a great track that has the same mysterious driving force as Howard’s other pieces from “Signs.” The track blends the curious use of military drums against an almost screaming sound. I’m not sure what he used to get this sensation in the music, but it was done brilliantly. This is probably the best overall track on the album, clocking in at just over five minutes. Listening to it, it sounds like someone is running from something. And that’s exactly what it is, the final confrontation between the group of infected and Neville inside his home.
The score is basically summed up with “I’m Sorry” and “Epilogue” (the last two tracks on the album). These are both powerful, soft pieces that convey the anguish in Robert Neville’s journey against the infected and his eventual success in finding a cure, making him a ‘Legend.’ The “Epilogue” is basically Anna’s trip to the safe zone, and the film’s end credits. This includes the film’s main theme.
I would have liked to have seen her narration of the final few scene in the film (her voiceover) incorporated into the last track. It would have made a nice edition, but it wasn’t necessary. I’m not sure if this is the complete score for the film or not. “I Am Legend” didn’t really have a whole lot of scenes where music was used. The film is quiet as Smith’s character is alone for most of it. There was no music included from Neville’s rescue of Sam from the warehouse. Overall, this is a good score, but I don’t think it’s one of Howard’s best.