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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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Hollywood hates Richard Matheson

  • May 1, 2009
  • by
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 adaptation, which looked ropey when it was made, and now is a great example of Heston high-kitsch. The producers decided that getting New York to look empty was all they had to do to wow the audience, while the acting, pacing, set design and direction wouldn't need any attention at all. You can watch it instantly on Netflix - scanning through the lunacies of Act Two, it only takes about 35 minutes to get a sense of how indescribably bad it is. Gotta love the music, too.

Fast-forward to the Will Smith version and it's looking a lot better, but they still shied away from the final revelation that makes the book such a masterpiece. My major feeling at the end - after watching 101 minutes of a largely one-man show - is that Will Smith is a superb leading man, even with little dialog, and the whole movie would have fallen on its face with almost anyone else.

The special effects are exceptionally weak, making the infected look computer-gamish. As always, they're more scary when barely shown, and there are a couple of early sequences that use suspense rather than Maya 3D to scare the viewer. The production design is strong though - the desolate views of New York have an enormous positive impact on the sense of foreboding and loneliness.

I can sense this is a story that is bound to get another remake in a decade or so. Hopefully when they do, Matheson's book will become the blueprint for the script, and studios will back away from the happy ending concept.

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October 24, 2010
I was about to prep my own review of this movie when your review caught my eye. Nice one!
October 24, 2010
I dunno what is going on--the votes aren't sticking. I click on helpful numerous times and it doesn't go in, then when it does I lose 'well-organized'. arrgghhh!!!
October 24, 2010
Damn! Where's Lunch's Batman flashlight gone? If you shine it in the sky, Debbie will fix the problem. Or Candyman will arrive, I forget.
October 24, 2010
LOL! I think Debbie's tussling with Joker right now ;)
May 08, 2009
I couldn't tell if it was LA or NY since I couldn't get passed the fact Charlton Heston was once considered an A list actor! Wow, that was a stinker. Forgot about The Last Man on Earth - good point.
May 22, 2009
Yeah, if you needed a guy to play the right hand of God, you went to Heston. Problem was he started thing of himself that way for real.
May 08, 2009
You didn't mention the Vincent Price version from the 60s. It can't be that you're unaware of  THE LAST MAN ON EARTH since you're so familiar with the book. But man are you right about OMEGA MAN. Phew, does that thing stink! Only I think it was L.A. that they emptied out not New York.
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 . October 01, 2010
I couldn't imagine how they'd make a movie of this. Really loved the book. Really didn't think it could be done. But it's good. Changes things, but it works.
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
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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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