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I Am Legend

The 2007 Francis Lawrence-directed film based on the novel of the same name and starring Will Smith.

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In The End a Good Performance By Smith

  • Jul 15, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+3
I Am Legend is a famous book by Richard Matheson.  The book has been adapted a couple of times.  The version starring Will Smith is the most recent.  However, I still have a love of the one starring Vincent Price (although that movie was called "The Last Man on Earth").  The version starring Will Smith is actually the first adaptation to actually use the name of Matheson's book.  Will Smith gives a good performance, although there are some things that can be nitpicked about regarding the film.



The movie takes place in the year 2012.  Ignoring that they decided they needed to conveniently use the famed Apocolyptic year for their film, I Am Legend centers on a man named Robert Neville, played by Will Smith.  After a disease just about wipes out humanity, Robert Neville is the only one left along with his dog.  Neville, amazingly, has an immunity to the disease.  The movie never really explains how or why Neville is immune.  In fact, Neville himself never seems to theorize.  Despite that, it appears that Robert Neville is the last man on earth.  He still tries to find a cure, however.  Because these monsters that inhabit the town at night seem to be human, just not exactly "cured" of this disease.  But they still can't go out at night.  The movie also doesn't make it clear that they actually ARE humans until later on.  Especially because it spends a great deal of time referring to them as "darkseekers."  So no, these aren't "zombies" or "vampires" or "monsters".  They're a breed of humans referred to as darkseekers.

Neville has spent the last few years trying to find a cure.  He does this by getting "subjects" (the darkseekers) to work on.  He manages to capture one and test out whether or not some of his "cures" are actually working.  When he loses his dog companion, however, Robert is pushed over the edge and tries to commit suicide (it appears he is trying to commit suicide).  But he is saved.  By another survivor.  Her name is Anna (Alice Braga) and she knows of a colony of humans that have survived.  Robert doesn't believe these people exists. Rather he seems to believe that everyone else is dead.  It's never made clear just how Anna knows of this colony of humans either.  That's not important.  The important things is for Robert Neville to find a cure to this disease. 

There's a lot of action here, and even a few heartpounding moments.  And the movie doesn't skimp on the emotions either.  And Will Smith is, as always, charming.  Who'd have thought the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would come so far?  He does a great job here carrying the movie. 

There are a couple of nit-picky things about the movie that keep it from being excellent.  While it has a lot of good moments such as watching Neville go through the city and trying to hold onto humanity in some way, the movie has a couple of moments that can be a little annoying at times.  The first being that the director doesn't seem to know whether or not he wants to make these darkseekers (or whatever these monsters are supposed to be) intelligent or not.  There's a scene where they use Will Smith's trap against him.  This shows that they can be intelligent, right?  Well, sure, if you ignore the fact that throughout the entire film we're presented with these ferral like monsters.  This is the only hint of intelligence that we ever see.  In the original ending, which proved controversial, Robert Neville finds out they've been intelligent creatures all along.  This original ending was hated by many audiences, though it's not really clear why.  Arguably the alternate ending makes the point the book made, but really it just isn't all that consistent with the rest of the movie:



The other thing that's really strange is just how bad some of these darkseekers look.  They're supposed to be humans who are diseased.  What we get are these CGI things that look like someone was trying to make somethig out of clay... and messed up horribly.  They look very rubbery and fake.  They don't really look threatening.  Some of them look laughable.  And again, they behave in a very animalistic way.  Whatever "human" instincts they have are gone.  So once again, the director just didn't do a good job with them.

As I've stated time and time again.  I'm not too big on whether or not a movie is like the book.  A movie based off a book isn't instantly good just because it's like the book.  And it isn't instantly bad just because it isn't like the book.  Hence, why I still reward I Am Legend with a +3.  On the other hand, there are always people who want to know, and I think that if that's what they're looking for.  They deserve to know.  So if you're a huge fan of the book... you'll be very disappointed to know that the movie is nothing like the book at all.  Where as the book dealt with vampires and had a bit spiel about evolution, this movie deals with diseased humans who are referred to as Darkseekers.  The only thing the Darkseekers have in common with vampires is that they can't go out in sunlight.  The book IS amazing.  Particularly because of the big message and influence.  Part of what made the book incredible was that Rober Neville was a legend and a threat to the vampires.  The book was about letting evolution take its course.  The reign of man had ended.  Not to mention the vampires were not sadistic monsters.  The reason they wanted to kill Neville in the first place was because he was killing them.  That's why it was called "I Am Legend."  The movie has the same title... but why the movie is called "I Am Legend" is actually never clear.  In fact, after the credits role I was still wondering WHY they called the movie "I Am Legend."  Neville does become a legend... sort of, but because of how the ending plays out it feels kind of tacked on.  So I can accept the argument that the original ending the director wanted was closer to the book, but then it's not consistent with the film.  But this new ending makes the whole, "He's a legend!" feel a little forced.  

