I Am Legend

James Newton Howard

" In the film the non musical scenes are effective and heavy. On disc the unused music serves up another Newton Howard winner. "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

What a year for James Newton Howard! With a spectacular array of projects he has become the next John Debney. In that regard he has never been busier than ever. Though, lets hope for a non repeat of John Debney's loss of creativeness. The problem is that the demand for certain composers has given them too much to do in too little time. You may attack Hans Zimmer for using protégés and ghost writers, but he sure knows how to tackle his busy schedule. The truth is that his creative mind has never been better and diverse.

Now for James Newton Howard this year has been a pretty diverse and successful one. He returned to the big fantasy genre and fantasized us. He wrote a genius rhythmic waltz around a political charged movie. He tackled the truth around Michael Clayton with a lesser yet very effective moody piece. Basically James Newton Howard did the impossible and enlarged at least every project for with an interesting idea. And then comes I Am Legend.

The year's big finisher and box office winner stars Will Smith who supposedly is the last man on earth. Basically the movie captivated me because of several things. The basic sight of a desolate New York really is a sight for sore eyes and the man that is responsible for the entire weight is non other than Will Smith. Being my favourite actor, it's proven once again how much intensity, emotion and humor he can add through just his face. Truthfully there is a reason he is the only man who can secure a blockbuster movie nowadays and that's because he is a legend of movie acting.

Musically I Am Legend took a much bolder risk. Whereas movies nowadays are packed with music and nothing else, director Francis Lawrence went for a much solemn choice. Basically more then half of the movie is covered with no music at all. In the beginning that adds a lot of emotional weight on the acting presence of Will Smith and the desolate New York city itself. Surprisingly but true, half of the score on the soundtrack of I Am Legend is not featured in the movie at all. It makes I Am Legend a new experience altogether, while being a strange one considering half of the unheard music turns out to be the best of all selections.

With "My Name is Robert Neville" we open the elegiac approach of James Newton Howard for I Am Legend. Supporting a horn solo and an ending of electronic crashes, it is the middle part that carries the soft yet emotional main theme for Robert. That level of emotion is soaring in "Evacuation" when the strings and choir perform an elegiac level of drama. Think of Grand Canyon meets King Kong. It's beautiful and wonderful to hear but eventually it wasn't used in the film at all. The same happened to "Sam's Goneâ". That scene is one of the hardest ones to cope with, but the emotional expressions of Will Smith spoke louder than musical tones ever could (meaning the return of a soaring main theme).

In between these emotional soaring notes lies the frantic "Darkseeker Dogsâ" and its atonal and scary percussion effects. The track "The Pierâ" is another one I don't remember. Okay, the moody unnerving mood surely fits the scene but the choral elegiac score is surely new to me here. But nevertheless it is a wonderful piece of choral beauty. The piano led "Can they Do That?" and "I'm Listening" are just appetizers for "The Jagged Edge". This is a percussive piece covering suspense and scare, leading to a choral climax where everything collides together. This may be used in the film but I didn't notice this once again, probably due to all the explosions. "Reunited" has once again the elegiac strings and choral sound that brings out of the best of Newton Howard. The disturbing and lonesome edge of the ending is actually a perfect representation of the score as heard in the film.

The final track "Epilogue" is a nice summarization of the entire score's sound, with the solo moments and the choral moments all bringing the right emotional weight. It is strange that the entire score on disc is a wonderful collection of elegiac emotional soaring cues. While this release is nothing like a representation nor recommendation of the effect in the movie, it's strange to consider that both work very well when separated. In the film the non musical scenes are effective and heavy. On disc the unused music serves up another Newton Howard winner. Together I Am Legend is simply wonderful.


1. My Name is Robert Neville (2.50)
2. Deer Hunting (1.16)
3. Evacuation (4.26) Excellent track
4. Scan Her Again (1.41)
5. Darkseeker Dogs (2.16)
6. Sam's Gone (1.45)
7. Talk to Me (0.55)
8. The Pier (5.17) Excellent track
9. Can They Do That? (2.09)
10. I'm Listening (2.09)
11. The Jagged Edge (5.15)
12. Reunited (7.49) Excellent track
13. I'm Sorry (2.21)
14. I Am Legend / Epilogue (4.13) Excellent track

Total Length: 44.35
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 65 votes - average 4.45/5)

Released by

Varèse Sarabande 302 066 878 2 (regular release 2008)

Conducted by

Pete Anthony

Orchestrations by

Pete Anthony, Jeff Atmajian, Brad Dechter & John Kull

Performed by

The Hollywood Studio Symphony & The Hollywood Film Chorale