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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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Good post-apocalypse movie with a disappointing ending

  • Nov 17, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+2
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 working on a cure as all of society crumbled around him. He continues to work on a cure...even when it seems there might not be any reason one is needed. Accompanied only by his faithful canine companion Sam, he roams the streets of NYC, hunting for deer, gathering supplies, renting DVDs and sending out an AM signal encouraging others to come to him. Oh, and occasionally ensnaring a zombie so that he can take it back to his lab to try his latest serum on it.

That's the premise in a nutshell. You might be picking up on just a little cynicism in my description, because the movie invites it. It throws out a few tidbits about exactly what has happened to mankind and the virus (and also to many other species), yet the puzzle pieces we pick up don't quite make a full puzzle and sometimes the pieces don't seem to be to the same puzzle.

Many, many movie have been made about the last remnants of mankind. A good recent example is the powerful CHILDREN OF MEN. We have a society that has apparently lost the ability to produce offspring. That's all we are told...no other details about how this has happened. It just has...and we see the consequences on society and on the very soul of mankind. If the movie had let little details trickle out...we would have tried to piece them together and no doubt we would have been left frustrated. Instead, we just have to accept it, and go where the movie takes us.

I AM LEGEND throws out some tidbits and we try to assemble them into a cohesive narrative. But it can't be done. When the film was over, we spent our time trying to make sense of the little bits, instead of talking about the grand scheme of things...the movie itself.

And there IS much to admire in the movie. Honestly, I have never seen CGI used more effectively to create a city. In Peter Jackson's KING KONG, he used CGI to recreate a Great Depression-era NYC. It was beautiful and convincing...but the abandoned Manhattan that we see in I AM LEGEND is even more seamless. You almost never can tell where a real set blends with a computer generated one. The city is empty, the bridges are destroyed, weeds grow everywhere and deer run everywhere. It's actually a pretty startling accomplishment, and seeing Will Smith driving all through these streets that should be jammed with people, traffic, lights, energy but instead are like a metropolitan dust bowl is pretty scary. And the effects are really convincing. Even the CG deer (and the lions who appear, no doubt having escaped from the Central Park Zoo) look amazingly convincing.

And Will Smith gives a committed performance. He's not a great actor, but he is a charismatic presence...which in a film like this, where he's the ONLY person on screen for huge chunks of time, is even more important. We have to see the world almost entirely through his eyes, and Smith does an outstanding job in showing us the loneliness he feels all the time and the insanity that is lurking just around the corner. Smith is aided in his work by Sam, a wonderful German Shepherd. Sam is not one of these dogs who has been trained to cock his head to the side all the time and look like he understands every word being spoken. He's not "cute." He looks like a dog you or I could own...smart, but also still just a dog. He is loyal to a fault, but also inadvertently nearly gets his master killed in an amazingly tense scene in a dark warehouse where we first encounter the zombies. So I guess I'm saying Sam gives a naturalistic performance! Kudos to his trainers, and even to Smith, who works with Sam like a man who owns a DOG and not some unnaturally sensitive creature.

There are some exciting scenes, no doubt. And as we would expect, the film has a huge final confrontation between Smith and a marauding horde of zombies. In many ways, it's a good scene...lots of noise, close calls, explosions and so forth. But sadly, where the CG that created NYC is nearly perfect, the filmmakers chose to make the zombies CG creations as well, and not for one moment do these creatures look physical. They are obvious CG creations...and that saps so much drama from the film. And I have to wonder WHY they did it? Certainly there are amazing things that can be done with makeup...and real people could have done a most of the things the zombies do. It was a serious blunder, in my opinion.

I won't tell you any more of the plot, but suffice it to say that at the end, just a few too many "oh, isn't that convenient" moments pop up...and our willingness to suspend disbelief crumbles a bit. I would say that the first hour or so are really excellent, gripping, convincing and well-acted. The final 25 minutes or so are contrived and a bit awkward. It's like someone letting out the air from a very nice balloon.

It's still a movie worth seeing. It's brisk enough to show you a good time...but when I left, my first thought was that the film could have been so much more. And then my mind turned to puzzling out all the inconsistencies in the back story. Don't let yourself be sucked in by those, and maybe you'll enjoy it more!!

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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 . 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 . July 15, 2009
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 …
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 …
About the reviewer

Ranked #49
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Wiki

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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