So no, if you're a big fan of the book you may actually think to yourself, "Did these guys even read the book?"  Robert Neville has the same name.  That's about where the similarities end.  So if you're looking for the book "I AM LEGEND" it's not going to be this movie.  Richard Matheson himself is actually perplexed that Hollywood has any interest in his book at all (Matheson feels that it's outdated and that it couldn't possibly be made into a movie... in short, a 2007 adaptation was a little... late... ).  So it's odd to find out that Robert Matheson isn't so upset that Hollywood didn't get it right, he's actually more upset that they keep coming back to it when he feels it is no longer relevant.  Odd isn't it?  That's not to say he isn't disappointed on how the movie turned out.  He's just baffled by

Nevertheless the movie itself isn't really bad.  Most of what it does it does do well.  The filming technique is good and Will Smith's performance is pretty good as well.  There are also some nice emotional moments, such as when Robert Neville his holding onto his dog as he comes to realization he can't save her.  The music, the majority of it anyway, is also very good.  So it's not a bad movie by any means (unless you want it to be like the book, then it's horrible), but there are times when watching that it seems a little unsure of just what it is.  Between the changed ending and the director wanting them to be intelligent being but deciding it's not really important to show us this, it can seem a little muddled and confusing at times.  Yet when it does something right, it does it well.

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January 10, 2010
this was pretty entertaing and I would've rated it the same. I didn't like the CGI creatures though but Smith was real good, tho I loved his performance in "The Pursuit of Happyness".
 
July 26, 2009
I was one of those who was ultimate thuroughly disappointed with this film--although, oddly enough, I left the theater happy but confused. I felt as if I had missed something important at the last moment and that's why the movie didn't make any sense to me. As I thought back on it and tried to figure out what the ending meant I realized that the script was full of gaping plot holes and that I hadn't missed a thing, I had just been victimized by a very bad script and blinded by a very good actor. We're not talking about nitpicking here, things go on in that movie that make no sense whatsoever and its only Smith's touching performance that keeps us from noticing it for awhile. The best version of Matheson's novel still remains THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. And LAST MAN is also a better film than I AM LEGEND. For one thing it doesn't suffer from that horrenous generic CGI that makes everything look like the sand monster from the Brendan Fraser version of THE MUMMY and it has a clearer version of what exactly it is and where it is going. It benefits enormously from the existense of the second group of vampires who are infected but still maintain their humanity. These are the people Neville has unwittingly been killing, these are the ones who will inherit the earth and to whom he has become a legend to be feared when they sleep. I could go on with the flaws all day. But I'd just get boring.  Really nice review though.
July 26, 2009
Yeah, the film with Vincent Price is by far my favorite adaptation.  This particular film might've been a nightmare to watch were it not for Will Smith.  I really liked it the first time I saw it, but once it sank in and I thought about it... there's a lot wrong.  Then I heard about the alternate ending and saw that and realized... that ending wouldn't have made much sense.  Certainly it conveys the message of the book, but it's the idea that the director NEVER gives us much beyond them using Neville's trap against him that they are actually intelligent beings.  He spends the movie portraying them mostly as very animalistic in nature.  How is the audience supposed to make that big connection, exactly?  With only one example? 

I'm not usually big on whether or not it's like the book, but this was a film where I was wondering if the staff actually read the book.  I remember walking out of the theater, thinking the movie was alright and then one of my friends said he was interested in the book and asked if the movie was anything like it.  I simply looked at him and said, "Well, the name is the same... and there is a Robert Neville in the book, but the similarities end there."  And they do.  I thought the movie was okay but the more you watch it the more some of it sticks out.  Were it not for Will Smith it might not have been nearly as worthwhile to watch.

July 26, 2009
I'm with you on part of that, but if you're going to use the book's title then people are going to have certain expectations and chief among them is that it's going to be a bit more like the book. Now the book built up a small case for even the vampires having some minor degree of intelligence, or at least his former neighbor and best friend had a couple of brain cells still functioning. And then the second group of infected people had all their mental faculties intact. What Smith's fim was missing was that second group of people. Smith made the movie watchable alright. If it hadn't been for that performance I might have been throwing things at the screen at the 1/3 mark. You'd think they would have taken some of the money they spent on CGI and put it towards a coherent script.
 
