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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This one sticks to the mind and soul like peanut butter!

  • Dec 22, 2007
  • by
Rating:
+3
Pros: Will Smith! Scenes of a very empty New York City

Cons: Not enough back-story; not faithful enough to the novel.

The Bottom Line: On many levels I Am Legend entertains, but in the end falls a little short of the novels mark, but it still managed to stick to me like peanut-butter.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

Regrettably it is not often a movie stays with me long after the credits roll, and even follows me into my dreams at night. But such is the case with Will Smith’s latest thriller, and much-hyped I Am Legend, a haunting story of love, unshakable will and redemption set against the backdrop of a (mostly) deserted (by day) and desolate New York City.

I Am Legend is the latest screen adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 science fiction novel of the same name. This Will Smith vehicle is the third (credited) movie based upon the novel; the other two are The Last Man on Earth (1964) with Vincent Price, and The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston. But a convincing argument can be made that the book has influenced scores of other movies (and video games) over the years most notable, Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of The Dead (1978), 28 Days Later (2002) as well as the Resident Evil trio of flicks staring one Milla Jovovich.

Story-line

Directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine), I Am Legend takes place, well, in the future, in the Year 2012. Robert Neville (Smith) is a US Army medical officer who is intimately familiar with the mutated virus turned plague that as he puts it has wiped out 5.5 billion humans turned another 555 million into zombies, and left 45 million untouched, but then they were eaten by the zombies. There is reference to a cure for cancer at the beginning of the movie, but how we got from there to the virtual extinction of the human race, the movie was none to clear on.

Neville, who lived in New York City at the beginning of the movie with his wife Zoe (Salli Richardson) and daughter Marley portrayed by Smith’s real life daughter Willow Smith, is still there, at Ground Zero. And he is utterly alone except for the packs of dear, occasional pride of lion, and zombies of course. Neville is searching for a cure for the plague and hunts vampire/zombies by day and experiments on them; he also experiments on rats, ugly rats.

The night belongs to the (evil) dark seeking hairless creatures that now inhabit the city; Neville and his trusty sidekick Samantha—a German Sheppard—retreat to his swanky Washington Square townhouse where he locks and shutters the doors and windows with heavy iron, and spends most nights in the upstairs bathtub cradling his rifle.

Neville has a daily routine: he likes to hunt dear in the streets of the city in a seriously cool Mustang; grow and pick corn in Central Park, and get DVD’s from the local video store; Shrek it seems is his favorite. And every day he broadcasts a radio message on all AM frequencies inviting any other survivor(s) to meet him at noon at the South Street Seaport, wherein they will find shelter, safety, and food. But in three years no one has come. Then evening Anna (Alice Braga) appears with her son (Charlie Tahan) in time to save Neville from the dark-seekers. She says that God has told her of a community of survivors in Vermont and wants Neville to go there with her. But he does not believe in God and is devoted to finding a cure for the plague.

My Thoughts

In researching the background of the book—I have never read it, but now think I will do so—I have uncovered that it (the book) is a lot different from the movie. For instance the setting for the book is California and Smith’s character is not a scientist but an ordinary blue-collar Joe searching for a cure. Another stark difference: in the book the lead character hunts down and kills the quasi-intelligent semi-human vampires in their lairs; in the movie, Neville does no such thing. Would a true adaptation have been more compelling? Perhaps, but I have a feeling the adding extra blood and turning the movie darker would have pushed it into “R” rating territory (I Am Legend is rated PG-13), and shave a million or two off its box office take.

As written and shot, I Am Legend is compelling enough to me at least to have stuck with me long after the credits rolled. The barren New York City landscape kept creeping into my thoughts and I even dreamed about the movie. The film-makers outdid themselves in creating a New York that looked like the city only devoid of human life. The effect was a new level of realism that only lend to the eerie feel of the film.

I Am Legend is at its best when it portrays just how easily New York City can do without a bustling civilization, and conversely just how easy nature re-claims what humans abandon. The palpable emptiness of the city is crushing. And indeed I Am Legend is at it best when it is displaying the trappings of a human civilization that is no more.

Will Smith turned in another stellar performance, particularly telling since for most of the film he was in it alone. Alone except for the Sam and the CGI generated creatures that by the end of the movie are hunting him.

There are some genuinely scary parts of I Am Legend scenes that had me looking cross-eyed at the screen. The movie flowed well, but in my estimation could have been longer, taking a little time to explore the world outside of New York City, and explaining in more detail how the plague spread.

On many levels I Am Legend entertains, but in the end falls a little short of the novels mark, but then again movie adaptations area rarely as good as the novels they are inspired by.


Recommended:
Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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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. …
review by . July 21, 2010
I think Will Smit did a great job playing this character. Being isolated and having to quote himself from Shrek to learn how to communicate with real peopl instead of mannequins!   The only downside to this movie that I can think of is the orribly unrealistic animlas. They just look so fake and it gets annnoying watching the movie and then seeing that they are obviously not real or look remotely real. But anyways, overall, looking past the special animals and people, the movie was good. …
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 …
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Vincent Martin ()
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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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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