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Soundtrack review: I am legend (James Newton Howard – 2007)

JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: I am legend (James Newton Howard – 2007)


“I am legend” is the movie where Will Smith was the last man on Earth, fighting against mutated creatures and the virus that wiped out humanity. For me, this is James Newton Howard’s more dramatic score. He ventures into a territory he hasn’t visited very often…The score is epic in the heights it reaches and it has always been in my top five Newton Howard scores.

The score is driven by two main themes, one tender and heartbreaking, the other one ravishing and even more heartbreaking. Both themes recur all throughout the score, and both of them are perfect. With one, this score smiles at me, reaches inside me and gently tears little holes in my heart. With the other one it goes all Braveheart on me and reaches some intensity levels rarely heard in film music before or after.

The quieter one, the blissful piano motif that first appears in “Talk to me” evokes an endless sorrow and an unbearable loss. These soft piano strokes just drown everything else other than sadness and I feel empty and alone when I listen to them, just like Will Smith’s character. This theme is beautiful and poignant…it just takes me to a place that feels like a bottom of the deepest well.

And after all this sorrow comes the revolt…The second theme, the one whose best version for me is “Evacuation”, screams and claws and fights. It replaces my blood with stone and freezes the tears that the first theme might have brought in the corner of my eye. It brings an orchestral army  and a haunting background choir and can I please travel back in time and be there when the recording sessions took place?

“I am legend” didn’t need more than these two themes and a couple of terrifying cues to become legendary. The score, just like that well I mentioned, has a thin entrance and runs extremely deep. Once you enter, what you find and feel down there is up to you. Be prepared to accept that sadness can also be very beautiful…

Cue rating: 89/ 100

Total minutes of excellence: 32 / 44

Album excellence: 71%


my name is robert neville

deer hunting


scan her again

sam’s gone

talk to me

can they do that

i’m listening


i’m sorry

i am legend – epilogue

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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