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More I Am Legend reviews
review by . October 25, 2010
Not Quite Legendary But A Good Re-Imagining of The Concept....
I AM LEGEND is a post-apocalyptic disaster film that is another attempt at adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel back in the early `50's. The first adaptation being "The Last Man on Earth" (1964) with Vincent Price and the cheesy but entertaining "Omega Men" (1971) with Charlton Heston. Being a remake, "I am Legend" leaves a lot to be desired with the unpredictability factor. However, with the current evolution in CGI effects, expectations would be …
review by . November 17, 2010
In just a couple of years, cancer will be cured via a mutated version of the measles virus...reprogrammed to destroy cancer. Yet just three years after that, mankind will be all but extinct, as the virus has mutated yet again to where it either kills the person carrying it or turns that person into a type of light-fearing zombie set on eating living flesh of any kind. In Manhattan, the lone "normal" survivor is Dr. Robert Neville, who coincidentally was the military scientist who was madly …
review by . May 13, 2008
I wasn't sure what to expect going into "I Am Legend", but I can say that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  It's almost like it is two movies -- Act I is "Last Man on Earth", Act II is the "horror" part.  Without going into details, the movie really pulls you in and forces you to imagine how YOU would handle being without any other human contact.  Despite the horror movie label, Will Smith does an excellent job of acting without the support of other actors to interact with.  I …
review by . November 16, 2009
Will Smith saves the World from bad CGI.
   I dig on Will Smith. The dude has more onscreen charisma than a dude with lots of onscreen charisma. Yessir, the guy is a genuine, mega-buck making, sooper star.   He is garnering his earnings, by providing us simple entertainment, where he saves the world.   A lot.   And we lap it up.      But he couldn't save this remake of the 1971, Charlton Heston Classic, The Omega Man.      The story focuses on Dr. …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
i was so sad about the dog! another movie to prove will smith's acting skills. hes alone in the majority of the scenes and hes still great!
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2010
Decent movie, didn't follow the book though
review by . December 15, 2009
I love zombies and I love Will Smith. That said, this was still a top of the line zombie movie (which isn't easy!), and Smith was at his best. I cry every time I watch this (when he parts with his family and the dog scene). The special effects are top notch and the story is good, gripping, depressing and hopeful. A must see for everyone! Even those who don't love zombies or Will Smith! But really, how can you not?
Quick Tip by . November 16, 2009
Could have been great. Too bad it feels like you are watching a cut scene from a video game
review by . May 01, 2009
I read I Am Legend when I was still at school, and it left me shell-shocked. The twist-ending concept used in Fight Club and The Sixth Sense is infinitely more effective in book form, and I found myself thinking about it for weeks. I won't spoil it here, but believe me it's a good one, and completely explains the title (which on my library-abused copy, looked like an extra space had crept in - I am Leg End?).  Matheson's book had the hell kicked out of it in the super-cheesy Omega Man …
review by . December 19, 2008
DVD
In 2009, a vaccine for cancer caused a virus that turned nearly all of the people on earth into rabid, blood-thirsty, zombies. It is now 2012, and as far as Robert Neville (Will Smith) knows, he and his trusty dog are the only uninfected creatures in New York City. He spends his days watching DVDs, driving the deserted streets hunting for deer, and working in his laboratory, trying to find a cure for this horrible virus. No matter what, he has to be home by sundown, because that's when the zombies …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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In I AM LEGEND, Will Smith joins the ranks of Vincent Price (in 1964's THE LAST MAN ON EARTH) and Charlton Heston (in 1971's OMEGA MAN) as the star of an adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name. Often surprising in its focus on loneliness and loss, this thoughtful, eerie, and restrained sci-fi horror film provides a parade of startling visuals, but never allows special effects to overcome the human element. Smith, in a strong performance very different from his usual persona, is Robert Neville, the lone survivor in a New York City where streets are overgrown and deer gambol among deserted automobiles. Following an epidemic, the Earth's population has been turned into an army of nocturnal zombies. Immune to the virus, military scientist Neville searches for a cure in his Washington Square townhouse. Haunted by visions of his family leaving quarantined Manhattan two years prior, he drives through the city with his German Shepherd, Sam, by day and barricades his home from the monsters nightly. But when Anna (Alice Braga)--another immune stranger-finds him, they will have to fight the onslaught twice as hard. Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich's emotionally-charged script showcases the charisma of Smith, who commands the screen alone for most of the picture (aside Abbey, a talented German Shepherd). Director Francis Lawrence (CONSTANTINE) uses music minimally, wisely allowing the eerie cityscapes to remain mostly silent. The set pieces, ...
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