Review: I Am Legend
4.5 / 5 Stars
I once read, to do good scoring for a movie the music has to blend in to the movie and go unnoticed. James Newton Howard\'s score for I Am Legend does this. Only on a third viewing did I notice the sprinkling of score in the film itself. The last man alive, lives in an environment full of silence, Howard\'s score is restrained to allow us the full impact of the silence, mirroring the film perfectly.
One general rule of literary works is to never have a single character by themselves for very long. Richard Matheson wrote almost an entire book around breaking that rule. And though Will Smith plays Neville and has grown in his emotional range on film, it is the music which you almost don\'t hear that gives credit to those emotions, it sets the tension and resolves it, it is the great equalizer in this sense. A minor character playing a major role.
Howard\'s use of a chorus and piano have always been exceptional within film scores. The vocal scoring for I Am Legend is not full on chorus, but instead Howard chooses to add dashes of it here and there in the score, instead of a main ingredient, an accent, a bit of flavoring. His use of piano can bring shivers to the spine. Let it be known, the piano plays just as much as it needs to and not a note more.
The score is in many ways quiet with rare moments of orchestral tutties. But the majority of those moments come from the track, \"The Jagged Edge\", at a point in the film when tension is raised to the boiling point. \"The Jagged Edge\" is one of a few longer tracks on the album allowing for more emotional ground to be covered. Given the situation within the film, it is only fitting that it cover so much ground.
With \"Reunited\", the longest track on the album we finally hear the emotional complexity of the film in music. Personally this was for the most part the best track of the album, with its swaying strings, chorus and aural play. It\'s a track sure to be put on repeat more than once.
With the interplay of instruments and combinations Howard leads the listener on a trip into wide open spaces, open but tight, free but chained down. Over all the track is bittersweet, mournful in the beginning with rising hope midway through and then back to sadness as it draws to a close. The chorus is featured more prominently in this track than any other, it keeps the mood of walking on thin ice, never knowing where it might shatter. To close out the piece Howard leans again on a solo trumpet in which he start the score off with in \"My Name is Robert Neville\".
To write this album off as something simple and fit only for background noise while you work or play would be a mistake. The single melodic lines from different instruments or voice will make you want to listen again and again. The subtleties in the album keep you drawn in, listening to the details.
This album has the ability to play with your emotions long after you hear it. \"Epilogue\" is a good example of Howard\'s music to play your heart strings like an enraptured harpist. From a sad solo trumpet to the rise of hope for humanity felt in the tutties, the end piece is just beautiful. It\'s everything a film could want for a closer, bringing everything back into a nice little package, making a full circle from where it started.
I enjoyed the movie, but I enjoy the soundtrack more, and though Will Smith is becoming a well versed actor, the music was the star of this film. You don\'t need to see the film to understand the music, Howard understood this when writing it I think and worked with that in mind. While following the music, you get a clear picture of the emotional journey Neville goes through and that, if it\'s any sort of opinion, should be the point of the music from day one.
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