I AM LEGEND (2007)
posted 00/00/2008

Directed by:
Francis Lawrence

Will Smith ... Robert Neville
Alice Braga ... Anna
Charlie Tahan ... Ethan
Salli Richardson-Whitfield ... Zoe Neville

Country: USA
Runtime: 101 min

Will Smith's career is peppered with big-budget sci-fi movies, so either this guy's a huge genre movie fan, or he's been typecast as the big-budget sci-fi hero. Regardless, we have a new sci-fi epic featuring the "Fresh Prince" for us to enjoy, and thankfully it's pretty good. Now let me preface this by saying that I enjoyed Independence Day, and I liked Men in Black, but hated Men in Black 2, and I really liked I, Robot. So basically, my hopes were high for this umpteenth reimagining of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Smith plays Robert Neville, a military virologist who is apparently the only person immune to a virus that began as a cure for cancer and ended up destroying the world. He lives out his days trying to survive, feeding off of the wild animals that have overtaken what is left of New York. He scrounges for food in abandoned apartments, he's working his way through every film at the local video store, and he plays ball with his German Sheppard Sam, his only companion. All the while he is also trying to formulate a cure for the virus, using his blood and testing them on the surviving humans that have devolved into ravenous zombie-like creatures. He makes a fatal mistake when he kidnaps a female test subject, angering the leader of the zombie pack, who sets out to trap and kill Neville. It seems the mindless, hungry mutants might have the ability to outwit our hero.

I won't give anymore away because it is such a cool movie that I'd like you all to experience it on your own. There are a few flaws that I WILL point out. The most prevalent is the overuse of CGI. The wild animals are CGI, the mutants are CGI, the city has to be CGI so I won't fault them on that, but man they sure love their CGI and I think it hurts the film only because the mutants look so fake that I didn't find them scary or believable. Another flaw is the third act, which kind of undermines what we've been led to believe all along about the world and feels rushed. A lot has been said about the final scene, and after seeing both versions, I kind of like the one they chose, but I really did like and believe the alternate ending as well. Again, I won't mention a thing. NO SPOILERS FOR THIS ONE! You'll just have to rent the film or buy the BLU-RAY to see what the differences in the ending are.

The film has some very strong points though that override any negative criticism I could lob at it. The script is particularly strong in a few key scenes that have stuck with me. Most notably the scene in the video store where Neville cracks and almost begs a mannequin to talk to him, and the scene where he recites Shrek line by line because he has no idea what else to do given the situation he's in. Smith pulls off probably the best performance of his career with this film, so I am hoping it doesn't disappear into the void that I, Robot vanished into and that it sticks around a bit longer for people to keep discovering.

As sci-fi plots go, the end of the world scenario is pretty much a building block, a cap stone to the whole mammoth works. And the book I Am Legend was the best end of the world survivor tale ever told, so I am happy to say that even though it diverges quite a bit from the original source material, this film is intense, emotional, and quite violent and exciting. This isn't Men in Black, but who needs laughter when you have to worry about fighting lions on Times Square for your dinner.

  - Jose Prendes


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