Published on December 13th, 2007 |
by Erich Becker
Review: I Am Legend
I Am Legend is a movie that seemingly everyone and their mom wants to see. This is evident by the couple hundred people lined up outside the theater, in the cold and rain for the free screening I attended, hoping to get a precious seat inside. Typically, these types of come one, come all movie fests, based mostly on commercial hype, usually end up being enjoyable (i.e. Transformers). They typically don’t end up like the “I should know from the trailer this is going to be boring and artsy” films (i.e. No Country for Old Men).
This film is based on the Richard Matheson novel of the same name. For the curious, this is the same novel the Charlton “Cold Dead Hands/Moses” Heston movie Omega Man is based on. In this adaptation, the apocalyptic catalyst is still a super virus, with a twist. In the first few minutes of the film, we are treated to a news interview with scientist that uses a biologically engineered version of Measles to kill cancer cells in her patients. She’s awfully proud of killing cancer. Too bad that isn’t the only thing her research kills . . .
Will Smith plays the scientist Robert Neville, who is the last uninfected human in New York City. Most of the movie is following Robert through his daily life, which consists of various daytime activities. These include hunting in time square, with his dog (and last friend) Sam, and trying to find a cure for the virus that all but destroyed humanity. Once night starts to fall, he locks up every door and window in his house. When he sleeps, he has nightmares about what tragically happened to his wife and daughter.
The shots of a deserted NYC are incredible. There are weeds growing though the streets, thousands of abandoned vehicles, deer and lions (I’m guessing from the zoo) roam the area. These images are believable and must have been a challenge for the special effects crew. The creatures can best be described as a Zombie and Vampire mix. These “Night Walkers” can’t survive in UV light, but lack the intelligence and sophistication of the Bram Stoker or Anne Rice definition of Vampire. The only intelligence they do posses is in the hunter and gatherer area. There is a great scene that takes place in a dark warehouse with these guys, with our hero’s only light source being a flashlight.
The story of what exactly happened to humanity is told in flashbacks, and various paper and magazine articles in the background. This made for a fun exercise of trying to read everything (note: look for a billboard for a certain superhero movie in “development hell” in time square). Different people may get more or less of the back story this way, although some might find it frustrating, because everything isn’t explained up front. There is somewhat of a left turn at the end that shows up at Neville’s lowest point, that some might consider a cheesy plot turn that includes the line “I like Shrek.” That is up to the viewer though. The ending is very heroic, without saying too much, following the trend of horror movies lately.
Although there have been criticism of Will Smith’s acting ability, his performance here is stellar. The audience can place themselves in the situation; it would be extremely lonely seemingly being the last human. Our audience laughed during his comical initial interaction with mannequins in the video store. However, due to the circumstances of the story, the same interaction that made everyone laugh before became cry inducing. There are some sad moments in this movie.
Overall, this is a great movie, it’s touching when it needs to be, scary, funny, all number of things. The only really bad thing I can say about the film is this, and it’s just a technicality really: the run time is only an hour and a half. I wanted more. Maybe I’m just greedy.